Large numbers of fathers in Fukushima are becoming temporary bachelors.
60,000 people have been evacuated from Fukushima Prefecture (Asahi Shinbun News, 2/8/2012). Most of these are mothers and children – a necessary measure. In the case of the evacuees to Nigata Prefecture, the average age of mothers is 33.8 years; the youngest children are 3 years old. These figures show that mothers are having to take care of small children by themselves, in isolation from their home environments.
By the same token, husbands left behind in Fukushima have become temporary “Chonger” –“bachelors” in Japanese. They are busy out at work all day and doing the household chores, on weekdays. Weekends, they visit their evacuee families. Why these fathers and other family members are not re-united, rests, it is suggested, on under-estimation of radiation levels and of their potentially serious effects by the Tokyo Electric Power Company and by the Japanese Government. It is suggested that there is a reluctance to pay sufficient compensation to them.
Parents in their 40’s, on average, are likely to own a new home with a mortgage, based on current income prior to the nuclear disaster. With fathers now having to make drastic changes in occupation and take lower paid jobs, many whole families are suffering from the difficulty of keeping up with their mortgage payments. In most cases, husbands have no choice but to stay on in Fukushima so as to be able to pay mortgage and property tax.
One and a half years have passed since the initial evacuation, and the drain on budget and resources for these evacuee families is hitting rock-bottom. Some of the mothers and children suffering the most have decided – despite real and unknown risks to themselves and their progeny - to return to Fukushima. For those who remain, a ‘fatherless life’ becomes routine – unless the father can somehow manage to find a new job away from Fukushima and near his family. Either way is a thorny path.
Takeru Arakida FGF (A Voluntary Group of Lecturers from Fukushima University)