Matsumoto City in Nagano Prefecture is a university-based town with a population of 240,000 and abundant nature, 320 km away from the Fukushima nuclear power plants. In order to avoid the aftermath of the nuclear accident, about three hundred people have evacuated to and around Matsumoto City.
On March 4th and 5th, 2013, Dr. Sebastian Pflugbeil, a physicist and President of the German Society for Radiation Protection, and Prof. Eugen Eichhorn, a mathematician and President of the German-Japanese Peace Forum Berlin, visited Matsumoto.
In the evening of March 4th, Dr. Pflugbeil and Prof. Eichhorn had a meeting with the families of about thirty evacuees. Dr. Pflugbeil and Prof. Eichhorn have repeatedly visited Japan after the nuclear disaster, stressing each time the seriousness of the situation. Dr. Pflugbeil said “After the Chernobyl disaster, enormous health hazards were seen even in Bavaria, Germany, which is 1,200 km away from Chernobyl. Such hazards first became apparent five to six years after the disaster. Due to the Fukushima disaster, even southern Tokyo is contaminated as much as Bavaria. Therefore, similar unfortunate health hazards might be anticipated even in this region. We seriously have to think about what we should do.” At the same time, Prof. Eichhorn said that “There is no way to undo what has already happened. What we certainly can do right now is not to resume nuclear power plant operations.”
Everyone, including the children, had a lively supper with homemade meals. After supper, both Dr. Pflugbeil and Prof. Eichhorn carefully listened to individual stories of evacuated mothers, and responded to their concerns and questions. A majority of the participants were mother and child evacuees who had evacuated voluntarily from Fukushima and other neighboring prefectures. There was also a father who is a computer programmer and later joined his evacuated wife and child after he quit his job. One of the mothers has already been diagnosed with thyroid cancer, and had surgery last August. According to this mother, three young sons of hers also have thyroid abnormalities and need to be continuously tested every six months. She also added that her primary physician immediately denied “a causal association between her cancer incidence and the Fukushima disaster.” Dr. Pflugbeil was extremely concerned about such social trends and political pressure that involves doctors.
Every family is facing an extremely difficult situation. They were all talking, in tears, about the fact that the evacuation is solely the beginning of a new period of gloom, with a feud with families and friends who stay in their home towns, health concerns, mental agitation, financial burdens, and so forth.
Dr. Pflugbeil and Prof. Eichhorn both said that they would like to enhance cooperation with conscientious Japanese doctors and researchers, and become a bridge between experienced medical specialists in Chernobyl and sincere Japanese doctors. They are planning to stay in Japan from the end of February for about three weeks this time, and will attend meetings with specialists and citizens and lectures across Japan.
This discussion meeting was held at a 100 year old plus folk house that is offered by the landlord free of cost for the evacuees. The house, often renovated by the hands of the evacuees and local supporters, has become a comfortable space. With this folk house as a base, a network has been established for the evacuees to Nagano Prefecture, for exchanging information and supporting those who are seeking evacuation and recuperation. This folk house also serves as an office for a Shinshu evacuee network.
Radiation from the Fukushima nuclear power plants is spreading beyond Fukushima further north as well as to eastern Japan. Therefore, this network aims to accept evacuees with no limitation on disaster-stricken areas and to support the evacuees and people who wish to evacuate without isolating them, so as to seek solutions to reconstruct their lives.
Masako Hashimoto World Network for Saving Children from Radiation