“My son was concerned about internal exposure to radiation so he refused to eat school meals … My son wanted to get out of Fukushima but there was no shelter for a single [unaccompanied] child” Asami Yokota addresses Parliamentary public meeting, House of Commons, London 19 March 2019

Asami Yokota, a Fukushima mother who remained in Koriyama city while her son evacuated to Hokkaido, gave the following speech at the Remember Fukushima Parliamentary public meeting, in the House of Commons, Westminster, London, on 19 March 2019:

Rough transcript:

“My son, who was thirteen years old at the time of the nuclear explosion, turned twenty one while living in Hyogo prefecture, near Osaka, 800 km away from Fukushima.

I myself have always lived in Koriyama City in Fukushima, which is only 65km away from the [nuclear] power plant, where I have been running a small café.

The earthquake shook buildings and the aftershocks continued into the night.

The evacuation order was initially announced for residents within a 3km radius [from Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant]. Within a 10km radius it was suggested that residents stay at home.

My family spent a night in fear, while preparing to run away at any time, just in case. My son, who had knowledge of nuclear power, was unwilling to go outside.

Then my family evacuated to my relatives’ house in Aizu region (western Fukushima). However our home area wasn’t included in the evacuation area and when the school reopened we had to go back to Koriyama city. My son used to use a bicycle to go to school, but I started to take him by car. To avoid radiation exposure, my son kept wearing long sleeves, long trousers and masks as well as goggles, even in the hot summer days, which made him look very strange compared to others.

Gradually my son refused to attend school since everybody pretended everything was normal just it had been before, without knowing the accurate levels of radioactivity. If the Japanese government had given accurate information about radiation more people could have avoided radiation exposure. Besides, the actions our family took would have been understood I think.

Since October 2011, [in order] to dispel the bad reputation about Fukushima [produce], elementary schools and junior high schools started using rice and vegetables which were grown in Fukushima after the explosion. My son was concerned about internal exposure to radiation so he refused to eat school meals.

My son wanted to get out of Fukushima but there was no shelter for a single [unaccompanied] child.

I also wanted to help my son to get out and I took him for a recuperation at a centre in Hokkaido. Then he decided to move to Hokkaido when he graduated from junior high school.

He felt like a sort of domestic exile: there was no other case of a single [unaccompanied] child getting away from Fukushima for recuperation.

I am still living in Koriyama City but I don’t want to stay there any longer as none of the issues regarding nuclear radiation exposure have been resolved yet.

I feel some [other] people also want to evacuate from Fukushima or move to other places. I don’t know when and where to move: I hope some place can accept us. My son was lucky as there was a place which welcomed him when he moved there. Therefore I think it is important to have a sense of safety by having the option to move.

While I’m staying in Fukushima, I have to avoid internal exposure [to radiation] as much as I can. I used to buy vegetables at my local farmers [market] near my café. But I stopped going, instead trying to buy food from places faraway from Fukushima.

Right after the explosion, some shipping of Fukushima produce was suspended due to the radioactive contamination. Now most of the produce is being shipped based on the dose of radioactivity [it contains].  Most people believe that the shipped food is totally safe but I’m highly suspicious of it.

We can buy safe food and clean water, even though they are pricey. We can’t buy safe air, however. Many people argue that the food produced in Fukushima is totally edible. However I think the freedom of choice about whether to eat it or not is most important. In order to protect myself from internal exposure I will continue this habit.

Many people insist that to question the reputation of Fukushima produce [is wrong] and that its recovery is positive.

Most people categorise the people who care about radiation and internal exposure, like me, as negative. Therefore I’d like to be a helpful person for those who believe in Fukushima [radiation danger] but can’t really speak their fear and worries in front of others.

Thus I will keep talking about this matter in my café, listening to the others, as well as giving them advice to help them feel reassured.

Recently some old friends of my son who are now over 20 years old asked him “is it possible to get married?” or “can we have a baby?” based on their fear of [their] exposure to radiation.

I don’t think it wrong to either respond to the radiation seriously like we do, or to pay no attention to it. In my case, me and my son are doing this in order to not feel regret in the future.

Even the intellectuals and researchers are polarized with opposite opinions. Therefore I think “what do I decide?” What I think is right is more important that what is right.

We are getting used to living with radiation, which is invisible, odourless and therefore only detectable via the numerical data of air radiation doses which are broadcast on TV in Fukushima every day.

I felt it was strange in the beginning but now we are getting used to it. Regarding the decontamination people have started to think it is fine for the contaminated soil to be buried in the gardens next to their homes, or in parks.

Now they have begun to relocate the contaminated soil to a temporary place in Fukushima. The staff who used to wear to protective suits now do decontamination work without wearing masks. I think that its invisibility and odourlessness causes people to forget about the risk of radiation.

Now eight years have passed and I spent the night of 11thMarch in France. I recall the beginning of the nuclear disaster and believe that it is still continuing: it hasn’t finished at all.

People who think about nuclear power, radiation and radioactive exposure are seen as troublemakers or outsiders in Japan nowadays, including my family. Thus I am very honoured to be hear to speak out the truth which has been marginalized and ignored on the news in Japan.

Thank you so much for your listening.”

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Asami Yokota (centre) speaking at the Remember Fukushima Parliamentary public meeting in the House of Commons Committee room 9, London, on 19 March 2019
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“My son was concerned about internal exposure to radiation so he refused to eat school meals … My son wanted to get out of Fukushima but there was no shelter for a single [unaccompanied] child” Asami Yokota addresses Parliamentary public meeting, House of Commons, London 19 March 2019

“The right to live free from radiation exposure is one of the fundamental human rights.” Akiko Morimatsu addresses Parliamentary public meeting, House of Commons, London, 19 March 2019

Fukushima Mother Akiko Morimatsu[1] gave the following speech at the Remember Fukushima Parliamentary public meeting, in the House of Commons, Westminster, London, on 19 March 2019

Rough transcript:

“Thank you very much for having me today, I’m Akiko Morimatsu.

I am very honoured to speak here in the Houses of Parliament in Westminster. It’s been eight years and this place is far from Japan, but people are thinking about us and I am really thankful to all the people who have given us this opportunity. And I will talk about what we lost, what suffering we’ve had and what suffering the whole of humankind had to suffer.

These are my children [applause]. Meiyo, 11 years old and Meia, 8 years old.

After the Fukushima Daiichi disaster for two months I remained in Koriyama which is about 60 kilometres away from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. In May, two months after the disaster, I moved to Osaka which is about  600km away from Fukushima with my two children, my beloved children.

It’s been eight years since we evacuated. The only reason I evacuated in order to protect me and my children and it’s about our health and our lives. At that time my children were several months old and three years old.

Immediately after the disaster there were a lot of parents and children who wanted to evacuate and there are still many parents and children who want to stay away from the disaster struck area. However during the last eight years virtually no policy or institution has been established in order to protect our lives. On the other hand the Japanese government is trying to eliminate the public support [in order] to promote the return of the people to Fukushima and for this policy a huge amount of money has been spent meanwhile housing subsidies and public support to the evacuees has been cut.

We the residents of Fukushima have been exposed to unnecessary radiation exposure. First the nuclear power plant exploded and that contaminated the air and the [radioactive] plume fell to the ground and that spread into the ground water and the water goes into the ocean and in that sense, just as Ian visualized, the Fukushima Daiichi disaster contaminated the whole Earth.

Of course the nuclear power disaster is an environmental disaster and it’s a matter of energy policy. However I myself regard the nuclear power disaster as something which directly concerns human life and health and it’s about our right to live a healthy life free of radiation exposure.

My personal experience was that at that time my daughter was only several months old and I had to drink the contaminated water and I had to breastfeed my daughter [2][3]. And my daughter didn’t have the choice to say “no.” She didn’t even have any notion of avoiding radiation exposure, she couldn’t understand that kind of notion. But my daughter and those other children were forced to be contaminated because of the actions of their parents.

To live free from radiation exposure, the right to live free from radiation exposure is one of the fundamental human rights that directly concerns our human life.

That right to live free from radiation exposure is intrinsic to every single person, even the babies who were just born, or if you are an older person who might end your life tomorrow: regardless of your sex, regardless of your family members, regardless of your background, we all need to have the right to avoid unnecessary radiation exposure and that’s the right of every single person in the world.

I’d like to talk about why I decided to evacuate. Before the disaster I already knew that in 1945 atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and from that I knew the word “Hibakusha.” Hibakusha means a person who has suffered radiation exposure. And because I knew that word I felt I had to leave this place.

It’s the same: the radiation exposure due to the atomic bomb or radiation exposure due to the seemingly peaceful uses of nuclear for energy purposes. They are all the same radiation exposure, so I say no more Hiroshima! No more Nagasaki! And then no more Fukushima!

This is the most important message I have from Fukushima, that it is not only the right of Japanese people but of people all over the world.

I believe that we can’t live with nuclear.  We have learned a lot of lessons from Hiroshima and Nagasaki and we as Fukushima victims we need to continue to witness, we have the responsibility to tell the suffering to people and to the next generation.

The preamble to the constitution of Japan states that all people in the world have the right to live in peace, free from fear and want. And I would really like to pursue a life in peace, free from fear of radiation exposure and want. And I’d really like to stress that we cannot live with nuclear. And thank you very much for inviting me here.”


Akiko’s speech in the UN Human Rights Council last year:

“My name is Akiko Morimatsu. I’m here with other evacuees and mothers together with Greenpeace. I evacuated from the Fukushima disaster with my two children in May 2011. Shortly after the accident radiation contamination spread. We were repeatedly, unnecessarily exposed to unannounced radiation. The air, water and soil became severely contaminated. I had no choice but to drink the contaminated water and to breastfeed my baby. To enjoy health, free from radiation exposure is a fundamental principle. The Japanese constitution states “we recognize that all peoples of the world have the right to live in peace free from fear and want. However the Japanese government has implemented almost no policies to protect its citizens. Furthermore the government is focusing on a policy to force people to return to highly contaminated areas. I call on the Japanese government to immediately fully adopt and implement the recommendations of the UN Human Rights Council. I thank the UN member states for defending the rights of residents in Japan. Please help us protect people in Fukushima and East Japan, especially vulnerablechildren from further radiation exposure. Thank you.”

 


 

[1] Akiko Morimatsu, Fukushima mother who evacuated to Osaka with her two young children; leading light in the Japanese anti-nuclear movement & campaigning on behalf of the victims of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster: in March 2018 Akiko appeared in front of the UNHRC (United Nations Human Rights Council) to speak on behalf of the victims of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, key member of Osaka-based “Thanks & Dream The Great Eastern Japan Earthquake & Nuclear Evacuee Association” http://sandori2014.blog.fc2.com/blog-entry-2062.html;

[2] The government did not warn the residents of Koriyama that their tap water might be contaminated with radioactivity from Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant; some Koriyama residents only became suspicious that it might be when the government advised residents of further away Tokyo to avoid feeding their infants and babies with tap water due to contamination. Tokyo lies some 230km away from Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant while Koriyama lies only some 60km away.

FUKUSHIMA-CONTAMINATION-MAP-LOCATIONS-web
2011 map showing wide deposition of radioactive materials from Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant: Koriyama is at location no. 1, Tokyo includes locations nos. 14-17

“Tokyo Tap Water Not Safe For Infants”:

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/japan/8401179/Japan-nuclear-crisis-Tokyo-tap-water-not-safe-for-infants.html

“Fukushima Radiation Found In Tap Water Around Japan”:

http://www.simplyinfo.org/?p=14751

Table: Radioactivity from Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant measured in tap water in Tokyo and several other prefectures in July – September 2015: https://radioactivity.nsr.go.jp/en/contents/11000/10416/24/194_20151030.pdf

[3] Radioactivity can concentrate in breast milk: “The Transfer of Drugs and Other Chemicals Into Human Milk,” page 75, table 3:

https://massbreastfeeding.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/resourceGuide.pdf

And: “Drug Entry Into Human Milk”:

“In general, the lower the molecular weight of a medication, the more likely it is to penetrate into human milk, simply because diffusion through the alveolar epithelial cell is much easier. Medications with molecular weights less than 300* are considered smaller and will tend to penetrate to milk in higher concentrations than those with higher molecular weights.”

* the most common radioactive elements in the fallout from Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant have molecular weights of less than 300 e.g Iodine-131, Cesium-134/137, Strontium-90, Plutonium-239, Uranium-235

https://www.infantrisk.com/content/drug-entry-human-milk


 

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“The right to live free from radiation exposure is one of the fundamental human rights.” Akiko Morimatsu addresses Parliamentary public meeting, House of Commons, London, 19 March 2019