By Claudia Kean
LYONS – In the weeks after the tsunami, it became clear that the nuclear power plants at Fukushima were going to become a long-term problem.
Harumi Noguchi of Kamakura wrote about the effect on Tokyo. She described the change in light and sound, noting that the bright neon glitter was gone. Restaurants would dim the lights, even serving by candlelight. She noticed that this was not only tolerable, but actually really pleasant. Her conclusion is that so much of our electric use is far beyond what we really need, and that this event gives us the opportunity to change our use of resources. Of course, this goes for the world as a whole, and even as the lights come back on, the debate grows.
One consistent opinion I heard in Japan was that the government is not telling the whole truth, and neither is TEPCO, the power company running the Fukushima nuclear plants. I cannot judge
whether this fear is warranted or not, but this was expressed often enough to surprise me. Questioning of authority is not unknown of course, but does not happen lightly in Japan.
Noguchi gave me a clear picture of how many young people are feeling about nuclear power in general. “I really feel it’s ridiculous to continue to use nuclear power while we don’t know how to deal with it and we already enough suffered from it. I can’t understand why the government sticks to the system. Everyday smart researchers around the world study so hard so I can’t think it’s impossible to give up nuclear power plant and create new system. It’s too early to say it’s impossible to live without it. I prefer a life with less electricity than the so convenient life based on such a dangerous irresponsible system,” she said.
One more big change was that people got so skeptical about the government and media . . . at least I became skeptical. The media even didn’t ask what “it isn’t harmful ‘immediately”‘ means.
That was the saying that the government made repeatedly just after the incident. And surely anyone who heard this wonders what “immediately” means. Does that mean it’s harmful after few years? But no one from the media asked about it during the press interview; that was so shocking for me.
And Noguchi gave me a link to the Goodbye Nuke movement – a petition to rid Japan of environmentally hazardous energy sources. http://sayonara-nukes.org/shomei/
Japan’s discussion should be ours as well. In our struggle to find alternative energy to avoid carbon emissions, nuclear power may look like the lesser of evils, but Japan may be a strong partner for us in our search for something better.
It is strange how the Fukushima problem has taken over the headlines about Japan, while Sendai seemed to become forgotten. We can’t forget those first images – the water that kept coming, people fleeing only to be caught by the sea. We saw boats deposited on houses, and endless miles of rubble left as the water receded. It’s estimated that 20,000 people are dead or missing. Wakana Koyanagi of Sendai now lives and works in Atlanta, Georgia, and fortunately her parents were on a plane to visit her when the tsunami hit.
Koyanagi describes Sendai’s status now. “People can’t build their homes yet in the coastal area; there are heaps, tons, of debris and rubble there. They are removing it, but there is no place to put such large quantities of rubble. They have lost not only homes, but jobs, stores, roads, whole communities. The governor of Miyagi Prefecture has decided to build 12,000 public emergency apartments by 2015, and released a 10-year plan of reconstruction. As for businesses, some have restarted, but many are closing. Sendai’s Kirin Brewery, the biggest beer company in Japan, resumed operations in September. On the other hand, small companies are in tense condition. Miyagi Prefecture has big fishing ports. I heard that they can unload fish, but can’t freeze them, because almost all the freezers and processing plants are gone,” she said.
“As for the children, I heard that many professionals, artists, and volunteers are supporting them. They listen carefully to what the children say, or make things together, like art objects from the debris. Many famous people like singers and professional ball players visit there to do something for the children. They have stress. More than 2,000 children lost parents, family members, friends and teachers,” she added.
As we learned from Hurricane Katrina in the U.S., people will continue to suffer if these issues are not in the public eye. In Japan, people are not forgetting. This will take time, and they stand together as one for the sake of those in need. But Japan has also suffered greatly from the world’s economic woes, and the government is welcoming aid from NGOs and private sources. This is where we can help. The Red Cross and other organizations can put our dollars to good use. In this Year of the Dragon, 2012, we can hope that Japan will find harmony with the sea and land, but it’s good to know we have the power to help with our wallets as well.
Claudia Kean is a seventh-grade teacher. She teaches geography and culture of the Eastern Hemisphere at Silver Hills Middle School in Westminster. She can also teach social studies and language arts. She lives in Lyons with her husband Ed. They have two sons Eric and Ryan who graduated from Lyons Middle/Senior High School and now attend CU in Boulder. Kean was born Munich, Germany and lived in Laos from 1969 to 1971. Her father was in the CIA and her mom was an English teacher. They lived in Virginia when they were back in the U.S.Back to Top