Monday, April 02, 2018

Women's voices from Fukushima for human rights  

Cherry blossoms at Hase Temple, Nara

The eighth season of cherry blossoms has come since Fukushima Daichi nuclear disaster, and you can see awesomely beautiful cherry blossoms all around Japan now. Every time I see them, I feel like forgetting the nuclear accident in Fukushima, but it has never ended and is lasting like forever.

Japanese government is working hard to make the accident appear to end, and taking measures to return the evacuees to the still heavily contaminated areas of less than 20mSV/year. Unfortunately, there is not so much news coverage about it in Japan, so ordinary Japanese people pay little attention to it. However, the nuclear evacuees are doing whatever they can to let their voices heard to protect their children and their human rights.

I have been supporting nuclear evacuees, such as Mitsuko who made a speech at Global Greens in Liverpool in 2017. After that she bravely made a speech at a pre-session of United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva. Last month, on March 19th, another evacuee, Ms. Morimatsu, made a moving speech at United Nations Human Rights Council. They were ordinary women before the disaster, and I sometimes chat with them like ordinary women do, but now they are so strong standing firm and calling for their human rights at the global stage.

Please read the articles or watch the movie, and let their voices heard all around the world.

■Fukushima evacuee to tell UN that Japan violated human rights

■Full speech of Ms. Morimatsu at UN

You can read Ms. Sonoda's speac at Global Greens at my blog
■An Evacuee's Speech at Global Greens Congress in Liverpool

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

15 years of Iraq War 

15 years ago today, Iraq was invaded, and tens of thousands of bombs were dropped on to millions of innocent people in Iraq.

Even today bombs have been being dropped and gun fires never stops in Iraq.

The below is my tanka poem I wrote on March 20, 2003.

Somewhere on the earth
Is bombed hard this morning
   Here as usual in
All innocence my dog nags
Me to take him for a walk

The dog was one year old at that time, and passed away a few years ago. I wanted to walk with him in the world where no place was bombed.  Or is it possible some day?

The tanka poem is from "Flowers and Bombs" by Kaoru Kobashi published in 2004

Thursday, August 10, 2017

What I found in Iceland 

Capital city Reykjavik

  Do you know a small island country in the North Atlantic, the Republic of Iceland? It is a country of glaciers and volcanoes with population of about 300,000, which has overcome the crisis of financial collapse of 2008 and is rebuilding its economy. In 2016 Iceland gained the 7th world highest income of the per capita, in addition, it ranked the first on the world gender gap index,  the most peaceful country in the world and the third world happiest country. Moreover, Iceland supplies almost all of the domestic power demand from the hydroelectric and geothermal energy, and all of these sound to me like a "social fairy country."

   Who on earth created such a wonderful country? Iceland had been on my mind for a long time and I finally visited the country in March, and talked with parliamentarians, supporters of civic political parties, young people, and ordinary people, looking for an answer. Although it was a short stay of ten days, I feel that I somehow found the outline of the answer. It is democracy rooted in each citizen, in other words, a spirit of "I am important, you are also important, both you and me are fellows living in our homeland, Iceland."

 Iceland Parliament Building

   Although it was hardly reported in Japan, after the financial collapse in 2008, the people of Iceland surrounded the Parliament calling for a referendum. They were shouting, "Why should we, citizens take over the debts of some 3.5 billion euros made by some bankers? Collapse the banks!" At that time in the world, many banks had huge losses, and many governments, especially in the United States and Europe, relieved them with tax money so that the banks would not collapse. However, the citizens of Iceland posed NO! to such policies. They refused to take over the debts and maintained their social welfare which many other countries sacrificed for repaying debts.

   This amazing measure was made possible by Icelandic people's continuing appeals of the demonstrations and rallies. Their voice finally made the Prime Minister resign and referendums implemented. It was tenacious people's activity to protect their lives, and it showed that Iceland is the country not for some wealthy and powerful people but for ordinary people.

    Those Icelandic people who realized the importance of people's participation to the government formed a new political party.  The name is "Pirate Party" and  was  formed in 2012 in order to take back power from a handful of powerful people to citizens, and as of 2017, ten out of 63 members of the Parliament are members of the Pirate Party. It is a huge break- through.

   I visited the Pirate Party headquarters and I had some opportunities to talk with party officials, party members, supporters, including one of the party founders, Birgitta Jónsdóttir, who is also a parliamentarian. I told them how amazing the progress of Pirate party had been and how difficult it could be for citizens to make new political parties in Japan.
   Then they said:
"To make a civic party, firstly hold town meetings in every single town in the country."
" If you ask people to join the town meeting and learn new ideas and policies, people will come to listen to them. If they think that it is a good idea, they will support you."
"When everyone cooperates, there is no problem that we can not overcome. So you have to understand the problem clearly, and present your idea to let them work on it together."

   While listening to these words, I thought that the people in Iceland really trust one another. "If you talk seriously, people listen, then you can work together to solve the problem." This must be the spirit of Iceland, and I strongly feel that Iceland is the country of their own.

   In the small country with a population of about 300,000, people live trusting one another and cooperating with each other. They are running the country not for some powerful people but for ordinary people to protect the lives of their own. The trip to Iceland taught me the fundamentals of democracy.

With Birgitta at Pirate Party Headquarters


Friday, June 30, 2017

An Evacuee's Speech at Global Greens Congress in Liverpool  


An evacuee, Mitsuko

 I participated in the Global Greens Congress 2017 held at Liverpool, England for 4 days from 30th March to 2nd April 2017, a world event where 1,900 people gathered from over 90 countries. In order to promote politics protecting the environment, human rights, non-violence and democracy, many ministers, lawmakers, and general people like me gathered and exchanged ideas, ate, drank, and danced together, confirming that we would work for the same goal after returning to each own country.

I felt the excitement and hope that I had never experienced in this world-wide sense of solidarity. I have many things I'd like to write about, but I am going to report one thing which made me decided to attend the congress, which is to let the world know more about Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster.


On March 31, Greens Japan coordinated a session of peace and security without nuclear power. An evacuee, Mitsuko, who evacuated from Fukushima prefecture due to the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant accident, and is now living in Manchester, England, made a speech about her experience. Her real experiences seemed to be deeply touching the hearts of listeners from various countries, and many of them remained after the session to ask questions, and to encourage and thank her.

Actually, I happened to meet Mitsuko when I went to see the trial of a nuclear damage compensation lawsuit in the Kobe district court in 2016. I was introduced to her from our common acquaintance, and then I asked her to attend the Global Greens Congress in Liverpool. It was because I would like the world to know more about the inhumane situation caused by the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant accident.  So I am very grateful that I could be involved in the session in this way. And I do hope her voice will spread around the world, and many more people will know how desperately dangerous and inhumane nuclear power plant accidents can be.

Here is the speech by the evacuee, Mitsuko.

Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Disaster
Six years ago, a mega earthquake, a giant tsunami and theFukushima Daiichi nuclear plant explosions attacked Japan. 21,000 people died and even now more than 120,000 people remain officialevacuees. And still the accident hasn't finished yet. Three reactors melted down, but even now nobody knows where the cores are.
Enormous amounts of radiation have been released from the nuclear plants, creating serious contamination throughout East Japan. Many citizens have been exposed to radiation.

I was living in Fukushima with my husband and child. Our village was in beautiful countryside. We picked wild vegetables and nuts in themountains, grew our own food in our garden, went swimming in the lake and skiing on the local slopes. Relatives and neighbours gave us their produce including rice, mushrooms and bamboo shoots. We lived in a fantastic natural environment and with a strong local community. However the nuclear disaster destroyed our lives in Fukushima.

I couldn’t believe it when I saw the explosion of Reactor 1 live on TV. It was the day after the mega earthquake had hit East Japan, and after-shocks were constant. It was already really frightening, so the explosion was unbelievably massive shock. We were in an anxious state. We didn't have enough information about radiation but began preparing in case we needed to move quickly. Two days later, Reactor 3 exploded. Then we decided to evacuate, especially because reactor 3 used MOX fuel, which contains plutonium.

I told the local mayor we should take all the children to the West of Japan. The mayor and the head of the educational department agreed with me and tried to prepare this, but the Fukushima prefectural government stopped them.

Unfortunately we failed to arrange the children's evacuation. School teachers said to me “You should leave here to protect your child. We are staying in Fukushima to protect children in our school.”

Much public transport stopped and many roads were closed by earthquake damages. Also, daily essentials were lacking in shops including food and petrol. Many people were exposed to radiation when they were queuing for water or walking outside to buy food. We were in still in confusion from the mega earthquake, massive tsunami and nuclear explosions, but in this situation we had to decide about evacuation while hundreds of aftershocks followed without honest information from the government.

Finally, we were able to get to an airport. It was full of people trying to escape from the Tohoku region. A Tepco worker was on the same flight as us. He said to me “I am going to see my parents in my hometown for a couple of days. My boss let me go to see my parents before going to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.” I was completely shocked at his words, and realised that the war against radiation had started. Since then I can't feel settled in my life anywhere.

Lots of parents regret letting their children get exposed to radiation through ignorance. When the nuclear explosion happened, the government kept saying on TV “Radiation will not affect your health immediately.” How many people could have evacuated without suffering if the truth had been announced? How many people have had to struggle because of information being hidden?

Before the disaster Japan was 11th out of 180 countries in the press freedom index, but Japan was 72nd last year: it was the lowest of the G7 countries. On 21st of March, Professor Yamishita, an official radiation risk advisor, started to tour Fukushima talking about safety. He told people “Radiation will not affect to you if you are smiling. It comes to people who are worried about radiation. This has been proved by animal testing.” He also said “Fukushima children are lucky. Because they can measure high radiation levels by themselves and they can learn the affects of radiation by using their bodies,” and “Exposure of up to 100mSv/year is completely safe. There is no problem playing outside.” Many Fukushima people wanted to believe him, but others didn’t. Families and friends were torn apart by his lectures. But later, he said that he can't take any responsibility for levels under 100mSv/year being safe.

It is not true that nobody died following the Fukushima nuclear disaster. Hundreds of people were left to die in Okumama machi, which is near the plant. Nobody was allowed to enter in the area to rescue the victims, because of incredibly high radiation levels at the time. Up to a thousand bodies were found by the coast, but they were too highly radioactive to move, so the bodies couldn’t be retuned to their families. Even today some families are looking for their relatives’ bodies in the area.

The explosion created dangerous hot spots in the East of Japan. The safety of food is a concern for avoiding internal exposure. There are now over 50 independent testing centres around Japan where anyone can bring food, soil, water, clothes, shoes and dust from vacuum cleaners. The levels found are often higher than in official testing. The government doesn't test for strontium or plutonium in foods. They only check for caesium. More than 50 counties stopped importing Japanese products, though some countries eased restrictions last year.

I hope you will consider that contaminated foods might be imported into your countries. Can you imagine mothers’ feelings when they found caesium in their breast milk? About 217,000 Fukushima children have had their thyroid tested. Unfortunately 185 children have officially been confirmed to have thyroid cancer up to now, and 145 have been operated on. In some cases cancer had spread to the children’s lymph nodes or lungs.

Before the disaster official rates for child thyroid cancer in Japan were low. For example in 2008, it was zero in Fukushima according to the National Cancer Research Centre. A member of the Fukushima Health Investigation Committee have admitted, “We can't say this result could be caused by screening.” Some mainstream western media have blamed mothers for worrying about their children too much, saying that stress will be the only health effect. However, there is no evidence that stress or scans cause thyroid cancer. This is not including those over 19 years old. There are no records for over 18’s.

This severe nuclear accident created so many kinds of suffering. Some evacuee children struggle to adjust in a different environment and are missing their family, friends and school. Many children are really missing their fathers, who have often stayed in Fukushima for their jobs. Children from Fukushima have been bullied by other children in their new places. Also family divisions and divorce are common.

The Japanese government decided to remove all evacuation zones except the 'difficult to return zone', and all evacuee’s accommodation support will be stopped in March 2017 – today in fact. This pressures citizens to return to Fukushima. It is very important to provide accommodation support for continuing a stable life, while considering every victim's circumstances.

Since the disaster, about 20,000 earthquakes have happened in Japan, and ones over magnitude 5 have happened 873 times, including a magnitude 7.4 one last November. We have to live with the risk of a further nuclear accident.

According to the International Commission on Radiation Protection (ICRP) and existing national law in Japan, the safety dose limit for radiation in public is 1mSv/year. But in Fukushima, 20mSv/year is allowed. The Chernobyl evacuation zone level is 5mSv/year. So the level allowed in Fukushima is 20 times higher than international level and 4 times higher than Chernobyl. Some evacuation zones were lifted last year, including areas like Minami Soma city with 50 mSv/ year. Before Fukushima, they said a major accident could not happen: now they say the radiation is not a problem anyway. They say hardly any evacuation is needed, so hardly any compensation is needed. This is the new model for the world.

Last month Tepco announced that inside Reactor 2 had reached 530 Sv/h and then 650Sv/h. At these levels a person could die from just a brief exposure. Even the robots used cannot function and break quickly. According to Tepco, in January this year 12,720,000Bq/day caesium 137 and iodine have been released daily. The government is encouraging evacuees return to places as close as only 5 km away from the plant from tomorrow.

The electricity from the Fukushima plant wasn’t produced for Fukushima citizens at all, it all went to Tokyo. Why aren’t nuclear power plants built in capital cities, even though it is said that nuclear energy is safe? Why not in the centre of Tokyo, London or Paris?

Massive amounts of contaminated “disaster waste,” are kept in container bags at temporary storage sites, including near residential areas and schools. Why do we have to return to live in a radioactive area? Why can't we have the human right not to be exposed to radiation? We are living with the reality that human beings can't control nuclear power.

Local and prefectural government workers in Fukushima are under enormous pressure. Nine of them commuted suicide last one year: five in last two months. So many people lost their jobs and had their businesses ruined. 4,000 of them are suing the Japanese government and Tepco. They say they don’t want anyone else to have to suffer the same fate. It was said that the nuclear industry created local jobs. However it ruined their work and community and had huge effects on millions of people.

Japan is one of the most high-tech countries in the world, but it can’t control nuclear power safely. Even if a natural disaster doesn’t happen, human error or terrorism can be the cause of a catastrophe. (Like at Sellafield in 1957, Three Mile Island in 1979 and Chernobyl in 1986: each new disaster has its causes.)

2 weeks ago, the Gunma court delivered a judgement that TEPCO and the government have a responsibility for the nuclear disaster. However the compensation was small. It was the first judgement in the many Fukushima evacuees’ trials. The decision could influence various lawsuits by 12,000 plaintiffs across Japan. This is a petition to request a fair judgement in the Fukushima Evacuees Trial in Kyoto. I would appreciate if you sign this.

People who live in the East of Japan had never thought before we have to face radiation in our lives. If a nuclear disaster happened now, can you make the right decision straight away? Do you know how far you are from the plant? Which way will the plume blow? Has your local authority prepared iodine for citizens? Can you protect yourself, your family and friends now? Radiation will not wait for you to think.
I always have a giga-counter. This shouldn’t be normal. Why do we have to live with nuclear power?

Before the disaster, we were taught nuclear power is cheep, clean, and safe. They told us severe nuclear accidents will not happen and the press did not question anything. It is very similar to the British situation now. We don’t want anyone to become a nuclear victim in the world.

And not just human beings. Animals, insects, fish, trees, across the mountains and into the ocean - all of nature was exposed to radiation. This is global issue. I hope you will bring my story to your country and discuss nuclear power with your friends, your family and your government.

Thank you very much for giving me the chance to talk about the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear disaster as one of the many thousands of evacuees.

31 March 2017 Mitsuko Sonoda

With Mitsuko after the session 

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Six years after the nuclear disaster: Radioactive everywhere 

Iitate-mura, Fukushima with mounts of radioactive soil in plastic bags
Photo by a friend of mine in January, 2017.
It is six years since the Great Earthquake in Eastern Japan and the unprecedented nuclear disaster at Fukushima daiichi nuclear power plant. The wheareabout of radioactive debris of three nuclear reactors is still unknown and it has never been "under control," discharging 10,000,000 becquerel per hour.

Although the situation of the melt-down reactors has not changed, the mindset of people in Japan seems to be changed. For most of them, the nuclear accident is something past, and they think everything is going OK, as the government says it's OK.

For the government and nuclear "mafia" earning tremendous money from nuclear industry, it is time to show the world that even after nuclear accidents people can live as they used to and nothing serious is going on. They are saying like, "you can keep living in your radioactively contaminated hometown if you like, and radioactive garbage can be recycled as other normal garbage. So don't worry about radioactivity and let's build more nuclear power plants around the world."

Do you think I am joking? I do hope so, but it is the reality in Japan, now.
Please visit the sites below and read the statements and explanations about the crisis we are now forced by Japanese government.

It is now in Japan, but it might happen in your country next.

** Urgent Petition: “No” to the Policy “To Use Contaminated Soil (Less than 8,000 becquerel/kg) for Public Works”—
Don't Contaminate the Environment, Don't Force Radiation Exposure on the Entire Population

** Stand in solidarity:  Defend the human rights of Fukushima survivors

News on Fukushima:
Govt. to lift more Fukushima evacuation orders

My friends and I had a candlelit event, "311 a prayer from Kobe" at the heart of Kobe city on the 11th of March, 2017. May there be no more sufferings because of nuclear disasters.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Powerful message from an A-bomb survivor  

     President Obama became the first sitting American president to visit the Japanese city of Hiroshima since U.S. warplanes dropped the first atomic bomb on August 6, 1945.  Giving his speech, he was eloquent as he is, calling for nuclear-free world, but is he really serious about that? To let the world know his seriousness he must take actions. That is what he must do after the "historic" visit to Hiroshima.

     After I listened to his speech, I heard a powerful voice from an A-bomb survivor. She speaks fluently in English, so it must be very moving for English speakers to hear her talking about what happened on the day when the first atomic bomb was dropped on human beings, and warnings to all of us living in this nuclear age.

      "I have serious question. We have to start getting rid of them as quickly as possible, before the accident takes place, before terrorists take serious action. I have seen the massive death and suffering, and I don’t want to see the similar situation multiplied by the hundreds and thousands. I just can’t understand. I want the United States—as Mr. Obama said, United States has the moral responsibility to lead action toward abolition. Please back that statement with concrete action, soon."

     The above is from the interview on Democracy Now! with Setsuko Thurlow, who survived the Hiroshima atomic bombing, about the bombing of 1945 and her push to eliminate nuclear weapons. See more at:
"I Want the World to Wake Up": Hiroshima Survivor Criticizes Obama for Pushing New Nuclear Weapons May 27, 2016 Web Exclusive http://www.democracynow.org/2016/5/27/atomic_bomb_survivor_setsuko_thurlow_on

 In the following interview, the survivor talks about August 6th of 1945
"We Learned to Step over the Dead": Hiroshima Survivor & Anti-Nuclear Activist Recalls U.S. Bombing  May 27, 2016 Story

News coverage of Obama's visit to Hiroshima
In Hiroshima Obama Calls for World Without Nukes, Contradicting New $1 Trillion Weapon Upgrade Plan   May 27, 2016 Story http://www.democracynow.org/2016/5/27/in_hiroshima_obama_calls_for_world

I really appreciate Democracy Now! for these special and precious interviews.

On the day I first visited Hiroshima on "August 6th"

Sunday, May 22, 2016

The experience of nuclear weapons is something too large  

Mr. Obama is to visit Hiroshima on 27th of May 2016. This is the first visit of the president of United States to the place on which USA dropped the first atomic bomb in human history.

I am not sure if his visit is to be hailed or not, but I've found  profound words from Japanese Nobel Laureate Kenzaburo Oe on 70th Anniversary of US Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the site of Democracy Now!

 "I believe that the issue or the experience of nuclear weapons is something too large for any individual to apologize for, and it’s the responsibility of all humanity to take on board. So rather than an apology, I believe that what’s important is to call for an expression of the will and the dedication to create a world free of nuclear weapons."

See the whole interview at http://www.democracynow.org/2015/8/6/japanese_nobel_laureate_kenzaburo_oe_on

As a person who was born and live in Japan where hundreds of thousands of people have been suffering from atomic bombings and Fukushima-daiichi nuclear disaster, I do believe nuclear weapons and nuclear power should be abolished for human beings to survive.

   Collect warheads of
        Nuclear missiles on the earth
          Send them to Jupiter
    'Cause peach trees will be blooming
      Next spring on the brown planet

The tanka poem and the drawing
from "Flowers and Bombs" by Kaoru Kobashi
published in 2004

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