by Yukie Saruta
The Story of the Grandmother
Imagine that you have a grandmother who is really kind to you, and always wants happiness for you. She gives you birthday wishes with beautiful envelopes and words every year, she cooks really good meals whenever you visit her place. She enjoys her own hobbies: reading the Bible, growing flowers, and shopping. Even if you love her as a grandmother, the love from her must be always bigger than that of yours. Then, please imagine what you feel if the grandmother starts crying during the phone call with you one day and start talking about how she lost her father and what she saw during that moment.
My grandmother is one of the persons who suffered from the nuclear radiation in Hiroshima, though she didn’t live in the city of Hiroshima on that moment. She was 15 years old at that time, and had moved away from the city for a while. Fortunately she avoided being exposed to the radiation and the strong heat directly. However, her father died because of the radiation, and she got a message from the Japanese government that she had to take his bones and come to the city for it. It was just only 3 days after. When she arrived in the city, she saw the hell of the world. Weird smell, tons of dead bodies lay in the street. After she got the coffin from the officer, she returned to her place. However, she realized there were no bones in the coffin and the only reason she went there is just to take the coffin from the city. After coming back from the city, she faced several heavy symptoms: stomach ache, hair loss, fever, and nightmares. They continued for more than one month, even though the time she spent in the city was just a few hours.
She has never talked about this experience to any relatives except me. She said that she decided to talk about the experience to me because she know that I went to Nagasaki on a school trip and was shocked to listen to a survivor’s story. After she finished talking about her own experience, she said she still sometimes has nightmares that remind her of the view of the hell. She wants to forget about it, and therefore, she told me that she won’t talk about it anymore to anybody.
The Horses of Fukushima
In March, 2011, another nuclear-related event happened in Japan. A nuclear plant in Fukushima exploded and as a result there was a lot of nuclear radiation in the area. Thus, people had to move away from their residence and started living in temporary housing which is financially supported by the government. Today the situation of people who live in Fukushima is still serious, however, it has not been highlighted that animals in Fukushima are also in a tough situation.
In Fukushima, there is one traditional festival which uses horses and lets them running around in the streets. For this traditional show, people in Fukushima have their own horses. However, after the disaster happened, people cannot take care of their horses like they did before. A film titled The Horses of Fukushima documented this situation and followed the horses for a year. Here is a link to the trailer of the film: DIFF 2013 - THE HORSES OF FUKUSHIMA - YouTube
Just after the earthquake and the explosion of Fukushima’s nuclear plant, people in Fukushima had to leave their hometown and start a temporary life in a new place. The horses remained in the area which was exposed to strong nuclear radiation for two weeks. After that, the Japanese government allowed Fukushima people to go inside the area which is within 20 km from the plant. However, it was still limited for people to take care of their horses because the government only allowed people to go there a few hours a day. As a result of this terrible situation, half of the horses for the festival died, and the rest of them also suffered from hunger and loss of weight as a result. One month later, they were moved from the area and went to another place which is also supported by the government, since those horses are used for the traditional festival and the government didn’t want to let them die and wanted to protect the regional tradition. Yet, there was a problem with letting them go outside, since they eat grasson the ground which might be poisoned by the radiation. The government prohibited the horses from being let out in order not to eat such a food.
Still, horses are horses. Whatever the situation is, they behave as horses. They are not different from the other horses which stay in other parts of Japan. The traditional festival was held as usual, too.
Japanese Youth Perspective:
As the last generation and the first generation
In Japan, 140,000 people were the victims of nuclear weapons in Hiroshima, and 73,000 in Nagasaki. In the case of Fukushima, no clear number was made public by the government. Still, whatever the number is, the number only shows the scale, and does not explain any of each victims’ situation. It is quite easy to know what happened and what number of people died, even if you are not Japanese. However, it will be much more difficult if you want to know how it’ happened or how people and all living creatures suffered from the horrible situation.
The current generation of Japanese youth is the last generation who can hear the voice of survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki directly. At the same time, on the other hand, we are the first generation, who has experienced the horrible disaster the 3.11 earthquake and the tsunami, and the explosion of the nuclear plant in Fukushima. Thus, it is our responsibility to keep telling “How everything suffered from the radiation” to the next generations and those outside of Japan.