Commemorating March 11: Hope for Recovery

Iwate: Twenty Thousand Lanterns of Prayer

On March 11, 2012, one year after the Great East Japan Earthquake and the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, Morioka City of Iwate Prefecture saw the anniversary event sponsored by the Greater Morioka Area Mayors Forum. The memorial ceremony and a prayer-for-recovery event at the prefectural auditorium were followed by the “Lanterns of Prayer” at Morioka Castle Park, where 20,000 lanterns were lit.
The “Lanterns of Prayer” was planned and carried out by Iwate-Yuikko Morioka, a group to support the reconstruction efforts. Lighting these lanterns, people prayed for the souls of the 20,000 dead and missing.
Many students and volunteers helped set up the lanterns at the site. As the starting time approached, more and more people, including families carrying their own lanterns, filled the venue of the event.

Debris still remaining
A Morioka woman in her sixties took part in the event. She brought a lantern that took her all day to make with all her heart. She said, “Although Morioka City generally escaped major damage, in the costal areas washed by the tsunami, there are still many piles of debris left untouched. I have a friend who lived in Miyako City (which suffered heavily), so I cannot help feeling personally about the whole disaster.”
She also said tearfully, “As long as we have these piles of debris, equivalent to the amount of 100 years’ time, we cannot achieve a real reconstruction.”
Another woman in her thirties took part in the memorial event with her husband and two young children. “Today I felt devastated, remembering what happened just a year ago. But I wanted my children to know that as many people as these lanterns have died or are still missing,” she said, looking at her children.

Until the reconstruction is achieved
The participants in the day’s events unanimously said, “The fact that such a large number of people were killed in the earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011 should not be forgotten.” Now that fewer and fewer reports on the present situation of the affected communities appear in the press, the real situation on the ground is far from recovery. We felt a strong need to make known all over the country the plight of the people affected by the great disaster.

(Report by Yasui Keita; Photo by Sakai Takeshi)

Tokyo: Rallies for Recovery from Earthquake Disaster and Clear Shift in Energy Policy of Japan

In Tokyo, many commemorative events to remember the victims and demand the reconstruction and breaking away from nuclear power were held at Asukayama Park (Kita-ku), Hibiya Park (Chiyoda-ku), Kashiwagi Park (Shinjuku-ku) and other places.

What have the ministers seen?
About 8,000 people gathered for the “March 11 Action: Achieve Recovery, Eliminate Nuclear Power Plants” held at Inokashira Park (Musashino City), Tokyo.
Mr. Maekawa Masato of Taro-cho Fishermen’s Cooperative Union of Iwate spoke passionately from the podium. “Forty-seven of our members died in the earthquake, and our Coop suffered the damage amounting to 7.5 billion yen, equivalent to 100 years worth of our annual profit.” But, he said, the progress of the reconstruction work had been extremely slow. “Virtually nothing has changed during the last year. A number of ministers from the government have come to see our communities, but what have they actually seen? There are so many things that should be done before they try to raise consumption tax or cut pensions. The government should make real efforts so that the recovery work would be visible to us.” A storm of applause responded to his appeal.

Reconstruction work falls behind
After the rally, participants held a demonstration march, chanting, “Government must take full responsibility of carrying out reconstruction works!” and “Abolish all nuclear power plants from Japan.” Ms. Koizumi Naoko of Nakano Kyoritsu Clinic said, “Listening to the speakers from the disaster-hit areas, I remembered about this time last year. And I’ve learned that the recovery work has fallen so much behind. We need to know the real situation of the people over there, discuss what we can do for the victims, and join in any support activity we can join.”

(Report by Tada Shigemasa; Photo by Gomi Akinori)

From Medical Counseling Booth Set up at Inokashira Park Rally: “For the first time, I have come across a doctor who is willing to respond to my anxiety.”

At the rally in Inokashira Park, an ad-hoc medical counseling on radiation contamination was conducted, where doctors of Min-Iren and Hodanren (Japanese Medical and Dental Practitioners for the Improvement of Medical Care) offered consultation service. Eight people visited for consultation and advice.
Among them was a mother with 2 children, who learned about the service through the Facebook. She said, “Every small symptom on my children makes me nervous and worried, as I cannot help linking it to the effect of radiation.” Once she consulted with her family doctor. “But the doctor just dismissed my concern, simply saying, ‘It has nothing to do with radiation.’ Since then, I haven’t been able to reveal any concerns with him.”
After the consultation that day, the mother said, “I felt very relieved to have been listened to today. The doctor gave me his number and said I could contact him anytime if necessary. For the first time I have come across a doctor who is willing to respond to my anxiety, and I’m so glad I came today. There are so many more people like me. I hope such consultation meetings will be held in many other places.”

Fukui: Many Study Meetings Held to Speak Out against Nuclear Power Generation

Twelve hundred people participated in the “Farewell to Nuclear Power Fukui Rally” held in Tsuruga City, Fukui Prefecture. This was the largest anti-nuclear rally ever held in the prefecture, where 13 nuclear power reactors concentrate. From Fukui Min-Iren, 224 members joined the rally.
The Min-Iren members wore anti-nuclear masks in the rally, which were hand-made by the users of Shinjo-Ikoi Nursing Care Center, who were not to be able to join the rally themselves.
On every 11th day of the month since July 2011, Fukui Medical Cooperative Union has taken part in anti-nuclear citizens marches organized by the Citizens’ Movement Forum on Nuclear Power. Mr. Tamura Minoru, one of the Coop members said, “Responses from ordinary people on the street are generally good. Some people give donations to us.”
Since the Fukushima nuclear accident, Fukui Min-Iren has emphasized the need to learn about nuclear power problems. The issue is now incorporated in the content of the medical staff training course. Also a field work was carried out to visit one of these nuclear power stations. Some of the young staff workers of Min-Iren who have completed such training programs were among the participants in the rally.

(Report and photo by Yahagi Fumitaka of Min-Iren Shimbun)