There's a new exhibition entitled "Life in Iitate Village" at the Kyoto University of Art and Design featuring the photographic work of Chiyoko Kanno, former resident of Iitate. This article from Vice also mentions Fukushima's Stolen Lives - Kenichi Hasegawa Book Translation Project, and describes Hasegawa's narrative as a counterpoint to "official narratives" produced by the government.
"Leaving things up to the discretion of others is how we get escorted to hell." -Yukuo Yasuda, lawyer
The seed of the idea to tell Kenichi Hasegawa's story was planted in May 2011 when the reporter Shojiro Akashi and the lawyer Yukuo Yasuda visited Iitate for the first time and met Hasegawa and his family, friends and neighbors. By that time - almost two months after the accident - Hasegawa was already quite well known to visitors and reporters as a person always eager to talk to the media. He himself had learned early on that talking to outside visitors was one of the best ways to glean vital information about what was happening at Fukushima Daiichi.
The meeting of these three individuals was thus part of a natural course of events during a very unnatural time. By bringing together their different expertise, experiences, and viewpoints, these men offer a compelling, informed, and nuanced interpretation of the unprecedented events that began at Fukushima Daiichi in March 2011, and examine what can and should be done in response.
The translation that follows (Part 2) is an interview conducted by Shojiro Akashi on May 6, 2011; it is now included in a book he wrote in 2012 entitled A Criminal Complaint Against TEPCO. A fascinating, frightening and yet brilliant piece of reportage, this excerpt describes Akashi's and Yasuda's first meeting with Kenichi Hasegawa. On that day, after measuring radioactivity in the fields of Iitate, they stopped by Hasegawa's house in hopes of talking to him. Although he had not yet arrived home, his wife was there, along with other women from the "Iitate Dairy Farmer Wives Association"; the women were holding their last association meeting before the village's evacuation.
They welcomed the two men in, and talked frankly to them about what life had been like the past two months - about losing their livelihood, being unable to feed and/or relocate their cows, and not knowing where to go or what to do.
After arriving home, Hasegawa joined the conversation and voiced his own concerns. For him, the most horrifying aspect of the whole situation was that everyone he had asked for help had told him to ask someone else.
In response to these fears and concerns, Yasuda had one piece of advice: keep speaking out. Your voices matter, he told them.
Personally, I really love this piece for the way it transmits the authentic voices of the people of Iitate and explains the details of the peculiar and unprecedented difficulties they faced.
Of course, reading this excerpt also reminds me about why this story matters.
When Hasegawa told Yasuda that he was thinking about asking a lawyer for advice, Yasuda pointed out that even the best lawyer would probably not know what to do in a situation like the one he was in. Instead, Yasuda said, it was now up to Hasegawa and the others in Iitate, as people with first-hand experience of the disaster, to see this struggle through to the end. He also advised him not to entrust this work entirely to others. As Yasuda put it, "Leaving things up to the discretion of others is how we will be escorted to hell."
In a very obvious way, Hasegawa's book is the product of this advice. It is also the product of the friendship and mutual respect that developed among Hasegawa, Yasuda and Akashi, as well as their unflagging commitment to tell Hasegawa's story and to fearlessly confront both the institutional issues and personal tragedies that arose following the Fukushima Daiichi disaster.
I am very honored to be able to work on this project with people of such tenacity, intelligence, wisdom and humanity. If you haven't already, please consider making a donation to help us complete the important work of translating Hasegawa's book into English. My hope is that together, we can help Hasegawa, Akashi and Yasuda as they work to see this through to the very end.
Thanks to all our new supporters. As of today, we have 60 donors, and have raised approximately 150,000 yen. We still have a ways to go to make our goal, but are very happy with the worldwide interest in the book so far (we have donors from Malaysia, Japan, Taiwan, Australia, the Netherlands and the US, to name a few). But we have only one month remaining in our fund raising campaign, so please help us to keep spreading the word! Remember, all donations of 1,000 yen or more get you a complimentary copy of the e-book, as well as a named thank-you in the acknowledgments (if you so choose).
We think Hasegawa's book is important for many reasons. Of the many voices that have emerged after 3/11, Hasegawa's is unique in that it is the voice of an ordinary citizen and an accidental activist whose lived experience brought him to a critical crossroads. There are very few witness accounts of the aftermath of the nuclear disaster that are as detailed and illuminating as Hasegawa's. However, while he has always been vocal and is becoming very well-known in Japan, his activism remains very grass roots. Since he does not have the resources to disseminate his story in the way that more powerful interests such as institutionally-affiliated academics, journalists, or corporations can, our team has chosen a "crowd funding" approach for this project as a way to spread awareness, gauge interest and raise funds, all at the same time.
We strongly believe that Hasegawa's narrative deserves just as much attention as the others, and we hope that enough readers will agree.
As far as translation progress, I am currently working on translating the Afterword of Fukushima's Stolen Lives, written by the lawyer Yukuo Yasuda (you can read his bio here: Meet our Team). Yasuda currently represents many Fukushima Daiichi victims in litigation against Tepco, and has a long and impressive history of speaking out for ordinary citizens seeking justice after cases of misinformation and environmental injustice. As a hemophiliac, Yasuda experienced first-hand the devastating consequences of institutional misinformation in the 1980s after nearly 2,000 people, many of them his friends, contracted HIV/AIDS from tainted blood products after the government and other health experts assured hemophiliacs and their families that blood transfusions with unheated blood products were safe (this case is known in Japan as the Yakugai Eizu Jiken). Yasuda believes that the Yakugai AIDS case and the events/actions following the meltdowns at Fukushima Daiichi are structurally identical, and he finds Hasegawa's book especially important because it sheds light on this persistent problem of institutional deception.
Although these two cases are specific to Japan, they are also certainly relevant to us all as fellow citizens of the world who look to our own governments and leaders to provide truthful information about issues that impact our communities and often, the globe. But I will let Yasuda speak for himself, and hope to post the translation of his essay within the next week or two.
In other news, we have a Facebook page: "Like" us if you're on Facebook. It's a good way to stay connected to the project: Fukushima's Stolen Lives - Kenichi Hasegawa Book Translation Project
Thank you again for your support.
Check out this Japan Times article about the project, written by staff writer Tomohiro Osaki, and published today.
Also, a translated excerpt is now available. Click on the "Read an Excerpt" tab above.
I woke up to the news. To an internet full of photos and videos and a surfeit of details that hardly made any of the chaos easier to understand. I watched the now-famous footage of the wave on its inevitable course. From the air, or whatever protected and elevated vantage point the images were captured from, it looked big, but not that big. Then it took everything in its path. At the time, I couldn't imagine what could be worse. Until the news started to shift to the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.
Way back in the day, just after college, I lived in Tohoku, the northeast region of Japan of which Fukushima is a part. I lived in a town known as Shizukuishi, in Iwate Prefecture. It is a lot like what I imagine Iitate was like (before 3/11, Iitate was designated as one of the "most beautiful villages in Japan"): very rural and very beautiful, a farming community of people tied to the land they loved. They were lucky, and they knew it. Or rather, it was easy to see that they considered themselves lucky. I remember being surprised at how many people in Shizukuishi had never been to Tokyo, which is only about three hours away by train. They would mention it nonchalantly, maybe with a chuckle. It wasn't that they wanted to go but couldn't, or that they loathed the idea of such an ultra-urban existence. They just saw no reason to leave the place where they were. Why would they? They had what they wanted, and what they needed. Nothing opulent, but enough.
I've never met Hasegawa-san in person. But again, in some ways I feel like I have. When I read his book, which is full of familiar Tohoku dialect, I hear his voice and many other voices.
When Hasegawa-san talks about what he has lost, it literally is immeasurable. Unquantifiable. The first thing he talks about is his family. In Iitate, he lived in a house with his wife, his parents, his two sons, their wives, and their children. To Americans, this sense of loss is perhaps surprising, since our fantasies about ideal living situations rarely include living indefinitely with our parents or our children. But for Hasegawa-san, it is what made his life complete.
At 2:46 p.m. on March 11, 2011, when the earthquake struck, Hasegawa was preparing his fields in order to plant the grass and grains that his cows would eat following the next harvest. As soon as he could, when the ground stopped shaking, he went home to check on his family. After that, he went to check on his neighbors. The power had also gone out. As a dairy farmer, he immediately worried about how he was going to milk his cows, since he relies on electricity to do so. The cows must be milked every day or else they suffer from mastitis and pain. Thankfully, he had a generator, which he was able to use. When he finished with his own cows, he took his generator to his neighbors so that they could milk theirs. This ritual continued daily. At first, the farmers donated their milk to evacuees who had come to Iitate from coastal areas. After radioactive iodine was detected in the milk, they had no choice but to dump it into the ground, day after day. Then, on March 25, the authorities came to "dispose" of his 50 cows, animals who he also describes as part of his family.
Hasegawa-san has been in the news a lot recently. His story has been picked up by the folks at Greenpeace, who have featured him in a number of articles and videos about the Fukushima survivors of 3/11. While no one can give him old his life back, we can give him our attention. We can learn from what he has to say. We can listen to his warnings about the danger and unreliability of nuclear power, and we can, like him, demand that corporations and governments provide citizens with honest and timely information about the dangers they face. And we can choose--and demand--to actively participate in the discussions and decisions about industrial development in our communities.
Three years ago today, as I watched the waves consume the coastal Iwate towns that I had often visited, I felt many things, but powerlessness was the predominant feeling. Like many others, I struggled to find ways to meaningfully respond, but in the face of such events, there was little I could do beyond checking on old friends and donating to the Red Cross. So when Akashi-san asked me to be a part of this project earlier this year, I didn't hesitate. This is not my tragedy, but it is personal. I have been the recipient of untold kindness and care from the people of Japan, and especially, from the people of Tohoku. If this is one small way that I can attempt to repay the kindness (恩返し in Japanese) that I have received, then it is my privilege to do so. Somehow, someway, I will help to see this project through to the end.
Above all and most importantly, this is Hasegawa's story. It is not mine. It is not Greenpeace's. It does not belong to certain politics or ideologies. It belongs to no one but him, and comes from his own personal and immediate experience of a devastating sequence of events. But in his almost religious documentation of the extraordinary events and facts, he no doubt had an inkling that this story would eventually be of value to us all, and to future generations as well.
Dear Project Backers,
First of all, on behalf of Kenichi Hasegawa, and the other project team members, I'd like to express my sincere appreciation for your interest in and support of this project. We have had a busy, exciting, and instructive week as we launched our fundraising drive. Many of you have also offered invaluable advice on how to make this project a success, and we are very grateful for that as well. I hope that you will keep sharing Hasegawa-san's story with your friends and networks, and that you will also keep sharing your comments and advice.
This week I (Amy) will be working on editing the translation of the first sections of Hasegawa-san's book. I think that when you start to read his story you will want to read more. And of course, he can say more than I ever could about why his story is important. So stay tuned for that.
Again, thank you so much for your support and encouragement. They are the fuel that keeps us going.