25th Fukushima Dialogue Summary
The 25th Fukushima Dialogue ‘Living ‘Together’ after the Nuclear Disaster’ was held on 14 and 15 October 2023.
On Day 1, Ms Harue Sanpei from Tsushima guided the group inside the specific regeneration and reconstruction base in the Tsushima area of Namie Town, which remains a difficult to return zone to this day.
On the second day, the dialogue was held in the main conference room of the Futaba Town Industrial Exchange Centre. It was also available online with simultaneous interpretation in English and Japanese.
We gathered at Namie Station, boarded a microbus and met our guide, Ms Harue Sanpei, at the Tsushima Branch Office (former Tsushima Revitalisation Centre).
We were taken to Chouan-ji Temple, where the main hall has been demolished and the land left vacant, leaving only the cemetery. The temple has now been relocated to Fukushima City. Some parishioners died during the evacuation. We were told that the relatives of the deceased had no prospect of returning to Tsushima and could not bear to leave their bones alone in the graves in Tsushima, where they could rarely visit the graves from the place they evacuate, so they left them at the temple where they had relocated.
Mr Sanpei’s home
Her home is located within a specific rehabilitation and reconstruction area, so according to the system, she is allowed to return to her home if she wishes. However, the reality is that the house is in a very uninhabitable state due to decay here and there, and water from the mountains has been flowing in, due to a lack of management for a long time, making the premise look like a wetland. In addition, many areas around the area remain in the difficult-to-return zone, where it is impossible to set foot, and there is hardly anyone in the neighbourhood.
When we saw her home, we understood the meaning of her statements: “Even if the government says we can return home, it is not an environment in which we can line in”; “The conditions we want and the conditions the government offer for us are too different”; and “Although the government presents us with options, none of them are options the residents want”. She also said: ” To be honest, I really regret showing you my house in such a desolate situation. I would have liked to guide you to my comfortable and tidy accommodation as it was before the accident.”
Former Tsushima branch office, Tsushima town centre
In the microbus, we heard about the village before the evacuation and how it was evacuated during the accident. Almost all of the former residential areas have now been demolished and the land left vacant. In front of the former Tsushima branch office, we also heard about the origins of the former Tsushima village: After the Second World War , many people who came here to cultivate settled in the area and lived helping each other.
Former Tsushima Junior High School
The school has been closed and the ground is now a meeting place for decontamination and demolition work. On the construction map, the areas highlighted in red are the places in Tsushima where the evacuation order has been lifted. Currently, it is possible to live in only 5% of Tsushima’s total area.
During the visit, we were wearing dosimeters and we checked the radiation levels at each location. With the exception of Mr Sanpei’s home, the area has been decontaminated. The results below indicate the doses accumulated during the day’s activities, starting from Namie Station.
Presentations in the morning and dialogue in the afternoon took place at the Futaba Business Incubation and Community Centre. The morning presentations were given by presenters from Futaba Town, Okuma Town and Katsurao Village, who introduced their activities. A researcher presented a case study of how trust was restored after the mass cadmium poisoning of residents of Niigata in northern Japan. Also presented was an online case study from abroad regarding the experience of British farmers affected by post-Chernobyl sheep restrictions. For more information on these presentations, please see the available documents and videos.
In the afternoon, a dialogue took place between 11 participants, including online participation from abroad.
The IDPA method was used in the Dialogue, where each participant gave their point of view on a question from the moderator during the same allotted time. Secondly, when everyone had finished answering the question, each participant was invited to share their thoughts on the others’ points of view. No direct discussion took place and the rule was not to invalidate or criticize what other participants had said.
The question was: what are the conditions and means to live better in the affected areas of Fukushima?
Participants included residents of the towns of Futaba and Okuma, where evacuation orders were partially lifted; Katsurao Village and Odaka Town in Minami Soma City, where evacuation orders were lifted for the entire area; an entrepreneur living in Tomioka who left the prefecture to get involved in recovery activities; an evacuee from Fukushima city who voluntarily evacuated to Kyoto; researchers involved in Fukushima as part of research and support activities, as well as foreign experts.
Reflecting the differences in their respective situations, their responses were also very different. While some people were acting positively in the current situation, others felt left behind, and even during the answers, the participants seemed to be surprised at each other’s different situations. It was an opportunity to visualize and really feel that the situation differs greatly depending on the condition in which each person finds themselves. It also reiterated the difficulty of sharing situations and point of views.
On the other hand, the difficulty of sharing
itself reflects the situation in the affected areas of Hamadori in Fukushima, and the confusion observed in the dialogue was a reflection of the reality.
What was striking was the difficulty of sharing and, at the same time, the importance of having the opportunity of sharing, which was pointed out by many. It was also an opportunity to feel the hope and potential of people in different positions and environments connecting with each other, sharing their situations and striving to understand each other.
We would like to thank the members of the Fukushima University Centre for Future Research for their assistance in organising this event. Thanks to them, we were able to proceed without a hitch. We would also like to thank the IRSN in France for financial support for online distribution and simultaneous interpretation, Ms. Harue Sanpei for guiding us around Tsushima and all those who donated to the holding of the Dialogue.