Kiroku Project

Healing the Division – Exchange with other affected areas connecting their experiences

by Ryoko Ando

Another characteristic of the Dialogue was the presence of the participants from abroad. In fact, we received many guests from different countries and cultures. This was because the Dialogue started out as the ICRP Dialogue Initiative. The ICRP is an independent, international, and non-governmental organization of radiation experts. Answering ICRP’s calls, experts from all over the world and have continuously visited Fukushima until today. They sought to see what was happening in Fukushima with their own eyes and they listened to the voice of the residents. And they shared their findings in the Dialogue and in their countries. Chris Clement, scientific secretary at ICRP, is a Canadian who visited Japan frequently, spending almost 300 days (in total) in Japan between 2011 and 2019. Many experts made repeat visits and became a supporter of the rehabilitation efforts in Fukushima and Japan. In addition to these experts, the Dialogue invited some people from the areas affected by the Chernobyl accident, such as Ms. Anastassia Fiadosenka from Belarus and dairy farmers and herders from Norway.  

Belarus was affected by the Chernobyl accident, but Norway? This was a question many people in Japan had. Ms. Astrid Liland of Norwegian Radiation Protection Agency (NRPA, currently DSA) explained the situation in the 2nd Dialogue meeting. Radioactive material scattered from the Chernobyl nuclear power plant caused extensive damages in northern Europe. In Norway, a country which stretches from north to south, radioactive material fell in the mountain areas in the north and central Norway. Herding, a major part of Norway’s agricultural sector, has received significant, long-term impact. It was rather ironic, because Norway does not have any nuclear power plant; the country has steep mountains and ample water resources that can supply most of its electricity demand with hydropower. This is why the country was not prepared for a nuclear disaster prior to the Chernobyl accident. 

Reference material:

The government established NRPA after the Chernobyl accident. NRPA has been continuously responsible for rehabilitation measures in Norway and most of the Dialogue participants from Norway were related to NRPA. 

The support from Norwegians went beyond participating in the Dialogue. In 2014, the Embassy of Norway in Japan and NRPA, together with Ethos in Fukushima, implemented the “People-to-People Project.” Through the Project, the residents in the affected communities of Fukushima and Norway visited each other. It started when NRPA asked Ethos in Fukushima for ideas to support Fukushima, as they got to know each other through the Dialogue. Ethos suggested an exchange program because “Providing devices or financial support is one-sided. Exchange program is better, as it provides an opportunity for the affected communities to develop friendship and allow mutual exchange.” 

Through the Program, four pairs (eight persons) of Norwegian farmers visited Fukushima in May 2014. They visited farmers in Fukushima City, Kawamatacho and Iitate Village, observed the area, and met with the locals. These farmers also participated in the Dialogue held during their visit and made a presentation on their post-accident efforts. 

The testimony of Mr. Najela Joma left an unforgettable impression. Mr. Joma is a Sami, an indigenous minority living in the northern parts of Norway. The Sami inhabit a wide range of Eurasian peninsula, from the Nordic countries to Siberia, and used to live nomadic life herding reindeer. Many Sami have settled down into stationary lives, but others continue the traditional lifestyle even today. Most of the nuclear fallout from the Chernobyl accident fell on the land where Sami live. It attached on lichen, the main reindeer grazing food. Thus, the Sami became the most affected among the Norwegians. The following are excerpts from the Mr. Joma’s presentation taken from the transcripts of the simultaneous interpreting (Norwegian to Japanese). 

I am Najela Joma. I am 54 years old, married with two children born in 1985 and 1991. My profession is reindeer herding. I live in a mountainous region of central Norway. 

Let me speak about our ‘68 years of history battling radiation, 27 years after the Chernobyl accident.’ 

I am a Sami. There are four language groups among Sami people, East, North, Lule and Southern Sami. I am from the Southern Sami group that has about 2,000 to 3,000 people. Reindeer are herded in a vast area, from Norway in the west to the Bering Strait in the east. 1.7 million reindeer are grazed just in this area, of which 550,000 live in northern Scandinavian Peninsula. There are about 100,000 where I live [in central Norway]. Reindeer herding covers a vast area, which is around 15% of the land area of the world. Today, about 50,000 people engage in reindeer herding. 

In the northern parts of Norway, rain contaminated by radioactive material used to fall in the days of above-ground nuclear weapons testing. Northern Sami is said to have been affected by radiation since the 1960s. Especially the reindeer herding Sami are considered to have consumed more radioactive material than the average Norwegians. Reindeer mainly feed on lichen during winter. Lichen takes about 15 to 20 years before they grow to 3 to 5 cm high. And, because Lichen takes in all nutrients from the air, it soaked up radioactive material (in the air at the time of the experiment) like a sponge. This resulted in the high concentration of radioactive pollutant in lichen. 

After the Chernobyl accident in the spring of 1986, two new terms entered our everyday vocabulary, “Becquerel” and “Chernobyl.” That spring, 30,000 Bq/kg of radioactivity was detected from our reindeer meat, and 180,000 Bq/kg from lichen that they ate. You can’t see or smell Becquerel. Neither does it have any taste. It can only be measured using scientific device. I knew immediately that something serious had happened. We were affected by the nuclear fallout. 

The Norwegian government announced that people affected by the Chernobyl accident shall not bear financial burden from the damage. They also said that things will be back to normal after five years. The experts outside the government all disagreed, they predicted it may take 30 years. The government warned that the risk of cancer may increase, although the [additional] health risk from radiation would be about the same as smoking one cigarette a day. I wondered if the information provided to the public included the Government’s [optimistic] estimate. 

In those days, I was full of questions about future. I personally wondered if I should stop reindeer herding. But I didn’t know how to make a living otherwise. What should I eat? How much was my food affected by radiation? Could there be serious effect many years after? And is the government telling the truth?

Reindeer is at the center of Sami cuisine. We cook reindeer in various ways, boiling, roasting and smoking. We also make Kuivaliha, salted and dried reindeer meat. After the Chernobyl accident, the government issued food guidelines. They advised that the radioactivity level of reindeer meat should be less than 600 Bq/kg. Soon, we found out that it was extremely difficult to meet the standard. Radioactive material inside a reindeer’s body has a biological half-life of about 21 days. It means you need to wait for about four to five half-life periods before radioactive material inside a reindeer’s body decreases from 12,000 Bq to 600 Bq. To meet the standard, reindeer had to be fed by clean-feed system (giving feed not contaminated by radioactive material) for 80 to 100 days. In addition to lichen, berries and fish were also significantly polluted by radiation. We were advised to avoid berries, fish, wild herbs, and wild meat as much as possible. 

Compared to reindeer, elk meat had lower radiation level. However, we couldn’t hunt elk because our ancestors had sold its hunting rights to Norwegian settlers. The Norwegian government started to investigate how much the bodies of reindeer herders were affected by radiation by measuring internal dose with whole body counters (WBC). The government also gave allowance so people could buy food not contaminated by radiation. 

In the spring of 1986, all reindeer that did not meet the 6,000 Bq/kg limit were destroyed. Next spring, the government ordered that all reindeer with higher than 6,000 Bq/kg count had to be fed with clean feed. [And reindeer were captured and measured alive.]We built a barn for clean-feed. Although the government compensated for the building, they did not pay for our labor. Our reindeer herding group was constantly negotiating with the government about compensation. Sweden, our neighboring country, adopted different measures and different limits. You will imagine that the same meat will have the same becquerel count in Sweden or Norway; but when the results were different, the government said it was due to a difference in calibration. 

Ironically, cesium was detected from reindeer meat culled and frozen before 1986. The government admitted the contamination from Soviet nuclear weapons test at last: reindeer meat was contaminated from 1950s and 1960s. In other words, we have been eating contaminated reindeer meat for 20 to 30 years from before the Chernobyl accident. 

All humans experience deaths of families and friends. To this date, the government claims that the cancer incidence rate among South Sami has not increased. However, I feel that too many from our small group have battled with cancer. It is natural to wonder if radiation is behind cancer, although the government has not answered our question. 

Contamination level of reindeer is different each year, and the experts cannot make a projection. We had to adjust the culling schedule and implement the clean-feed system depending on the level of cesium measured each year. We got used to giving clean-feed to the reindeer, but the extra workload is not compensated by the government. 

Our traditional cooking method of berries and fish must be passed down to the younger generation. However, I fear the know-how might be lost after two or three generations. My children spent all their lives with compensation for radioactive fallout. It will be the same for generations to come. It will take many more years before reindeer meat will achieve the limit of 600 Bq/kg. I even wonder if the goal is achievable because, it is still just around 3,000 Bq/kg. 

Some questions we had immediately after the accident have been answered. We have not stopped making a living by reindeer herding. We graze reindeer with the support from our government. We still eat reindeer meat, and it is as tasty as before. But the government does not seem to be interested in the next generation, that is, our future. They have measured radiation exposure of people herding reindeer and gave advice on how to cook food [in a method that reduces the radiation level]. But they have not explained to us if the various measures on food were really effective for protecting our children. The government has not explained to us how successful those measures were for our children. 

However, I feel there’s been an improvement on communication. Our group is always negotiating with the government. I do not have mistrust for the government nor the experts. 

Mr. Joma’s comments that he did not distrust the government nor the experts were shocking. He received the following question after his presentation. 

You mentioned that the communication with the experts was smooth. I would like to know more about communication in Norway, and what has been done to win trust from the affected residents. 

Mr. Joma replied as follows.

We Sami have been negotiating with the government continuously. Sometimes the government made suggestions, and in other times they accepted our proposal. I was skeptical about the initial limits the government set, but there was no other source of information. What was most crucial was the cooperation between the Sami and the government. We were in constant contact with the government. I was the leader of our Sami group, and I even had direct access to our national parliament. I felt great responsibility in working on this issue. 

Dr. Lavrans Skuterud of NRPA added explanation on this point. 

Norway experienced an initial period of great confusion which people called an information crisis. We improved the situation by continuing communication. Communication is the only way to build trust. 

Also, Norway has smaller population, and the size of the affected communities was smaller, too. The residents and the government have a very close relationship. 

An audience, a resident of Fukushima, pointed out. 

Mr. Joma, from the Sami region in Norway, does not seem to condemn his government’s response. This may be partly because the Chernobyl accident did not happen in his country. In Norway, both the authorities and the residents were victims of the accident. Hence, they may not experience emotional issues in trying to find ways to cope with the situation. In this sense, what is happening in Japan is not easily comparable to Norway.  

Listening to the stories of other countries that experienced a nuclear crisis seems to have allowed the residents to compare their situations and relativize the damages incurred.

Mr. Joma mentioned he was skeptical about the explanation the government and the experts gave related to the increase of cancer around him. The Norwegian government claims that they are conducting follow-up survey and any effect of the accident on cancer incidence has not been confirmed. Different people may have different views on this point, so we decided to include both opinions in this summary. 

Mr. Joma made this comment at the end of the Dialogue meeting, after listening to other opinions. 

I wear a helmet when I ride a scooter and a seatbelt when driving a car. My lifestyle is healthy, although I enjoy some drinks. I am satisfied with who I am. I congratulate myself on what I have achieved. At the same time, I am always looking for future enjoyment. For example, I really look forward to going fishing after I return. It is something I look forward to for the rest of the year. In spring, I cook the first sprouts. In summer, I love eating berries. There are things to look forward to all year round, so radiation does not play a major role in my life. I know radiation is not safe and should be avoided. I have continued measures against radiation. I am proud of that I kept sticking to it. 

Mr. Joma’s words can be interpreted in different ways. Radioactive material released from the Fukushima accident left serious effects in our lives. They caused irretrievable losses. Hardships still continue. But Mr. Joma’s words seem to suggest that even in such circumstance, you can be the main actor in your life, and reclaim ownership of your life―although this is just one interpretation. 

In the 8th Dialogue, Mr. Svein Haapnes, a cheesemaker from Norway, told the story of how he took back the center stage in his life. 

Every story has a beginning and an end. I would like to start from the end today, that is, by explaining my current situation. To show if my story has a happy ending or not, I brought four out of 20 types of cheese I make. Please taste them and let me know if you think my story is a success or not.

In 1981, I inherited our family farm from my mother. My daughter was born in 1984. That year, I learned how difficult it was to make a living in the small farm I inherited. I felt the heavy responsibility of managing our land, field, and animals. This is the beginning of my story. 

Our farm includes the pasture where goats are grazed in the summer, and a field about 7.8 ha in size where we grow goat feed. In 1984, I used to milk 125 goats, both morning and evening, to produce brown cheese. It is a traditional cheese in Norway. Our farm is in the mountainous region of north Norway. The arctic weather, inconvenient location and low income from agricultural produce make a farmer’s life very tough. We work hard and go through hardships to make a living in an unprofitable business. 

Our family have been living in the mountains for more than four generations. I am resolved to do whatever I can to preserve the tradition. Before the Chernobyl accident, I used to think that I lived in a very safe place. Our farm is located at the entrance of an area that is considered most beautiful in Norway. It is a natural forest that is untouched and rich in diversity. There is vast wildland that is said to be one of the purest. I feel so happy to be able to live in harmony with nature, and I feel relaxed. 

In 1984, as a young father, I thought that it was a wonderful place to nurture the next generation. On March 7, 1986, my second daughter Inger was born. Naturally, I was as happy as when my first girl was born. But on April 26 of that year, an explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear powerplant scattered radioactive material in a wide area. Despite living many thousand kilometers away from Ukraine where the accident occurred, our land and groundwater were contaminated by radiation because of unlucky weather and wind direction. It became a place unsafe to live. 

Neither the government nor we expected such a thing to happen, and we were totally unprepared. In those days, knowledge on radiation was extremely limited. As this new threat was serious and I lacked knowledge, I had to learn so much. I had studied science in high school and learned about becquerel, a unit to measure radioactivity. I also knew about physical half-life and that radiation exposure increased the incidence rate of cancer. The government gave me a lot of information in those days, but the content was more quantity than quality. Because there was no definitive information, I was very anxious as a father of a young child and a newborn. 

The freshwater fish that was part of our daily diet was contaminated by radiation. We measured what we got from nature and my wife’s breastmilk for Inger. We were really worried about the future. At the same time, we were also coping with the effect of another disaster that happened in 1985. We were filled with anxiety about our future.

One option was to switch to fur farming. The government recommended it and told us they would offer compensation and guidance. According to the government, fur farming was profitable, and it would not be affected by radiation since fur is not foodstuff. 

My opinion was the opposite; I felt fur farming was not profitable. You must buy feed and the price of fur fluctuated each year. So, it was difficult to make stable income. Some people switched their business accepting the government’s advice and guidance. I did not choose to do so. 

I could give up farming and move to another place. My mother who was still living with us at the farm, and she really wanted to stay. In Norway, anyone living in a farm must run the farm. And to sell a farm, you have to find someone willing to take up farming. I gave up selling my farm in the end. I felt it was an impossible option, so I didn’t seriously consider it. 

During the summer of 1986, the radiation level of the milk from our goats was high, so we had to stop producing brown cheese. Dairy farmers must deliver their goat milk to the dairy producers. In the Norwegian agricultural co-op system, a dairy producer must buy up all the milk produced by the local farmers. Farmers had to produce milk, and the producers must pay them. Every year, the radiation level of goat milk kept decreasing. Despite this, dairy producers still have not resumed purchasing our goat milk. 

Before continuing my story, I would like to explain what brown goat cheese is. To make this cheese, you must boil the whey for a long time, until the lactose caramelizes and turns brown. It is sweet and has a distinct flavor. It is a traditional cheese that is on the table of every Norwegian household. Norwegians living outside the country miss the cheese a lot. This is how important it is to Norwegians. Now, as we boil the whey for a long time, water evaporates, and it gets concentrated. This process concentrates radiation, too. That is why the government ordered not to use goat milk from central Norway to make cheese. 

We really struggled on what to do but decided to continue farming. I was aware it was going to be extremely tough. Sometimes, I regretted not choosing an easier road. Dairy producers would not accept goat milk from our farm. Even if they accepted it, it will not be used to make cheese and disposed. The goat milk I produced was not used for human consumption but for animal feed. Even so, I maintained my motivation to keep producing something delicious.

After discussing with my family, we built a factory to produce cheese in our farm. It was in 1989. My great-grand father was a carpenter, and he built many buildings including the local church. He was praised and was awarded a farm to live in and received one goat as a gift. This was the beginning of our story as goat farmers. 

We had the know-how for making cheese that was handed down over generations. As children, we helped our grandmother and our mother making cheese. It was a small practice from just few goats. As a young boy, it was a fascinating experience. We had to invest in many facilities when we were allowed to expand the factory. We also had to start making new types of cheese. And various efforts were necessary to market our cheese. We tried various measures against radiation that required a lot of cost. 

We only took care of goats before, but now we had to learn new knowledge as a cheese producer and seller. No one supported my business plan. Everyone was against it. They called me a traitor for making cheese by myself instead of relying on our local dairy producer. This was a difficult decision. But I was confident, too. I may have been even overconfident, but I believed in myself and not people who were opposed. Because no one believed in my success, I was resolved to succeed. I made up my mind make the best cheese in the world and worked hard to earn a living for my family. 

We were blessed with two more daughters in 1991 and 1994. It is really tough starting a new business venture. To be honest, I won’ t recommend it, but you will never be bored. My work is not just a means to earn wage but my lifestyle. I work on it every day. It is stimulating and fascinating. And it even led to my visit to Japan today, in May 2014. 

We can’t sell foodstuff with high level of radiation. Various measures were implemented in the area I live after high level of radiation was detected. For example, farmers turned over soil with plow. My children helped with various initiatives to reduce the radiation level in dairy cow and meat. The pasture we used for grazing had high radiation level and we were told to move to a pasture with lower altitude. It did not make a difference and we had to buy feed. I measured and measured radiation myself. 

However, if you keep feeding the Prussian blue (a pill that limits the animal’s body to absorb radiation) for too long, the goats start disliking the feed and we can get less milk. When the radiation level of the brown cheese became too high, we had to dispose it. Alternatively, if you want to use the animals for meat, they must be fed with clean feed [feed that do not contain radioactive material]and Prussian blue for a long time. This requires additional cost. 

When I started the cheese factory, I applied to be waived from the responsibility assigned by the government so I can stop selling milk to the local dairy producer. But my request was turned down. The government’s scheme is designed so that all milk must be purchased by the agricultural co-op in return for financial support to the farmers. through the co-op. As I explained earlier, the farmers sell the milk from their animals to the local dairy producer and the producer must accept all milk from the local farmers. 

I learned about cheese making in many places in Europe. I am especially grateful for the help of French cheese makers. I learned a lot by trial and error. My French cheese maker friends advised me to keep pigs; even if I had to dispose all the cheese, I can still make delicious bacon. They tried to cheer me up that even if I couldn’t sell my cheese, I could still make delicious bacon [because the pigs can eat whey]. 

Even more important than cheesemaking is visiting the market and seeing the consumer’s face by myself. Conversation with the consumers is essential not just for sales but to obtain knowledge and keep up with the news. If you want to sell an expensive product, you need to tell how difficult it is to produce the product. I can get a lot of information from talking with my customers, and I learn a lot as food producer. So, for me, it is a good opportunity to make something even more delicious. As a cheese producer stressed from daily work, conversation with my customers is like a supplement to boost my energy. 

I expanded my cheese factory in 2004 and 2005. Neighboring goat farms have also benefited from my cheese factory. I am thinking of a final step of expansion, that is, building a restaurant and introducing the area I live for tourism. Our area is located in a place with beautiful nature. By introducing the local food culture, it will be a wonderful place to visit. It is my honor and joy to welcome guests to my small kingdom. I would really appreciate guests from Japan. 

Mr. Haapnes’ story shows how Norwegians have special feelings for land that was inherited for many generations and the traditional lifestyle passed-on. This is the same in both Norway and Japan. An audience member made the following comment after listening to his testimony. 

I was impressed by how Mr. Haapnes began talking about his cheese. He said, “My cheese is delicious,” rather than “My cheese has been proved safe.” I have been assisting with measuring radiation in food [in Fukushima]. Saying that it was ND (cesium was below detection limit) or cesium was not detected is trying to turn a negative into zero. Of course, such effort is necessary. I feel we need to work on turning zero to positive. (May 2014)

After the 8th Dialogue, it was the turn of Fukushima farmers to visit Norway in September 2014. They visited the farms of Mr. Haapnes and Mr. Joma, observed the cheese factory, and tasted food in his restaurant. It took nearly five hours from the closest provincial city, driving hilly roads with hardly any houses or traffic signals to reach Mr. Haapnes’ “kingdom.” It was beautifully designed and kept hygienic yet felt as if being welcomed in a friends’ home. The visitors from Fukushima enjoyed food at Mr. Haapnes’s restaurant, listened to the folk songs by his spouse, and bought the brown goat cheese for friends and family back home in Japan. The experience was presented in the 10th Dialogue held in December 2014. 

During the visit to Norway, the question on trust between the government and the affected residents came up frequently. For the visitors from Fukushima which was deeply shaken with mistrust for the government, the relationship between the Norwegians and their government was almost shocking. In the 10th Dialogue, it was reported as follows. 

In Norway, dialogue with the residents is regarded as high priority by the government. Wherever we visited, we heard words such as trust for the government or trust for the authorities. This convinced us that the communication between the authorities and the residents have been successful and trust was built. Especially noteworthy was the trust between the residents and the government officials, such as NRPA staff. (December 2014) 

During my visit, I heard many comments like, “The government says it is safe.” and “I trust the government.” Probably this is a result of the repeated dialogue between the authorities and the residents which came up in earlier. Another reason could be that the actor responsible for the Chernobyl disaster was not in Norway. However, it was really impressive. (December 2014)

Norway and its neighbor Sweden are known to have scored high in Trust in Government Indicators. Dr. Yoshihiro Sato, a Japanese data scientist living in Sweden accompanied the trip as an interpreter, and later introduced the case in Sweden at the tenth Dialogue. 

According to Dr. Sato, Norway had a similar system as Sweden. Hence, his presentation is used to consider the issue of trust. Sweden was also affected by the Chernobyl accident and public trust to the government was also high there. Japanese find it hard to understand this. In the presentation, he posed a paradoxical question, “What kind of action reduces public trust to the government and the authorities?”

  • Forcing armchair theory that does not fit reality
  • Discommunication with the responsible person in the authorities (they don’t understand)
  • Not keeping promises and changing replies
  • Lack of transparency in policy making process (it is not clear who decided what for which reason)
  • Lack of accountability (the responsible person does not appear)

Dr. Sato pointed out that these were hard to occur in Sweden and Norway, where the frontline staff were designated with authority and responsibility. 

As pointed out by Mr. Lavrans, there was some confusion in Norway immediately after the Chernobyl accident. It was referred to as information crisis and administrative crisis. The difference with Japan was that the authorities’ response changed in response to the crisis. Instead of deciding countermeasures one-sidedly in the capital city Oslo far away from the affected areas, the government chose to talk to the locals like Mr. Joma who were affected by the disaster. They worked together with the residents on how to respond. NRPA staff met and discussed the measures to be taken with the locals, and it became common for these measures to be implemented. This was supported by a system that ensured decision making and authority to the frontline. Also important was the existence of transparency to prevent a sense of “unfairness” and the trust of the government by the general population. Norwegians are proud of their unity. One of the Fukushima farmers who visited Norway made the following comment in the 10th Dialogue. 

Norwegians have very straightforward and logical way of thinking, yet they are caring. They treasure person-to-person relationship. They try to face each other and resolve issues. I was really impressed by their attitude and learn from it. (December 2014)

Some may wonder why Norwegians proactively supported Fukushima. It may be out of empathy for those who suffered from a nuclear disaster as they did. Also, it may have been out of their desire to share their lessons-learned. Another comment from the 10th Dialogue describes this. 

Two years ago, I visited Norway and then Belarus. The Belarusians made the same comment, “Please utilize our experience in Fukushima.” Many people said similar words in different places. It left an unforgettable impression. I wondered why they felt that way. Come to think of it, the people who uttered these words had undergone huge struggles themselves. As of now, the people I met in Norway seemed happy. But in those days, they went through difficulties, so they wish their struggles should be utilized for some cause. Thus, the people in the affected areas of Belarus and Norway really care about the situation in Fukushima. I really felt they cared for and supported Fukushima [in the trip.] (December 2014)

A nuclear disaster is caused by nuclear technology, science that is specialized and hard to understand for the public. It is also difficult to grasp its effect. Fewer people have been affected by the disaster compared to other disasters. It is hard to share the experience. This situation also happened in Norway. On the final day of the visit to Norway, the residents of Fukushima saw the capital city Oslo. A Japanese woman who has lived for 20 years in Oslo was their tour guide. The resident described this experience at the 10th Dialogue. 

I can’t forget the words of our guide on the final day. She lived in Oslo for a long time. The way she spoke the radiation sounded as if it was a problem limited to the mountainous region, somewhere far from the capital. I wondered if everyone started feeling that way after twenty to thirty years passed, and I got a little depressed. At the same time, I learned that the continuous struggles of the Norwegian government and the residents of the affected areas against radiation were not shared widely even in Norway. I couldn’t help feeling a little sad. Even in Norway, the gap between the public and the affected communities widened. This is something we will face in Japan, too. (December 2014)

As the testimonies of Mr. Joma and Mr. Haapnes tell us, the affected areas of Norway still continue implementing measures to reduce the radiation level. On the other hand, most people in the capital area do not know if there are any remaining effects. Norway is not said to have suffered from ‘fuhyo higai, harmful rumors that hurt Fukushima. In this sense, not everything is bad that people have forgotten the memory of the disaster. However, to witness the experiences of one’s hardship being forgotten without being communicated or utilized by others will be tough for the survivors; they won’t be able to help feel sad or remorse. 

After a nuclear disaster, how to battle radiation becomes the top priority in the affected regions. But once the anti-radiation measures have become routine and the residents have settled down, they will start reflecting the hardships endured and the choices made. Then, their hearts will be filled with longing to share their stories with others―to share what they experienced, to pass it on to the next generation, and to utilize it to build a better society. A participant in the 8th Dialogue spoke about her resolve to leave legacy for the future generation. 

I feel that, unless we keep speaking about what happened over a long-term, say, 50 years, 100 years or even longer, people will forget that we existed. It is important to pass on not just sad and terrible memories of March 11; we must explain the process of why we chose to remain and decided to continue living in Fukushima. Through this, we need to explain our choice. And make sure to pass on, “the disaster is not something of the past, it is continuing.” We do this so that when our children grow up and be parents, they can tell the story to their children, “Your grandma and grandpa used to talk about it, do you remember? They experienced the earthquake, the tsunami, and the nuclear disaster. Different people made different choices to survive and show us that life goes on.”(May 2014)

Can we pass on the story to our children thirty years or fifty years later―it is a question that we need to ask ourselves. Learning from the experiences in Norway thirty years after the Chernobyl accident, we need to think this over now, 10 years after the accident.