A Catholic Monthly Magazine

Missions Fukushima – A Personal Account. (Cont’d from April)

By Fr Antoine de Monjour, MEP

By Fr Antoine de Monjour, MEP

You have never gone back to Okuma?
Yes, a year later we received permission to go back for two hours: my wife refused to go , for fear of radiation effects.... and also refused to let me bring back her clothes for fear of their being contaminated. So I went on my own, in a bus, with a stop on the way to get dressed in a plastic garment in which I felt very hot, and a stop on the way back, where I had to go through a decontamination process.
When I got to the restaurant, I feared finding rotting food everywhere....Imagine it! A year after, and the summer (hot and humid) during that time! Well, nothing like that; all the food had disappeared, eaten by the rats and mice which had multiplied in those towns deserted by their people. Everywhere these creatures’ droppings covered the ground. They had even succeeded in getting into the fridges and the cupboards by making holes. On the other hand, the place was in an awful state: damp had spoiled everything and saturated the air inside. Dust and mould covered everything. I didn’t have the courage to do the least bit of cleaning up, and was happy simply to pick up the social security papers, my insurance documents, my bank cards and my seals (used in Japan as a signature) along with some personal items, including my computer, which fortunately had not been stolen.

Indeed in spite of the patrols which were organised very quickly after the towns had been evacuated, thieves were quick in visiting all the houses and shops, looking particularly for money and jewellery abandoned in the haste of leaving. No looting or break-ins occurred. After a time, some surveillance cameras were installed, but I don’t think they achieved much. Now it is easier to go back to one’s former home: it’s enough to ask for permission, indicating the times of entry and departure from the zone 10 km in radius around the power-station. It is forbidden to enter otherwise.

You also have to say what you intend to do there. Right now the authorities are less concerned about robbers than former residents returning to their former homes to commit suicide there. We are encouraged to go there in groups. On presentation of receipt we are reimbursed for petrol, and the motorways are free after presentation of our driving-licence at the toll-gates.
How is compensation worked out, what are you living on, what are your plans?

I receive in compensation the equivalent of my income declared for the year 2010. Now that was a very good year. I received a block sum for the months “lost” in the activity of the restaurant in 2011, then for the year 2012, and also for the year 2013! That has already been extended up to 2015, but beyond that I do not know. That will depend on the chances of getting back to Okuma. Some people from Tepco have told us at the end of three years, then four, hen five. Ten years or even more are mentioned. What will be left of our towns, now ghost-towns. Some clearing up has been done in places 20 – 30 km from the power station , to allow people to eventually return. That is, if they want to return!peace

In our area it is not clearing up that is needed – given the state of the place after only two years, everything needs to be torn down and rebuilt. Who is going to pay for that? I have lost my house, my restaurant, the land, which has no more value, and I have no longer any wish to go back there, especially since the death of my wife. We thought, for a while, of opening a new restaurant in Shirakawa, my family ured me to do so, but to start again from scratch at 56 years of age in a place where you know no-one, is not easy.

What caused your wife’s death?
She died from a brain –tumour. Last April, when we got back from bike- rides my wife often said she had pain between the shoulders at the base of the neck. We thought about aches and pains, and in fact it seemed to be passing. As she was depressed and stressed since the evacuation, I thought as well that she had strained neck muscles, and I suggested massage. She decided it was useless to go and see a doctor, because up till then she had been in very good health. In May the pains became more intense but shorter in time. On the 30th May, when we came back from an outing, she complained of an unbearable pain at the back of her head, and we left for the hospital in my car.

On arrival at the Emergency department she was unconscious, and fell into a coma. The doctors said they could do nothing because the tumour was too big. The operation should have been done sooner. She died four weeks later on the 30th June. We had ten years of very happy life together.
From “Missions Etrangeres de Paris” November 2013.
(Translated by Fr Brian Quin, s.m.)

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