Thursday, April 11, 2013

Down the Rabbit Hole

Two years ago, Mr. and Mrs. Takahashi were evacuated from Iitate, Fukushima, along with the other 6,000 residents of the village.  Located outside of the 20 kilometer evacuation zone around the nuclear power plant, Iitate was contaminated with a radioactive plume that had traveled much further than the government had initially admitted.  The villagers of Iitate waited for nearly two months until they were finally evacuated in May 2011.

In June 2012, more than a year after the meltdown, the government admitted that the contamination in the district of Nagatoro in Iitate, where the Takahashi's farm was located, was so high that it actually required putting up a barricade to prevent entry into the area.

On Sunday, I accompanied Mr. and Mrs. Takahashi into the no-entry zone of Nagatoro (HERE).  Later that day, the Takahashi's showed me the temporary housing facility where they now live.  Having spent their entire lives in a big farm house in the countryside with their extended family, Mr. Takahashi said that he feels like the evacuees have now been forced to live in rabbit hutches.

Mr. Takahashi, who lives in the 3rd unit on the right with his wife, refers to the housing units as "rabbit hutches".

Mr. Takahashi stands in the area where two rows of housing units back up to each other.

Until the nuclear meltdown, Mr. and Mrs. Takahashi lived with their children and grandchildren on their farm in Iitate.  Like so many other evacuees, their family has now been split up; Mr. and Mrs. Takahashi live in temporary housing near Iitate, while their children and grandchildren have evacuated further away.

A picture of the home and farm buildings the Takahashi's shared with their children hangs in their temporary housing unit.

Mr. and Mrs. Takahashi in the temporary housing unit that Mr. Takahashi refers to as a "rabbit hutch".

One of the great joys in life for Mr. Takahashi had been growing the fresh food that his family ate.  Their rice, vegetables, and even beef, was either fresh from their farm or had been preserved by Mrs. Takahashi to be enjoyed throughout the year. 

The Takahashi's land has now been reduced to the space between the two yellow support cables at the back of their temporary housing unit.  Mr. Takahashi told me that he couldn't stand looking out the window and seeing the bare gravel, so he started to grow bonsai and other potted plants.  "Anyway", he said, "there isn't anything else to do."

The Takahashi's "backyard" consists of the space between two yellow support cables

As our time together was drawing to a close, Mr. Takahashi looked at the time.  "My throat gets awfully dry every afternoon around three," he said, as he reached under his desk and pulled out a large carton of shochu, a distilled drink.  "But don't worry, " he added, "I never drink too much."  Mrs. Takahashi just silently shook her head as she stood up and left the room.

No comments: