Fukushima Speaking Series Part 3: Refugees


In the third installment of Fairewinds’ Japan Speaking Tour Series, Chief Engineer Arnie Gundersen recounts his visit to a resettlement community of displaced refugees from the triple meltdown at Fukushima Daiichi. Meeting with 22 women, ages 17 to 60, Arnie is the first person who has met with them to talk about the effects of radiation during the 5-years that they have been evacuees. Nuclear industry reports from TEPCO and the local newspaper have been the only information available to the isolated groups of victims from the atomic disaster.

A woman introduced herself to Arnie, “I am 6A.” Stigmatized and reduced to a numbered identity, these women have suffered radiation poisoning, and been told that their symptoms are simply due to stress. Their homes destroyed, their health in jeopardy, and their future unknown – this is the outcome of nuclear risk.  

Middlebury College Presentatio

In January, Fairewinds was invited to Middlebury College to discuss the risk and burden of a nuclear powered energy future at the student organized event, Peace and Protest. Special thanks to student organizer Mohamed Hussein, Middlebury staff, and fellow presenters for making this event possible! Watch Fairewinds’ presentation here.

Featured Book:

Reverberations from Fukushima: 50 Japanese Poets Speak Out
Edited by Leah Stenson and Asao Sarukawa Aroldi

Review by Maggie Gundersen

Special thanks to editor Leah Stenson for sending this book to Fairewinds Energy Education. To quote Ms. Stenson, “The fifty poets whose work is presented here speak for the thousands, millions, whose voices have not been heard, and they speak with eloquence, passion, and courage.”

Reverberations from Fukushima: 50 Japanese Poets Speak Out was awarded as a 2015 USA BEST BOOK AWARDS finalist in the Social Change category on November 16, 2015.

This beautiful book of poetry opens with an explanation about the use of atomic power and the unfolding disaster of the triple meltdowns at Fukushima Daiichi. It is an amazing collection of 50 poems in English followed by a separate section with the poems in the original Japanese. These are rich evocative poems, which is why we decided to feature this book now while Fairewinds chief engineer Arnie Gundersen is in Japan and traveling in the Prefecture (State) of Fukushima. Ms. Stenson’s experience of traveling through the exclusion zone with her husband and the poet Masayki Nemoto, who is now a nuclear refugee, echoes what Arnie is now witnessing first-hand in Fukushima Prefecture.  

“Visiting the deserted towns and countryside around Daiichi Nuclear Plant served to give me a clearer understanding of the situation in the exclusion zone… The so-called ghost towns, which included areas undamaged by the earthquake or tsunami, were like movie sets after all the actors had left and gone home. The complete absence of human activity in the context of shops, homes, and streets was eerie beyond description.” (Leah Stenson, Preface, Page xiv)

Imagine being forced to abandon the town and home you love so dearly. Read My Home, Namiemachi, by poet Masayki Nemoto (Page 72).

I was really touched by Hatsuko Hara’s poem, The Day My Professional Career Ended. Ms Hara was in charge of personnel at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.

For me, Ms Hara’s evocative poetry was a painful reminder of my feelings regarding my work in nuclear public relations, when I told people living near these plants that atomic power is safe. Her poem brings home the tragedy of the post-meltdown cleanup work at Daiichi.

“But the temporary workers were outside my scope of responsibility.

When the radiation leaked, it was their job.

They were the ones who did the dangerous work.

They cannot work more than two days a week,

since they are constantly exposed to radiation.

Their work history is erased when they retire

because the company would get in trouble

if these records could be used to establish the cause of their illness.

Their life

is not the life of the Tokyo Electric Power Company.”

In The Pollution Of Our Ancestral Land, Tsutomu Sakai poignantly introduces us to the pain the mountains and forests are feeling for the devastation of their world.

And finally, as a mother and grandmother, I was very touched by Jun Nakamura’s poem, To The New Generations, beginning with:

“To the new generations

We have to apologize to you

for having deprived you of

the ground where you would have been able to walk barefoot,

the snowy fields…

the shallow brooks you could have splashed through,

… crops safe and full of energy from the earth.


…We have to apologize to you

for your damaged genes,

for the cesium detected in your body,

for your swollen thyroid gland…”

Buy the book. Read it and hear the truth spoken from the hearts and voices of many victims of the ongoing Fukushima Daiichi tragedy.