Mainichi Daily News
72-year-old who lost three family members to tsunami gives up on returning home
FUKUSHIMA — A woman who lost three family members to the March 11 earthquake and tsunami has abandoned hope that she’ll ever return to her home near the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant, bidding it goodbye during a temporary visit inside the no-entry zone in November.
Tomoe Kimura, 72, lived in a household of six about three kilometers south of the plant. Her husband Wataro, 77, and daughter-in-law Miyuki, 37, died in the tsunami, and her granddaughter Yuna, 7, is still missing.
After the nuclear disaster, Kimura, her son Norio, 46, and granddaughter Mayu, 10, moved from place to place, living with different relatives. Her son, worried about the effects of radiation on Mayu, moved her to a school in Okayama Prefecture. Kimura, however, returned to Fukushima Prefecture because she wanted to be with people she knew. She is now living with her 44-year-old daughter in temporary housing in Aizuwakamatsu, about 100 kilometers from where she used to live in the Fukushima Prefecture town of Okuma.
Near the end of November, Kimura visited her home in the no-entry zone around the plant for the first time since evacuating, clad in protective wear. The tsunami had washed away everything but the foundations of the home. The fields in the area were overgrown, and the graves on the hill behind her home had been knocked over.
The radiation levels in the area were high, and Kimura remembers thinking, “It’s impossible to live here anymore. This may be the last time I come here.” She placed flowers at the graves behind her home and left Okuma behind.
In Kimura’s temporary housing unit are mortuary tablets for her lost husband and daughter-in-law, and pictures of her missing grandchild.
“Yuna was an active girl,” says Kimura. “I’m worried that she still hasn’t been found.”
Norio Kimura, whenever he has made temporary visits to the home in Okuma, has searched along the coast and rivers for Yuna. However, the time he can stay there is limited because of the high radiation levels, and he has yet to find her.
Before the nuclear plant was built in Okuma, the main industry was farming. The nuclear plant brought jobs and liveliness to the area, and Kimura recalls that when the plant was first built, many men in the area rejoiced that they would no longer have to leave the area for work. Some people protested against Fukushima taking on risks to provide electricity for people in Tokyo, but their voices were drowned out as supporters focused on economic prosperity.
“Even if we would have been poor, we probably would have been better off without the plant. Of course, anyone can see that now,” says Kimura.
The place where Kimura lives now gets heavy snowfalls. She reminisces about Okuma, where hardly any snow fell during the winter.
“It was really a nice place. Summer was cool and winter was warm,” she said.
(Mainichi Japan) December 17, 2011