Saturday, May 14, 2011

A ghost town in post-quake Japan


Do you remember the sci-fi movies "The Last Man on Earth" (1964) and "The Omega Man" (1971) that depicted a deserted land due to some plague that wiped away the whole population? Sadly, a similar but not exactly the same scenario may soon happen in Japan.
The small town of Iitate—once voted as one of the country's most beautiful places—will become an uninhabited place as its 7,000 residents prepare to evacuate by the end of May, The Japan Times said.
The village, which lies in a mountainous region, is situated 40 kilometers away from the damaged Fukushima nuclear reactor, makes it vulnerable from the radioactive materials being spewed by the plant.
Iitate will be the next abandoned place like Ukraine's Pripyat after Chernobyl's nuclear fallout.
Katsuzo Shoji, a 75-year-old farmer said, "We've no idea when we can come back. We've heard five, maybe 10 years, but some say that's far too optimistic. Maybe I'll be able to come home to die."
Shoji and his 73-year-old wife, Fumi, experienced the shock, rage and despair as they were forced by the state to destroy all their land's produce, kill his six cows and relocate to an apartment in Koriyama, around 20 kilometers away.
Thousands of farm animals such as swine and 8,000 of the highly prized wagyu beef may need to be slaughtered if there will be no place for them somewhere else. Each head is valued up to one million yen ($12,000).
Everybody is affected, whether young or old, rich or poor, by the nuclear crisis. They group together everyday in the village office for some news with what is to become of them.
Children had to be taken by bus to schools far from their area. Some of them were being bullied in school as baikin or vermin, which is reminiscent of Japan after the atomic bomb holocaust.
In April, the government had ordered all the remaining people when it was found that radioactive cesium and other materials exceeded beyond safety limits.
Miyoko Nakamura, a 59-year-old clerk, is nearing retirement age. She said, "We've been told to quit our jobs and move out by the end of the month. A lot of people have no idea what to do. They're just hoping everything will be OK somehow."
They are stone-faced with Tokyo Electric Company's (TEPCO) initial payment of one million yen ($12,000) and 350,000 yen ($4,400) moving expenses after which, no one knows what is in store. They worry that after media attention has waned, nothing more will be given to them.
Many of the people had lived there for a long time. Shoji's clan has been farming in the region since 1880. They are too old to get involved in the government and TEPCO's battle.
About 700 family pets will be separated from their owners as the government is looking for them to stay.
One frustrated resident said, "Give us back our beautiful village."
Details of this report here.
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