Fukushima Refugee: Stories from the Evacuation Zone

Chikako, Randy, Gary, MeChikako Nishiyama, a nuclear refugee from Kawauchi, Japan, was on a speaking tour of the Northeast US with the assistance of Chiho Kaneko. Her trip was inspired by our Voices of Fukushima actions to honor those evacuated and still homeless since March 2011. Greenfield adopted Kawauchi for the day. Randy Kehler has written an OpEd here, “Lessons from Fukushima.” Chikako gave presentations, with Chiho translating,  in Greenfield, Brattleboro, and Montpelier; in NYC at a gathering of activists opposed to Energy’s Indian Point reactor; and in Plymouth, Mass. to activists fighting Entergy’s Pilgrim reactor. Photo: Chikako Nishiyama with Randy Kehler and hosts Leslie & Gary Sullivan Sachs.

Chikako and Chiho also gave a presentation hosted by VT Yankee Decommissioning Alliance at Vermont’s statehouse to eight legislators, the Commissioner of the Dept. of Public Service, the Chief of Radiological Health, and the head of the VT/NH Red Cross, where she answered questions about the 2011  evacuations and post-evacuation life for two hours. Chikako also visited the Grafton (NY) Peace Pagoda and the New England Peace Pagoda in Leverett, Mass.  Safe & Green Campaign was honored to be a sponsor of her tour, and we were inspired by her messages of hope.

Kawauchi , formerly a town of 2,300 hundred people 15 miles from the Fukushima reactors,  is the sister city of Greenfield, Massachusetts.  As part of the Safe and Green Campaign’s “Voices of Fukushima” project to commemorate the three year anniversary of the Fukushima disaster, we learned that Greenfield, Mass. is a sister city to Kawauchi. So people in Greenfield educated themselves about the tragic story of Kawauchi’s evacuation, and held a vigil on the town green tell its stories.  Citizens of Greenfield and schools wrote messages to Kawauchi, which were translated and sent to Japan.

Chikako NishiyamaChikako Nishiyama was on the city council of Kawauchi in 2011. As she was getting ready to run for a second term, the Great East Japan Earthquake occurred with its resulting tsunami and devastating meltdowns of the nearby Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactors. When she received by the messages from the people of Greenfield, she reached out to Chiho Kanako and organized a trip to New England. She will speak first hand with towns in our own evacuation zone.

May 19:  1:00pm Rally at Entergy’s Pilgrim Reactor and at 6:30pm in Kingston, MA at the First Parish Unitarian Church, 222 Main Street. Click here for details.

May 28 : 7pm, Centre Congregational Church, Main St. Brattleboro, VT Click here for details.

May 29: 7:30pm, Second Congregational Church, 16 Court Square, Greenfield, MA Click here for details

June 4: 4:00pm Vigil at the Statehouse with VYDA. 6:30pm: Presentation at Kellogg-Hubbard Library, Main Street, Montpelier, Vt. Click here for details. Contact Debra Stoleroff (VYDA) debra@vtlink.net

Kawauchi was a shelter town for refugees from the 10 mile zone, until it too was completely evacuated after a hydrogen explosion sent a plume of radiation over the community. Residents were allowed to return in April 2012. Ms. Nishiyama’s son, a firefighter, was sent back to the town before the evacuation order was lifted and she is concerned for his health. Ms. Nishiyama has been an outspoken critic of TEPCO and the government. She is currently working to find new homes for refugees in western Japan, where people can begin to live healthier lives.

Chiho Kaneko

Chiho Kaneko

Translating Ms. Nishiyama’s story will be Chiho Kaneko. Born in Japan’s Iwate Prefecture, after graduating  from Hokkaido University with a degree in agronomy Chiho moved to the U.S. in 1993 and became an interpreter/translator, visual artist, musician, and columnist for a Japanese daily newspaper. She has spoken in Brattleboro twice about her fourth visit to Japan since the March 11, 2011 nuclear meltdowns.

We are grateful to Chiho Kaneko for her many gifts to our community, including bringing Ms. Nishiyama to us. Please join us at one of the events. If you want to volunteer to help, contact info is in the calendar pages for each event.

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