Prayers unanswered: Story from the radiation team in Japan

by Jess Miller

April 12, 2011

Evacuation Zone

As part of the radiation team, we traveled from place to place - sampling soil and vegetables, taking radiation readings and speaking with people affected by the crisis in Japan.

We heard many stories about the loss people are facing in their homes, families and their livelihoods. This week, I met a beautiful old lady at a refugee camp in Yonezawa, deep snow country in the north part of Japan. She was living in Namie Town, near where the Fukushima nuclear plant is located. It is the middle of nowhere, a very rural area for rice and cows.

Setsuko Yamamoto was 81 years old and living alone, had just lost her husband, Takeshi one month ago at 90 years old. They were married more than 60 years ago, before the nuclear plants came to Japan. Since then, they have been living in very small house in Namie Town with small rice field.

When the huge earthquake hit, she felt very happy because she thought she would go to heaven and join her husband. She held her husband’s remains as the earthquake shook their house, and prayed for a happy death and to go to heaven.

But, her prayers were not answered as she was rescued by her neighbors. For her, it was then that the nightmare came to her life. She had to escape the destruction of the earthquake, the Tsunami, and now the nuclear crisis. She has moved four times now, from refugee camp to refugee camp, in search of a safe place.

And now, she has lost everything. She can never return home because of high radiation that will last “forever.” She has limited time left in her life and little to dream for. She said to me with smile: "I lost the chance to go to heaven with my husband," and I saw her deep sorrow through her smile.

Mitsuyasu Oda - Translation, communications and community liason for the field team in Japan

Image - Children sleep in an evacuation centre in Yonezawa, 100km from the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant © Markel Redondo / Greenpeace

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