6 Mars 2017
March 6, 2017
An NHK survey on survivors and nuclear evacuees of the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami shows over 60 percent of respondents still feel physical and psychological effects from the disaster.
The survey was conducted from November to February ahead of the 6th anniversary of the disaster next Saturday.
NHK contacted 5,000 people in the hardest-hit northeastern prefectures of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima, including evacuees from the nuclear accident at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant. 1,437 responded.
The questionnaire asked whether they feel physical and psychological effects from the disaster. 29 percent of respondents said they do, and 32 percent said they do to some degree.
Asked what symptoms they have, 32 percent said feelings of depression and 31 percent cited insomnia.
30 percent said they have a need for medication.
The survey asked people to describe their lives. A 69-year-old resident of Namie Town, Fukushima Prefecture, wrote that his wife died after her disease worsened due to stress from the evacuation. He said he has been despondent about everything since then.
A 71-year-old resident of Kesennuma City, Miyagi Prefecture, wrote that she has been living alone since her husband died and feels worried about her financial, mental and physical condition.
Associate Professor Reo Kimura of the University of Hyogo says survivors who have been unable to rebuild their homes or lives feel ongoing effects of the disaster due to frustration and a sense of isolation.
Kimura says it is becoming very important for officials and volunteers to care about survivors on an individual basis.
When I recently visited the Hideshima fishing port in Miyako, Iwate Prefecture, I found the gentle waves of the spring sea lapping against a new seawall.
I went to the port in the city, which was devastated by the massive tsunami triggered by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, to meet Asato Sasaki, a 10-year-old boy who lost his father, a fisherman, in the disaster.
The fifth-grader, with short hair framing his round face, speaks in a brisk and lively manner.
Besides his father, the tsunami also swept away Asato’s great-grandmother and house.
He has written about his current thoughts and feelings about what happened six years ago and won the top prize in a national essay contest.
“I couldn’t even imagine or think what happened and what kind of future would await me,” he wrote. “Ever since that day, I have been unable to remember my father, who disappeared into the sea.”
Asato was in kindergarten on the day the disaster occurred. The taste of the Bisco biscuits he ate while taking cover under a desk is almost all that he remembers about that day.
Recently, however, the boy suddenly found himself longing to know more about his father.
Asato has asked other family members about what they remember about him and visited the fish market.
“My father, wanting to work on the sea, got married with my mother and worked really hard,” he wrote. “I wish I had a chance of seeing him actively working on a ship.”
The waters off the Sanriku Coast in the Tohoku Region’s areas on the Pacific Ocean are known as a great fishing ground because two major ocean currents--the Oyashio current and the Kuroshio current-- converge there.
“I hope I will also become a man of the sea someday ... I asked the sea to watch over me fondly,” he wrote.
Many people in disaster-hit areas are still struggling to deal with their feelings about the loved ones they have lost.
Some are suffering from an incurable sense of loss, while others are picking up fragments of memories of the deceased.
Many of the children who experienced the disaster before becoming old enough to understand what’s what are now beginning to feel a strong desire to get some solid mental images of family members who died in the tragedy.
The disaster left more than 18,000 people dead or missing. Asato’s father, Yuta, is one of them. He was 28.
On March 5, the boy was scheduled to attend a memorial service marking the sixth anniversary of the deaths of the disaster victims.
--The Asahi Shimbun, March 5