2012.10.15 update 2012.02 iwaki city
She moved to Fuchu city, Tokyo about 10 years ago. Her new house was located near the Tama River where was rich in green and nature. One day, she watched a documentary about a couple who were animal welfare activists. In the documentary, they were protecting the abandoned animals around the Tama River. It was the turning point in her life. From that day on, cat protection activity in the neighboring area has become her daily routine. She and her husband have not made a trip for 10 years because they are very anxious about the cats.
March 11, 2012. Massive earthquake and tsunamis have occurred, and then the nuclear accidents have been caused.
Many people had to evacuate immediately in the emergency situation. What transportation can I have? Where is my shelter? Is gas much enough? The people were anxious but they believed "we can return here in a couple of days." So, they left behind their pets there. However, nobody could return to their house because that was located within no-entry zone. A lot of the abandoned animals died. Some surviving animals went around the ghost town to look for food.
Some animal protection groups and individuals began to take action. She thought the issue about abandoned animals in Fukushima could be a big problem same as her area. Soon afterwards, she also began to protect the animals with her friends.
The first step of the protection activity is the hearing with the master at his/her shelter or temporary house. She asked their home address and what the distinctive appearance their pets have. Other than that, she confirmed whether the pet's picture, bones, and offering an incense stick were necessary if the pet has been already dead. Every owner was filled with a guilty feeling for leaving their pets. The decision was really difficult for them at that time.
She wore the protective clothing and entered into no-entry zone by car with a large amount of food and carry cases to protect animals. When she found the house as her destination with the help of a map, she tried to catch the animals. After catching the animals safely, she transported them to animal-shelter and called for new master because some current masters who were living at evacuation center or temporary house couldn't have pet anymore.
On the other hand, animal protection activists should battle against the police in no-entry zone. She was often chased by police. Stop-and-search many times. Some time she hid in trash box. Other time she ran away with another group. Such chasings made her feel tremendous stress and had stomach ache. "I know what I do. Someone might think we are crazy. But...if we don't do that, the abandoned animals will die."
At the first time she entered into the area, she cried loudly.
She had never seen such a lot of animal corpses. And the corpses let us know what a painful way to die was.
"We could know that house hold cats and chained dogs struggled to get food and water. It made me so sad."
She felt anger. But she didn't know what the anger against was. She couldn't stop crying.
At the moment, the young man who was working with her grabbed her by the neck.
"Other pets are waiting for us. Police is looking for us. You know, right? You have no time to cry."
They covered the corpse with towel. If time permitted, they limed and offered an incense stick or flowers. In the case they could confirm the pet was still alive or caught the pet, they took a picture and left a note about animal-shelter's name and feeder condition. Then, they moved to the next.
"Abandoned animals are more cautious. So, we made a feeding box first and put food there. Sometimes the workers in no-entry zone gave food for animals but mostly our feeding is their life line. There are dogs and cats surviving in somebody else's home. When I found them, I fed there. Someone who has no pet might be shocked by messy rooms with dog excrement, when he/she returned their home temporarily. I feel I'm so sorry. But nothing is more important than life.
It is actually not easy to protect animals unless the person has know-how, even for the owners. Some NPO have launched a massive search in December with the permission of the government. As a result, they could protect many dogs. Yet, at the same time, they found that only small part of the dogs and cats were castrated and it caused the serious problem. Even a lot of the protected animals have disease such as HIV or leukemia. I don't know their disease was caused by radiation but I know the animal protection activists often bleed.
"My external exposure is low level. It is totally okay for me. Let's imagine the workers in the reactor." She said.
"I often go to the ghost town so that I feel I'm still standing in an emergency situation. On the other hand, the people in Fukushima are walking to the future. Their twitter or blogs told me that they had returned to everyday life. Evacuees also said "Fukushima has already been normal." I feel the distance day by day. Someone accused me. "Why don't you help human? You see only animals." "You don't think seriously about radiation." Meanwhile, it is impossible to protect all animals only with our feeding. It is the dilemma for me. But if there is a possibility of helping, I will continue the activity.
We never give up protecting the animals, if the government abandons them. We have to apology them as the representative of human. "
I often dream. Ghost town like a film set, the first light of the day...that's beautiful. Is the dog still fine? How is the cat's condition? Her eye had a trouble last week. So, I will put medicine on her eye..."
She goes to Fukushima in her dream as well.
"While I am in Tokyo, sometimes I laugh at comedy shows and also enjoy eating out. But, after March 11, I have insomnia. I cry everyday." Many people in Tokyo also had the traumatic experiences. Yet we can't complain "I'm scared" or "my life is hard" because we know our lives are still much better. There was no tsunami and no reactor around Tokyo. Don't whine, don't whine...I'm suffering such stress.
To communicate with the people in Fukushima, it may be better that we drink together more often.
My image of Fukushima through the activity there is just like the end of the world. I'm afraid that I feel I'm out of place because my Fukushima is maybe different from their Fukushima. Though, probably it can be a good thing for me.
We should be much more serious. The crucial damage area is not only Japan but the around the world. And it is spreading more and more. Can we say "it's still okay" forever? The day we have to understand "it's not okay" is coming.
Recently she spent time more with the people in Fukushima in order to get close to them. I think the problem around animals, the owners and human at once. It is not easy.
She, as a Tokyo citizen, knows every alley in the small town near the reactor.
In Fukushima, cherry blossom bloomed as usual. River still runs. Rice paddies spread in a beautiful mountain town.
But there is no one.
She is still feeding and offering flowers with radiation exposure.
(Translated by Kumiko Homma)