ph001_03.jpgYuichi worked on the 6th floor at Iwaki station building. At that time, he was managing a training program so there were many people in the building. Suddenly, ceilings fell down, sprinklers broke, water leaked from the crack of the ceilings. Many people were shocked, couldn't move and screamed. He helped injured people and carried them down the crowded stairs to the first floor. Ambulance sirens were screaming and chaos was everywhere.

He tried to call his family but he couldn't. The underground parking was closed, so he couldn't drive his car. Finally, he found a friend who could give him a ride home. After a few hours, he met his wife, Hikaru, and his 3 year-old daughter, Koharu.

When he opened the door, Hikaru was practicing yoga with her four friends as it nothing happened. He couldn't say a single word but he felt happy they were safe.

Hikaru recalled. "At that time, we just had a meeting about yoga class and then we just practiced there. We didn't think of such a big disaster because there was no TV. Of course we noticed that the earthquake happened. We felt the aftershocks too. But our office didn't get a lot of damage. I just ducked under the table with Koharu during the shaking."

On her way home, Hikaru realized how big the earthquake was. The roads were blocked. Their house was so messy.

Iwaki has not been a disaster-prone city. It has been blessed with good weather. Even typhoons don't come often. No one can imagine such a big earthquake would hit this area. The land of god, it was Iwaki.

The disaster got worse because of the nuclear accident. TV showed a map of the evacuated area. It caused a tense feeling in Iwaki. The Hydrogen explosion occurred at reactor 1 and reactor 3 at Fukushima 'Daiichi' nuclear power plant. At the moment of the explosion, flashlights were emitted, the shock-wave hit the top of the unit and black smoke rose up into the sky. The scene made people decide to evacuate from Iwaki. No children were seen on the streets in Yumoto. People said, "Yumoto is dangerous too", "No, it's still okay", "Plutonium was detected", "Don't drink tap water", "How can we protect the children?" Yuichi and Hikaru kept watching TV and collecting information from Twitter. The information was becoming snarled. Each expert had a different opinion.

Hikaru said, "At that time people said, "You should evacuate quickly!" But if I evacuate, can I live safely? I don't know. Should I go out from here for my children? Every time I heard that kind of words, I felt what they meant was that I was a bad mother. I just couldn't decide. I don't feel like staying here. I wavered in my judgment, still now." Some families lived separately. Only wife and children evacuated, husbands stayed. "I want to live with my family because if we were separated once, we might never see each other again. I want to be with them."

They decided to keep their two daughters at home. They always closed the windows to keep away the air from outside and also closed the air ventilation. When they went out, they protected themselves. They closed their mouth with their hands or their handkerchieves. After they got face masks, they tried to put the mask on her daughter, Koharu. But she cried, "I'm choking. I'm choking". Her grandmother made an original handkerchief-mask for Koharu. Finally they made new rules of the family; they always prepare hats, masks and outerwear at the door. Hikaru said, "I need these new routines. It's the only way to save my daughters. What I can teach them is only that."

Hikaru guessed they were the only family staying with children in Yumoto. One day, Hikaru received an email from a friend in Yumoto. She said that her friends who live far from here had emailed to her, "You should come here
quickly". Every time she received this kind of mails, she felt they said that she was a bad mother. She didn't know what to do. She cried everyday. Then her child asked, "What's wrong with you, mom?" It's also very hard for her. The two mothers can share the feelings.

Hikaru said, "People who have evacuated said "Please don't think that we run away". People who stay here, of course, never thought about it. We said, "It was a good decision. Hang in there!" It was hard for both, those who went out of the town and stayed. Everyone, both adults and children, is really suffering and worrying; they sometimes got a fever or even hallucinations."

Yuichi kept watching the situation with the preparation to evacuate. "Many times I felt I've had it!" He was watching TV when Helicopters tried to extinguish the fire, but the water couldn't be reached by the wind. Everybody was worrying. Aftershocks also occurred in Kanto area. TV reported that the level of radiation was high even it's far from the nuclear plants. So they came up with the conclusion that they should stay.

There was no safe place to live in.

"I want my daughters to live in a normal life. How can I remove worries from them?" They tried to be normal even it's not normal at all.

After Yuichi and Hikaru made a decision to stay in Yumoto, they walked around to share the local information on Twitter. They also started the support by distributing meals with the local volunteers in Yumoto. When there were shortages of relief goods, they published it on Twitter or Iwaki FM. However the delivery of supplies was still difficult. In such situation, they decided to use a hotel as a base camp and arranged a new system; if people need something, they just visit the hotel. They also delivered goods to elderly people or to the affected areas.

While Yuichi was out, he didn't need to listen to the news about the nuclear power plant. He just came home tiredly and went to sleep. Koharu could play at the wide space of the hotel. She also could play around with another child there.

April. Some people were getting back to Yumoto. Water supply system was restored. They started a normal life and Yuichi began to work again.

Yuichi has an uncle who is an ex-worker at Tepco and his father is an anti-nuclear member.
Yuichi said, "We thought nuclear power was necessary to produce energy and we had no choice. So when we knew that we could use alternative energy resources, we were very shocked. I hope other source of energy, like heat power plants or wind ones, will be developed. It's maybe dangerous too. But the risk is not as high as nuclear power plants. A nuclear accident will take time to recover for tens of thousands of years.

Hikaru showed me a video clip that she took on the day after the earthquake.

Hikaru said, "When I think about my daughters' future, we don't need a nuclear power plant. But we want to show that we can live without nuclear rather than only to deny a nuclear power plant. How can I change my life style? For example, we can turn off the light when it's not necessary. Parents should teach something to the children through behavior. I want to show the life without a nuclear power plant to our daughters."

In the video clip, Koharu was enjoying dancing in her pajamas at home. She was yelping with delight. It seemed that the earthquake had nothing to do with the little girl.

"A master of drums"- the name of Koharu's dance.

(Translated by Miho Yoshizaki)