ph_photo_t014.jpgYumi and her friend borrowed a Geiger counter from a NPO doing radiation monitoring.
They thought, "Why such a necessary tool never be given to all the people? We shall use this to release all mothers from anxiety, and make a bond with the mothers who hold uneasiness alone."

They named their activity "Hakatte-mippe ("Let's measure" in Fukushima dialect)" and started visiting people to inform how to use Geiger counter and the way of decontamination.

Once seeing the actual data around their houses, vague fear or anxiety disappears and smile shows up on every mother's face. Then, mothers come to think positively to take a step against radioactivity.

Goal of their activity is not to appeal a pessimistic or tragic view but to show a positive way to take an actual step.

* * *

Just after the earthquake, Yumi, who lived in Iwaki City, evacuated to her parents' house in Fukushima City with her three children. TV continued broadcasting data of radioactive measurement. She let her children stay at home and tried to find a good way to protect them by searching information through internet. Big aftershocks continued as well and made everyone uneasy. One thing―to stay with her family--was supporting her.

In the end of March 2011, Yumi heard that her children's elementary school would start again.

"It's too early," she felt.
"I cannot accept if our children become victims of this nuclear incident."

Nobody thinks like me? I might be isolated if I do something different from others.
"But I am the only one who can protect my kids. I should be strong."
She decided to follow not a public opinion but her own belief as a mother. She came back to Iwaki City with her children, but she postponed sending them back to their school.

Yumi started learning about radiation through internet and seminars in order to know how she should take actions for her children. During this time, she got to know that even experts' opinions were not the same.
"In Chernobyl, there was no damage on health except by the contaminated milk. So we don't need to worry." "Children's sicknesses, intellectual disorder and personality disorder were actually caused by their mothers' nervousness."
Opinions like above scared her. Would mothers be blamed if their children get sick?
She offered decontamination to her children's school in order to reduce the risk of radiation sickness; however her offer was rejected because the result of radioactive measurement in Iwaki was relatively low. Teachers told Yumi that it was difficult to take action with their own judgment because they were public officers.

"I need to do anything by myself as much as possible."

She also discussed whether evacuate or not with her family. Her daughter insisted to stay in Iwaki. "I want to enjoy my life in this town now. It's OK for me if I cannot marry or cannot have a baby in the future."
"We should be ready for being discriminated. But there might be someone who would accept us. To meet such a person will be my daughter's happiness, then I cannot force her to evacuate as long as she hopes to stay here. I want to respect each of my family's decision. Yet I want to protect my children as well."

Yumi thought a lot and finally decided not to evacuate but to do anything for anti-internal exposure. She ordered foods from areas in distance with her friends' supports. She told her daughter not to eat school lunch nor drink milk, and let her bring her own meals and drinks from home.
"This is how I protect myself."
Her daughter understood her mother's thought and went back to school again without being too shy to do something different from other children.

Yumi also began to consider how important it was not to hold the stress alone.
"Mother with high stress cannot protect her children. If she feels anxiety against radioactivity, she would treat her children badly because of that stress. Relationship between wife and husband will be damaged as well. I want to keep cheering my family up as a mother and as a wife. For this sake, I need to bond with other mothers, share my feeling with them, and reduce anxiety against radioactivity."

This thought led her to the activity of "Hakatte mippe" and networking people to protect children.
"I want all the mothers to be the ones who always cheer their families just as I do. It will be a long way. If we are alone, we cannot stand till the end."

However, Yumi's activity faced some objections from the beginning.

"Children staying in Iwaki try to live their lives happily without evacuation. How if their daily activities got limited because of your action? Please never say anything that scares our children as we can never know when and by what reason we might die. They just hope to enjoy their lives here. If you cannot agree, just leave this city." Yumi received some words like this from other mothers.
"Please don't speak anything that might grow harmful rumor." She also heard such opinions from the people who tried to conserve economy of Iwaki. Nothing to say, she wants to support those who make their efforts for the recovery.

However, don't we need to protect our children? How if we lost our children before the recovery got realized in the future?

"Everyone has love for children as same though...it was really frustrating. Well, we just took a kind of "so what?" attitude to keep our activity."

As Yumi and her friends continued their activity, the things gradually changed as they hoped.
Decontamination activity at parks was finally realized under the cooperation of local people included other mothers and local employee. They gathered at a park in the early morning, cut some trees, and washed all the playground equipments off.
"If we take action, things can be changed. And this will also be my power for the next step." Yumi just realized that.

"When the people take action against the same issue all together, new bonds between them are built one after another. I can see a hope in such a powerful movement of people to make a change.

This is not only the issue of Iwaki but of whole Japan. How many of us will be victimized by
only a small number of profit-seekers? The issue of war and peace or the tendency of general public nowadays--any kinds of issues relate each other, I guess. Everyone has been thinking "something wrong" with some political issues like terrorism or Okinawa base. The radiation issue today is just the same with those. So are the feelings of the people concerned in each issue like "we are left behind" or "we want to do something."

I met many people who really devote themselves to help us, and they truly gave me a ray of hope. This is also the time for overcoming some walls that I never could break. Not only for children but for all the people, this would be the time for changing the whole system of our society.

Therefore, I want to wrestle with everything in front of me, do something as much as possible, and off course, I will make my best effort for our children.

Things were gradually changed as I believed in the time of taking actions. I also got many bonds with others as I believed.
Those things in my path surely give me motivation for tomorrow.

Everything is just one, even a small thing as well.

Sometimes, I have distrust or hate on others. But I surely have those in myself too and I just see myself in those people.
So we still can connect each other at somewhere as long as both of us are not too offensive or exclusive."

When Yumi and her family moved to Iwaki City on her husband's business 4 years ago, she rented a house with a garden to plant some herbs and vegetables. Gardening was one of her life works, and she wanted to treat her children's atopic dermatitis and allergies with a natural method. Taking energy from nature, and increasing spontaneous cure and immunity of bodies. Planting herbs, harvesting them, enjoying their aroma and tastes―she has dreamed of such a wealthy life with her family.

Her start was to cultivate a parking space with full of gravels. She also made compost by herself and applied it to the ground. Then her garden became full of flowers and crops.

Looking at her garden contaminated by radioactivity, now Yumi is planting the seed of hope
in the new world where she just started to plow.

(Translates by Shizuka Hayashi)