2012.12.23 update 2012.02 iwaki city
"I thought it would be difficult to open this club again. I was afraid that I wouldn't be able to work in Fukushima again. In those days, I rarely saw other people on the street. "Let's trust what the government says", "No, that's not true" Different Information and opinion flew back and forth here. So many people got together here, the one who brought water and rice, the one who came voluntarily, or the one who bought a Geiger counter and monitored radiation inside 20 km radius of the nuclear power plant. The people standing on anti-nuclear side for years know very well about radiation, they have tools, and they are very brave. Those people had visited "hotspots" before the mass-media came in. I felt danger when I heard their information like "the amount of radiation at a backyard of gym in a primary school was over 100(ìSv/h)".
Mr. Mikata, a manager of club SONIC iwaki, was driving on the Tohoku Expressway when the 3.11 mega earthquake hit. He has picked up his pregnant wife and his 2-year-old son in Sendai and on the way back to Iwaki together with them. Right after the strong shake, the road waved and buckled in front of them. He quickly turned on the radio.
"A big earthquake hit."
"Tsunami is coming."
"Tsunami is reaching in 15 minutes."
"Tsunami hits OO right now."
Count down for tsunami attacks started. Some of the place-names called in radio were very familiar to him.
The damage of tsunami and earthquake was unbelievably huge. How terrifying the tsunami was, and how many people lost their lives by the earthquake and tsunami...everything was just beyond his imagination.
Tons of rubbles prevented his car from driving freely, but finally managed to take his family to home. Then he immediately headed for his club. When he opened the door, smell of alcohols hit his nose and hundreds of bottles were crushed on the floor. On that day, at SONIC, many students enjoyed their memorial live performance for their graduation. At the moment of big shake, the club was filled with their screams and sounds of glass break. It was just like the end of the world. Fortunately, the lights and other music equipments were not damaged. Since some staffs and students had no way to go home, Mr. Mikata opened the nearest sister shop, Burrows as a shelter for them.
The next day, the nuclear power plant exploded. Mr. Mikata and his family were driven into a corner day by day. He has two children, only 2 year old son and the little new life in mother's tummy. "How will radiation act on my children?" He got extremely terrified.
"Should we evacuate to our parents' house in Akita?"
Searching on internet, he got a way. There was a flight from Fukushima to Haneda and from Haneda to Akita. However, he was still unsure whether the gas was enough to get to Fukushima Airport. "How can I accept that if my wife had a miscarriage because of long drive? What should I do if we couldn't reach to the airport and had to sleep rough? "His mind was full of anxieties.
He got a contact from his friend in Kanagawa and Takako Tate who was in her Tohoku live tour. "If you can come to Haneda, I'll help you. You can stay at my home as long as you need." "If you can come to Akita Airport, I'll pick you up." Their supportive words encouraged him. He and his family drove to Fukushima Airport without running out of gas, and flied to Haneda. Then the next day, they could arrive in Akita Airport. He just fully realized that he was supported by bonds of people he built up for long time.
In the end of March, since water in his club has been restored, Mr. Mikata left his family in Akita and went back to Iwaki alone. Burrow was still used as a shelter. There were his fellows who have been making every effort to get enough foods and water. They lived together in corporation at Burrows. Even though they were still in shock of the disaster, somehow they looked happy to gather around there.
However, nobody started playing the music again. Everyone thought it would be 'imprudent' to play the music in such a moment.
Mr. Mikata couldn't open his club. He took out his old boom box to listen to the radio. He also found some old music cassette tapes which he used to listen quite often. While listening to some familiar songs, he just realized that he's been too busy to have his own time for the last several years. "It might be for the first time in 10 years to listen to music like this" he thought.
At that time, Yoko Utsumi came to Iwaki. She performed at SONIC just few days before 3.11. She used to take part in reconstruction support of Hanshin-Awaji earthquake disaster as a member of Soul Flower Union. She came with Itaru Hirama (a photographer) and ASTUSHI (a member of Dragon Ash) to open a soup kitchen at Iwaki Alios culture center. After serving warm meals, Yoko was requested to sing. "Really?!" she was surprised but took out her guitar.
"Well, then let me sing some."
She performed 4 songs. Her songs filled everyone with warmness. Her performance touched people's hearts. Mr. Mikata felt that from the atmosphere. Everyone laughed at her chat between songs and gave a big hand for her wonderful performance. "We should have a live concert like this." Mr. Mikata and his staffs agreed to open their club again.
"We were not quite sure whether we should play the music or not. So many people were lost. How can we enjoy a live concert in such a moment? But when we see the people happy with Yoko's performance, we changed our minds. We thought that we could carry live concerts on at our club."
Tickets free. Only 500 yen is charged for drinks. No fee for using the stage. No quota for tickets. No guarantee fee even for professional musicians. The one who can accept these conditions may perform. Since Mr. Mikata opened his club again with those conditions, his club got fully booked every day. It was obvious to suffer a loss. But his minds never changed. "Let's do this as long as possible."
On 9 April 2011, the very first day for a live concert after the 3.11 disaster, they got more than 100 audiences. The speaker shook with the first sound. Everyone felt that live sound with his whole body.
After a month, his wife and son came back to Iwaki from Akita. Mr. and Mrs. Mikata borrowed a Geiger counter from their city government, and started learning how to protect their children from radiation.
"We haven't decided yet whether we live here for long or not. But there's something that keeps us stay in this place. It would be our love for this town, friendships, something like that. Our relatives recommend us to come back to Akita. But I still have lots of things to do here. So many people supported me. I feel I should stay here because my club is the place where both people coming from outside and people living here can meet.
As the level of radiation in Iwaki is relatively low, some people already came back to this town, but others moved to other places like Okinawa. I also discussed with my wife a lot. But we thought it would be much harder to start our lives in a new place with a lot of risks. If we all move out together, we have no income for our living. If my wife and kids move and I stay here for my job, my wife will have to bring up 2 kids without my help. I guess it will be too hard for her.
I can never allow any accident like this as a father of 2 children, so I join anti-nuclear acts as much as possible. I can get lots of information there as well. But my knowledge is not enough yet and I often realize my misunderstandings about radiation. In such a situation, I was really let down when someone told me to leave Iwaki for my children. It was very hard to hear such a voice. Even though I keep staying here with my family, I can also agree with such opinion as well. After all, I'm trying my best to protect my family by collecting lots of information or visiting Akita as much as possible for a preservation of our health. But I still feel sorry for my children. I've experienced a sort of discrimination against Fukushima people. I'm not sure if my decision is right or not.
The little children living in this town may have a very hard time in the future. But that's why I want to show them the people trying very hard to recover Iwaki now.
There are many young people who devote themselves for reconstruction support despite of their hardships. I want to show their power to my kids. I also want to support those growing up young people in their teen and 20s. I expect them to show their ways of living to the next generation in Iwaki. It doesn't matter whether he success financially or not, but I hope there will be many more "cool adults" who can think and act based on their own opinions. And I think now, in this condition, we can make it.
We may be blamed unreasonably because of the nuclear accident. But if we can think like "our seniors in Iwaki are great. You never know it!"...that would be helpful. It'll be totally different whether we just get depressed or keep positive in such a situation. We just need to be positive despite of how we judge the things or what we do. I'm glad if Iwaki people are proud of their hometown wherever they are. So I'm also doing my best to keep this place open for our young people. I want to show that we can still do something here in Iwaki.
There's a song titled "Paradise" by a musician, Mr. Rikuo. It's about seeking for one's own Paradise. We all think paradise exists somewhere else especially when we are young. But it's wrong. Nobody knows tomorrow. Nobody knows when he dies. But we are here now. So let's make a paradise right here. If we do our best, we can make it. It totally depends on us whether our place can be a paradise or not. The song is all about this kind of thing. I fully agree with the message of this song.
It's not about 'for or against'. Our club is the place where everyone can express what he wants to tell or what he wants to do. The worst thing is "the situation which never allows people to speak out their minds." We need the place where we can share our opinions freely. This is our club's stance.
We never made any restriction on our performers who want to make a concert. We just help them to express themselves. We have some musicians who openly declare themselves as anti-nuclear side. One of them said "I started doing push-up everyday in order to stop nuclear power plant" at his live performance. He made his audience laugh but still showed his standing-point clearly. I thought it was really cool.
Though I said like this, actually I haven't done anything yet......the publicity doesn't work well, hard to get bookings, couldn't sell the ticket... Yeah, I'm not good enough yet. But at least I can say "I'm having fun here."
This is just a small place in a corner of the world. We are free from political money or opinions. Everything is in our hands. We can discuss whenever we need. We do something just because we want it. We have some rules but none of these are meaningless. If something doesn't work, we can change it through discussion. A musician came to our club. He said "I want to do this although I don't have enough money." So we helped him even though that kind of job didn't pay at all. But sometimes, we get another musician from his connection. We are supported by such bonds, and the bonds can move everything here. So we always know what and why we are doing for sure.
One day after the 3.11 disaster, a live concert was held at SONIC by Mr. Mikata's friend, Masaya Hirai from Margaret Rose. Many people including Mr. Mikata's fellows gathered around. After the concert, they had a closing party. Everyone got drank, made merry and laughed a lot. It was already a daybreak when they finally went home.
The morning shine is slightly coming into SONIC.
Mr. Mikata was standing in a silence after the party.
The door was opened suddenly.
His little son ran up to him. That made him to cry. Mr. Mikata was famous as a guy who has never showed his tears. But he wept loudly for this moment. His wife found him and laughed.
The people whom I love helped me in trouble from the bottom of their hearts. How happy I am to be with my family now. His feelings kept in his heart just flood out. On the way back to home, his wife who was laughing also started crying.
"We are just so blessed."
They smiled and cried at the same time. Their cry filled inside the car.
(Translated by Shizuka Hayashi)