Hardly anybody wants to go into the irradiated zone of Fukushima.
And if so, you have to protect yourself like that.
They want to get in, because there are still people living there - old ones, young ones, babies.
And these need help from outside.
"Life in the Death Zone"
"Daily routine after Fukusima"
A report by Philipp Abresch
Rice, noodles, cooking oil, drinking water...
Bansho Miura is the good spirit of the restricted area.
We meet the monk at his headquarters in Minamisoma.
From here, he is planning his tours along the restricted area,
to the elderly, those living alone, all those whom he supplies with food.
The day begins dull and gray, a typhoon is forming;
and since the nuclear disaster,rain is a great danger.
"When it rains, the risk is higher that we absorb radiation.
The radioactive particles stuck in the rain drops.
If we get wet, the skin absorbs gamma radiation, that's why we must protect ourselves from the rain. "
HCR - Heart Care Rescue - "The heart savers". This is how Miura Bansho named his association.
For one week we accompany the monk at his work and experience the everyday life of people in Minamisoma.
The city lies on the nuclear abyss, only 20km away from Fukushima Dai-ichi, the desaster power plant.
A visit to Masaharu Haneda. Hardly anyone lives closer to the destroyed nuclear power plant.
Bansho Miura walks around the house.
The first thing he wants to know is how strong the radiation is around the building.
The radiation level is significantly raising at the place where the rain water is concentrating.
"The radiation levels are not dramatically high, but too high to live here.
Mr. Haneda must give up his house as soon as possible and he must receive compensation for it."
The elderly man is desperate. Again and again he has decontaminated his house, cleaned off radiation.
He has hosed down the roof,removed the earth in the garden, washed off the trees all around.
The radiation then falls for a few weeks, then it increases again.
"Why I stay living here?
Our family has lived here for a thousand years. I can not run away.
I must stay here until I die. "
People here are very spiritual. Their souls are closely connected to the place.
They must get away quickly, but they do not want. This is a real dilemma. "
The fruits from the garden: they are toxic waste.
Monk Miura wants them to be tested in the laboratory, as well as the spring water originating in the mountains, that Haneda Masaharu uses every day.
The authorities say: "Harmless," the monk does not believe.
And then Mr. Haneda tells us he used to work for TEPCO, the nuclear power plant operator. He was at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, when the accident took place.
"Unit 3, Fukushima - this was no ordinary explosion.
There has been a chain reaction of uranium and plutonium. That's all been blown out.
But noone does measurements. I believe the government does not want to have them done.
Not only TEPCo is lying - even our government is concealing the truth."
A chain reaction of uranium and plutonium, if that's true: it would be something like an atomic bomb explosion.
She as well doesn't like this weather at all: In a few minutes, Ayumi Tasaku has to bring her children to school, passing the contaminated rain.
The young family is staying at their parents-in -law, their own house is contaminated with radioactivity.
"Life has changed completely after Fukushima. And for the kids is specially stressful.
The children can only stay in the house. Playing outdoors is no longer possible.
They only wear long sleeve stuff, and a jacket in addition, even in summer. "
Every morning Ayumi Tasako brings her children to school by car, and in case of the rain her two sons and Shoja Daichi have to run into the building.
They are afraid to get wet.
The other students come by bus. From all over the city they are brought here, this school is the only one that has survived the tsunami and the meltdown.
Today, Shoja and his classmates get their personal dosimeters.
For months, the parents had called for radiation measuring instruments for their children, and yet:
The teacher distributes the devices with an uneasy feeling.
"It is not a nice job to distribute these dosimeters. The children become guinea pigs.
The devices don't even show how high the radiation currently is! They only store the data.
It would be much better if the children were alerted immediately and could run away in that case."
"You have to be careful with the dosimeters," explains Ms. Kuboki.
"Don't sit on it if it accidentially gets into your beds. Put it out of your trousers before they're washed in the washing machine."
A childhood - chained to the radiation measurement instrument
"I'm not so much concerned about the radioactivity.
I'm much more afraid that I once lose the thing while playing and then I get a lot of trouble.
I have to be really carefully! ".
He as well has a dosimeter now: Satao Kobayashi. The school director measures the radiation dose every day.
The school has been expensively decontaminated; the sand has been changed, the radiant soil been buried two meters deep under the schoolyard.
Thus, the radiation has fallen sharply.
"Here, experts have done the decontamination, with help from some of the teachers. The city even wanted to have parents helping.
But they don't know at all how to protect themselves. They'd get a lot of radioactive dust. For me, this is suicidal! ".
Mr. Kobayashi brings us to the roof of the school and up here,we as well have to protect us now against radiation in the air.
The director wants to show us how all has started on March 11, the day when the wave was coming.
The tsunami was as high as the pines behind.
It was a huge black wave, and all the debris in front of it.
Only here, right at the school wall, it stopped."
These are the remains of the tsunami.
The ruins are full of pollutants: asbestos, dioxin, cesium. And nobody knows where to dispose of the incredible amount.
Along the coast, there are 26 million tons of rubble - as much as otherwise obtained in 100 years.
The day the wave came - it has as well changed their lives:
Masaki Sugawara and Katsuhiro Aota. The two are old surfer friends.
The coast of Fukushima used to be a paradise for surfers.In the past, the two were on the boards 2-3 times a week.
"Fukushima is a great surfing spot. But after the tsunami, there are hardly any good waves.
The ocean floor has been transformed by the earthquake."
Masaki Sugawara will never forget March 11.
The man who loves the wave so much has lost both his parents to it.
"My parents were washed away by the tsunami. My older brother went home immediately from work, but there was no house anymore.
We then tried to reach my parents - without success.
Two weeks later their bodies were found. "
The surfing on the beach of Minamisoma has been banned since long time, in some places the sand is contaminated with cesium.
But from time to time, there are still surfers; the temptation is great.
Meanwhile, Ayumi Tasako, the young mother,goes shopping. Her shopping list is long.
Oranges are unsuspicious: the'y don't come from Fukushima.
Since the disaster, she is a lot more conscious about her buyings.
"When I see the name Fukushima, I hesitate. For the children, I prefer to buy things that do not come from the area.
For example: here I can buy products from Hokkaido. The farer away from Fukushima, the better."
Keijy Ozu, the supermarket manager, has changed the whole range of products after the meltdown:
Vegetables from Kyushu in the south of Japan and cucumbers from the far north of Hokkaido.
Only the peaches,a specialty, still come from Fukushima, and are tested by a laboratory.
Every second day, Mr. Ozu recieves the actual cesium-values.
"Customers are worried.
The older residents don't ask so many questions, but the younger ones, they do.
They always want to know if the food is tested."
Guaranteed free of radiation, says Mr. Ozu: Fresh pork meat.
"Each pack gets a security sticker. Only then the meat comes to the refrigerated section."
Anyway, says Mr. Ozu, products from Fukushima can be much better sold elsewhere than in Minamisoma.
"The farther away, the more unknowing are the people. In Tokyo, Fukushima products sell well, many want to help the region delbierately.
Here, nobody would do so, because everybody knows about the dangers of radiation.
Here, hardly anybody buys anything produced in Fukushima."
Seen this way, there could be no safer place for Ayumi Tasako to buy food as here in Minamisoma, 20km away from the nuclear apocalypse.
It's lunchtime in school. The interval is different than before: Every day, the children have to clean their classrooms.
Radioactivity still escapes from the ruins of Fukushima and forms a highly dangerous layer of dust over the city.
Cleaning is supposed to help - washing the hands as well.
For Kansei, it's the last schoolday today.
His parents made their decision: they go away from Minamisoma, forever.
"Don't be sad! Your best friend is already in Yamagata as well! You'll make it!"
"Some families are moving away because they want to be safe from radiation . But they change one evil for another.
Many are bullied: 'Oh, look - they're coming from Fukushima!'
I know of a mother who therefore has already gone to a psychologist."
The students want to organize a farewell party for their classmate.
"Shall we play musical chairs, or do we prefer to sing and dance?"
A farewell letter goes around. "Do not forget me!" classmates write. "Let's stay friends!"
"So many have already gone from our class: Yuuki, Chiogu. And then Mitsuro and Hikari - they have also gone..
In the summer holidays. Simply disappeared without saying goodbye.
If this accident would not have happened, we all could play together outside."
This life of constant uncertainty - it destroys the soul, says Bansho Miura.
Some leave the city, some remain but however are changing.
They do not want to eat anymore, some begin drinking, some commit suicide.
In the Fukushima region alone, 70 people have committed suicide since march.
"The sound of the sea at the cemetery here - to me it sounds like all the voices of the dead.
It feels like a cry for help. I think we need to move closer together in the future.
And we need to educate more on how dangerous radioactivity really is in the region, otherwise we will never be happy anymore. "
Ayumi Tasako has an appointment in an urban hospital today:
Her children will be examined in a whole-body counter for internal contamination.
"I think it's important that the children are examined, but I'm nervous.
I'm afraid that the result might be bad, but on the other hand, I want to hear the truth.
I'm torn. "
Since the desaster, the doctors and nurses work nonstop.
75 children a day: All students of Minamisoma will be examined; once a year from now.
"We do not have to explain a lot, most children immediately understand what is at stake here.
But they don't talk about their fears and worries. I believe a lot of them hide it."
The hospital has three full-body counter in continuous operation. The scanner shall detect smallest radioactive particles:
Cesium in the bones, iodine in the thyroid.
In Fukushima City, doctors already detected something: at every second child, they have found cesium.
The cancer rate among children is likely to rise significantly in coming years, many parents fear.
The nurse is afraid, too. She's five month pregnant.
"Now they all say: 'That's ok, do not worry!' But you never know whether the children get sick in 5 or 10 years!
Perhaps someday we will regret that we stayed here. "
Everything could be so fine, though...
The next day: Excursion to the golf course of Minamisoma.
Recently, he has re-opened.
Yoshikazu Fukuodori, the golf course manager, leads us around.
Before the meltdown the pine was bright green, he says. Now it is dead.
Here, he measures 1 micro sievert per hour: a cozy game of golf brings as much radiation as an X-ray.
"What has changed since Fukushima?
Here on the South Course, we have pretty much radiation because of the hills where the radioactive cloud stuck.
We consider to better close that part. It's too dangerous to play golf. "
The Kashima-Country Club has 4,000 members.
20 of them were killed in the tsunami, all others are back on the green regularly.
With plaid on contaminated grass ...
"I'm here to reduce stress. I'm worried, but you can't change anything anyway...
It is even more stressful if you only think about this all the time."
Actually, in the beginning Mr. Fukuodori didn't want to reopen the golf course. His lawyer also advised against it: because of the unknown risks.
As a precaution,Mr Fukuodori releases the current radiation values every morning.
"For us, the health of customers is the most important, and we don't want to be responsible if in 20 years one of the players suffers from cancer.
They should know for themselves about what they are getting involved with ... "
Bansho Miura, the monk, has long been back at work.
A newly buildt quarter on the outskirts of Minamisoma: In this house lives a young family with two children.
During one year, the residents receive 3 times the radiation dose that would be allowed for a german nuclear power plant worker.
The monk is supposed to change that.
"Let's see how far we get today with the decontamination.
We start right on the top with the roof, then the walls, the veranda and at least the pavement in front of the door."
The family preventatively disappeared: the decontamiation makes them uneasy.
But the neighbours stayed, they're curisous. Thy as well want their home have cleaned soon.
"They gave us a call to warn us in advance. But I'm flabbergasted how they show up:
So heavily equipped - I wouldn't have expected that! It really astonishes me."
The neighbour gets a mask and the advice to stay indoors.
The colleagues of Bansho Miura have placarded warning signs,
and then, the troop gets ready for the murderous job:
Ski masks, face masks, protective gear.
With this equipment, Bansho Miura wants to free the house from radiation, even if some people believe this is quite exaggerated.
"Decontaminating my house? Nope - that's not an issue for me!
I wash my hands and gurgle with water."
Bit by bit, whole Minamisoma is scheduled to be decontaminated: the schools, the roads, the private homes.
It's a dangerous work without end, because as soon as in wintertime, downwinds from the mountains will bring new radioactive particles into the idyll.
Relax for one moment - ease!
Ayumi Tasako has long been looking forward to this day: for the first time, the young mother goes to the baby-gymnastics today.
"I'm totally relieved! In the beginning I thought there were hardly any young mother with babies in the city at all.
You don't see them on the streets anymore... But here they are - I'm really glad about it!"
Hekomi Yahara has gathered the group.
Since March 11, the day of the catastrophe, the midwife takes care of the young families in Minamisoma.
Once a week they all come together for mother-child-gymnastics.
"We talk about all sorts of things. E.g. if they go out for a walk, they should not come too close to the trees.
They are full of radioactive particles.
You can't live without going outside, but you have to take care."
The municipality is courting the young mothers. It wants as many families to come back to Minamisoma as possible.
But Ayumi and other mothers feel their fears aren't taken seriously.
"We are told the water and food were safe, but I don't believe that. I'm worried!"
"I would have moved away since a long time ago, but my husband says 'Everything's fine!' I'm not going away alone, after all..."
"I want to know for how long we have to stand this all. We need more information.
"When finally everything will be fine again?"
Masaki Sugawara went to the ocean today. This is where he wants to relax.
For the son without parents, surfing is a kind of therapy.
"I lost my father and my mother to the tsunami.
Considering this, the ocean has something frightening for me.
But the ocean gives strength as well, and therefore I want it to become a friend of mine.
Everytime I see the ocean, I'm getting a bit more healed."
The nuclear power plant Tokaimura: of all places this is the one Masaki Sugawara chooses to go into the water again.
The surfing area is about 100km south of Fukushima. Only that far away, surfing is allowed again.
For the first time after March 11, Masaki Sugawara is back on his surfboard.
The search for normality: for the surfer it starts here - in the cold waves of the pacific.
"I truly hope I'll be able to surf in Minamisoma again, and I wish the nuke plant would come to rest.
I want to live untroubled at my home again."
Living untroubled - Ayumi Tasako as well wishes to do so. Today she received a letter.
The results of the whole-body-scan arrived. Are their sons healthy?
"Everything is ok! However, there are different numbers, and my younger son has a bit higher levels than the older one.
But all of them are below the limit, and this makes me happy."
"Harmless" says the hospital. The radioactive surplus for her sons would be of no consequence.
The mega meltdown of Fukushima, according to the doctors, relates to one single supplement x-ray.
Weekend in Minamisoma.
The city has organized a rock-concert. People shall have fun, forget the daily troubles.
At least for a short time...
"We're always sitting around in our homes. We never go out.
I can hardly meet other people. It's a lot of fun to be here today!"
The mayor of Minamisoma came, too. He promises to protect his citizens.
But how? Bansho Miura, the monk, remains sceptical.
"The mayor is presenting himself as a friend of the people here, but he doesn't do anything for them.
The examinations of the children - that's a joke, you have to measure much more accurate!
And nobody is wearing a mask here! They simply want everything to be fine."
The monk Miura hands out protective masks. He sees himself as a revealer.
But the organizer is enraged. Scaremongering would not be needed at such a lovely, sunny day!
One almost wants to be able to understand:
People around Fukushima - their passionate desire is a life without the catastrophy.
A completely normal life - just as in former times.