September, 2011年

My September 17th lecture on 17th Congress of Child Neurologists of Mediterranean(CNM) held in Piran, Slovenia


Warning: Illegal string offset 'keywords_time' in /export/sd202/www/jp/r/e/gmoserver/0/2/sd0190002/ on line 103



  From September 14 to 17. I was invited as a guest speaker by Dr. Milivoj Veličković Perat, President of Organizing Committee,  to 17th Congress of Child Neurologists of Mediterranean held in Piran, Slovenia. During the congress, I talked about tragic environments that a thousands of children with disabilities and sicknesses live with as the result of  the mega earthquake and the Tsunami followed by the  horrible nuke accident in Fukushima.

My allotted time was 15 minutes and there was so much more I wanted to say that I could not fit into my presentation.  Below is the original version of my presentation which is 3 times longer than what I actually presented.


The Great East Japan Earthquake occurred on March 11th.  The tsunami reached shore 49 minutes later.  Fukushima Daiichi Power Plant was hit and 7 minutes later lost all power and control over the reactors.  We know now that 4 hours later, the nuclear meltdown had already started.  The first explosion occurred one day after the loss of power.



Iidate Village lies 30km from the power plant.  On April 22nd it was designated as a Planned Evacuation Zone and the villagers were given 1 month to move out.  By then, the high level of radiation in Iidate Village was a known fact.  The first time I visited Iidate Village was on April 20th, 2 days before the official evacuation announcement.  I saw elementary school children walking back from school.  The children did not have masks or any other forms of protection from radiation.

The radiation level measured on May 11th at 11AM at ground level in front of the Iidate Village Office was 35μsv.

I went to Iidate Village again on May 27th which was past the 1 month evacuation period.  This photo was taken during this visit.  You can see this lady driving back from grocery shopping.  People in the village were going on with their daily things just as usual.  The supermarkets were open selling vegetables grown locally, and people were buying them.  No one seemed to care about the radiation.

I heard about what Iidate village was like from a person who when there on August 29th.  Everyone had evacuated by then and weeds were growing everywhere.  People were allowed to pass through the main road by car to get across to the other side but were not allowed to get out of the car.  We measured the radiation inside the car as we drove through.  Even in the moving car the radiation level was 4μsv.


Koriyama City has many temporary housing for people from the evacuation zone.  JDF Disaster Area Support Center for People with Disabilities Fukushima, which is the organization I am taking part in, is also in Koriyama.  We measured the radiation level just outside the Support Center on September 2nd.  At ground level it was 5.67μsv, and at 1 meter from the ground, it was 0.26μsv.  It showed that the closer you are to the ground you are taking in more radiation.  Both children and people in wheelchairs are at higher risk.


I spoke to more than 20 people with cerebral palsy who lived in Koriyama.  They all had the same opinion.  “You don’t see it.  You don’t smell it.  Everyone including children are going on with their daily life just like before.  That is why we don’t feel the need to relocate.”  Fukushima Prefecture decided not to ship beef from the prefecture because the cattle have been exposed to radiation.  People in Fukushima are being exposed to the same radiation, and in addition to this, many people are drinking tap water, drinking locally produced milk, buying vegetable grown locally sold at the local supermarket, and some people get their vegetables directly from local farmers.  In autumn, rice will be harvested, and many people will eat this too.  People seemed to have accepted that that is the way things are.


Radiation exposure is an attack on the DNA, and small children and expecting mothers are most vulnerable because they are experiencing rapid cell growths.  It is a basic human right to live in a place that does not harm your health, and children should be able to grow up in a place with as little radiation exposure as possible.  And yet, the government has put together a “safety” standard that was easily brought up 10 folds when setting up the evacuation zone to draw a line across Fukushima Prefecture after 3.11 to call one side “safe” and one side “contaminated”.  A safety standard thought to be absurd outside of Japan.  The government limited the evacuation zone so that it did not cover the larger cities in the surrounding area.  The government is providing public support and funding only to the people from the evacuation zone and is denying public support and funding for anyone else wishing to relocate from outside the evacuation zone.  This is preventing even families with small children from getting to safety because even if they know relocation is the right thing to do, many do not have the financial means and resources to do so.  This lack of support is what is driving people to ignore the dangers of radiation exposure.  It is making people give up and accept that this is the risk they must live with because everyone else around them are doing the same.  People feel hopeless and decide to not notice the unsettling realities and look away from the facts.


In addition to not providing support to people who wish to relocate, the politicians are also sending out massages to make people believe that the areas outside the evacuation zone are safe trying to bring a false sense of ease to people who feel hopeless and trapped.


(Part 2)

JDF Disaster Area Support Center for People with Disabilities Fukushima was set up by Kiyoharu Shiraishi who has cerebral palsy.  This Support Center was set up in an effort to support people with disabilities from the evacuation zone.  Volunteers from all over Japan have come together here.  We have search all over for people with disabilities who have evacuated from the evacuation zone.  I took part in this organization and visited Fukushima several times.

Direct aid by people with disabilities is absolutely necessary.  We cannot let people without disabilities take over the discussion and decision making for people with disabilities.  When I tell people I visited Fukushima to support the activities of Mr. Shiraishi, both people with and without disabilities alike tell me “Oh no, but you must have gotten in peoples way.”, “What would you do there?”, and “You were probably just an extra burden on them.”  We have to realize this kind of mentality and value system are what rob us of our independence.  We need to be there, know what is going on, and think for ourselves.  I was able to gain valuable information and firsthand accounts through my visits to Fukushima.  Many of my findings and insights were only possible because I was able to see things from the point of view of people with disabilities.  I would like to share some of my findings with you.

When we visited Minami-Soma City, we heard of a very brutal and graphic reality.  Just at the borderline of the tsunami, there was a nursing home for the elderly.  Here, people actually saw bedridden elderly floating on mattresses being washed away one by one.  People who had climbed onto roofs witnessed this.  There was nothing they could do to help.  Among the witnesses, there must have been staff at the nursing home.  There may have even been, among the witnesses, elderly at the nursing home who could walk just enough to get to safety.  It is believed that most of the people with disabilities who could not walk died in the tsunami unable to escape.  People who saw it happen, however much they tell themselves that there was nothing they could do, will feel that they let people die before their very eyes and did nothing about it.




The grave reality is that the radioactive contamination from the nuclear power plant created an even more appalling case of leaving people to die.  The mandatory evacuation zone is set up in a 20 kilometer radius from the nuclear power plant.  This means it covers 40 kilometers of the coastline, that is, the diameter of the mandatory evacuation zone.  The tsunami reached about 4 to 5 kilometers inland.  I would like you to imagine what happened in this area, an area where helicopters didn’t fly over and where the Self-Defense Force didn’t enter.  Is it plausible to believe that no one was stranded in this forgotten 40 kilometers of coastline that neither the media nor the people who lived there ever entered again?  Many people in Miyagi and Iwate Prefectures were rescued from the tsunami area, but in this strip of coastline, 40 kilometers long and 4 to 5 kilometers wide, no one went in.  Most likely there were just as many survivors here waiting to be rescued as in Miyagi and Iwate, but there was no rescue, and they’ve been left there ever since.  We left them to die out.  People with disabilities, children, and the elderly all waited for rescue that never came.  They hung on believing that “someone will come”, stranded, looking above into the sky for signs of people coming to help them.  We must accept and face this gruesome fact.  People with disabilities in the tsunami area of the mandatory evacuation zone where left to die in this way.


People with disabilities who were not harmed by the tsunami but had to evacuate were taken out of the regular evacuation shelters, without explanation or consent, as if detained, and sent away to institutions in other prefectures.  We found this out because when JDF Disaster Area Support Center for People with Disabilities Fukushima when to look for people with disabilities who required nursing care, there was no one left at the evacuation shelters.  Through our visits, it became apparent that people who use to live in the community were being misled and were led away from the community into large scale institutions.


Immediately after the evacuation order, people with disabilities also first moved to their local evacuation shelters.  People with disabilities and families of people with disabilities who were already doing all they could to continue living in the community even before the earthquake, found themselves in a situation where the living conditions at the temporary evacuation shelters were so impossibly difficult that many were forced to return to their houses back inside the evacuation zone.  This situation was so unbearable that the families seriously considering that “May be she/he would be better off in an institution.”  In some cases, because there were only enough space to provide one tatami mat per person at the evacuation shelters, and a wheelchair user would require at least two tatami mats worth of space, people were refused from the evacuation shelters.


At one point, more than 100 people with disabilities and the elderly who needed nursing care were in the evacuation shelters in Fukushima Prefecture.  Most of these people have been moved to institutions in other prefectures.  I received this information from a physician at the first aid center of the special care evacuation shelter.  This special care evacuation shelter was set up inside a large evacuation shelter for people from the mandatory evacuation zone.  A large convention center complex called Big Pallet in Koriyama City was used for this evacuation shelter.  Before the earthquake, this physician had his own hospital in Tomioka Town, a town near the shore within the 20 kilometer radius from the nuclear power plant.  His town was part of the mandatory evacuation zone, but his hospital was not harmed by the tsunami and he had hospitalized patients.  As soon as the mandatory evacuation zone was set up, communication lines were cut off and supplies stopped coming in.  Some of his patients needed oxygen tanks to survive so when a Self-Defense Force personnel came, the physician asked for oxygen tanks and medicine.  The Self-Defense Force personnel promised to return but never came back.  Some other people came to survey the condition but they also never came back.  His patients died as the oxygen tanks ran out.


This physician use to make house calls before the earthquake so he knew where people with disabilities and elderly with nursing care needs lived.  He knew these people individually.  He could name the people who lived just by the shore line.  After the nuclear power plant explosion, no one ever entered that area.  Not even the Self-Defense Force or the Media.  Showing great frustration, he told us that if the tsunami did not take their lives, then these people starved to death.


When there were no more patients left at his hospital, this physician went to help out at an evacuation shelter in Kawauchi Village which was outside the 20 kilometer radius but within the 30 kilometer radius from the nuclear power plant.  However, again, supplies stopped reaching.  People who evacuated to this shelter did not expect supplies to stop and so they did not have large stocks of oxygen tanks.  And again, people started to die as the oxygen tanks ran out.  The physician voiced his agony to us.


Then he came to the special care evacuation shelter in Big Pallet.  He was an evacuee himself, but because of his experience was respected by the other physicians, and even though he was a volunteer, he had a responsible role.  He did not want to see any more deaths from lack of medical supplies and care, and so at Big Pallet, his policy was to send everyone with nursing care needs to institutions.  His efforts were so successful that by the time we visited Big Pallet there was no one left.  This doctor negotiated with officials so that institutions in other prefectures would accept people with nursing care needs into the institutions over and above the capacity of the institutions.


I can understand why this doctor did what he did.  However, even with this understanding, I want to point out that in this process of sending people to institutions, the will and the decision making of the people with disabilities were most likely not taken into account.



People with disabilities who have, with great effort, managed to figure out ways to live in the community were now being shipped off and forced into overcrowded institutions in far way places.  All in the name of saving lives.  What is it like in these institutions?  For us who have witnessed the history of confinement of people with disabilities “for their own good” can easily imagine what it is like.

The institutions use the mantra “this is for your own good” and exploit the deep-seated sense of inferiority to make people with disabilities institutionalized there to believe that they can be excluded from society in this way.  They are made to complete to be “less of a burden” and to try to “do things like an able-body.”  The people with disabilities in institutions are made to rank themselves by how able they are, creating a strict hierarchy among themselves that governs everything in the institution.  They are conditioned to accept this structure so that the institution can run with the least amount of resource and manage even though they are constantly understaffed. People from Fukushima Prefecture have been packed into these institutions over and above their capacity.


In fact, an evacuee with autism who was transferred to an institution in Chiba Prefecture ran away and drowned to death.  Such a gut-wrenching incident happened because this girl was all of a sudden taken to an unfamiliar place and forced into a stressful and isolated environment in addition to all the anxiety from the earthquake and the aftermath. It is not at all surprising that she fell into a state of panic.


The rights of people with disabilities to live in the community are being compromised and “community choice” for people with disabilities is being undermined.  Especially in Fukushima Prefecture, the secondary manmade disaster of the nuclear power plant is compounding the problem. People with disabilities, including myself, fought for over 40 years against institutionalization.  During this period people with disabilities created Centers for Independent Living all across Japan to build up communities of people with disabilities exercising their rights to live in the community.  However, when we look at the predicament of people with disabilities in Fukushima, we see that after a major disaster, people with disabilities are easily forced back to a state where our human rights can simply be taken away.  We fear that the history of institutionalization and segregation of people with disabilities will be repeated once again.  I want the international community to know that this is the fight people with disabilities are fighting for now in Japan.

There is so much more that I want to say that I could not covered in this presentation.  I have a website where you can read more on this topic.  Please come to my website and read more about disability rights and the Great East Japan Earthquake.


Thank you


17th Congress of Child Neurologists of Mediterranean


Warning: Illegal string offset 'keywords_time' in /export/sd202/www/jp/r/e/gmoserver/0/2/sd0190002/ on line 103

Hello Friends

I have been invited as a guest speaker by Dr. Milivoj Veličković Perat, President of Organizing Committee,  to 17th Congress of Child Neurologists of Mediterranean held in Piran, Slovenia, from September 14 to 17.  During the congress, I will talk about tragic environments that a thousands of children with disabilities and sicknesses live with as the result of  the mega earthquake and the Tsunami followed by the  horrible nuke accident in Fukushima.  I strongly feel that there are lot more things that adults must do to provide suffering children with appropriate and timely assistance for their bright futures.  Actions need to be taken TODAY not tomorrow!

I am looking forward to visiting Piran, a famous ocean resort in Slovenia, as well as meeting many of my dear friends from all over the world.


The congress web site:

Copyright© 2010 脳性まひ者の生活と健康を考える会-代表古井正代のホーム-ページ All Rights Reserved.