A journey to Fukushima, 2012.
A first-hand experience of a witness of Chernobyl in Japan

Editor's notice: Today is 10 years since events in Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant. This text was written by our teammate, Oleksandr Syrota, in 2012. Being a person who experienced the unfolding Chernobyl disaster back in 1986, he went to the Fukushima disaster zone in 2012, just one year after the earthquake happened. A decade after, his words still give much to think about. Includes pictures taken by the author.

Thanks to the wonderful people who have been helping the victims of our — Chernobyl — disaster for many years — members of the Japanese society Endomame, from March 10 to 17, 2012, I had the opportunity to visit the "Land of the Rising Sun". Such a trip has been an obsessive dream since the Soviet childhood, spent in a state unkindly locking its citizens from any journeys abroad. The only sad thing is that the reason was the first anniversary of the disaster at the Japanese nuclear power plant Fukushima-1, which happened, by dark coincidence, shortly before the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl accident.

Fukushima Disaster Zone in 2012
Fukushima disaster Zone. Hirono-machi Futaba-gun, Fukushima, Japan

The trip turned out to be very powerful, rich in information, but psychologically it was too hard. Daily meetings in different cities with people affected by three disasters in a row — an earthquake, a devastating tsunami, and an accident at the Fukushima-1 nuclear power plant, forced to live in radiation-contaminated areas, who do not know what tomorrow will bring them, worried about the future of their children — evoked a keen sense of déjà vu, the feeling that I had already seen all this, albeit without the monstrously destructive riot of nature.

The very axiom of the existence of the site of the city of Pripyat is the statement «The lessons of history are repeated if you forget them». We exist to make others remember everything. So that those who come to our website or who come with us to Pripyat, regardless of the reasons that are behind such a trip, take out for themselves a sense of belonging and empathy and can live without leaving ruins and dead cities behind. That is why we have been collecting and providing materials about the Chernobyl disaster to a wide range of the public for many years, we organize international thematic exhibitions, we hold various events and actions in the Chernobyl zone and beyond.

Fukushima Disaster Zone in 2012
Town of Date is located about 50 kilometers northwest of the damaged Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant outside the Japanese government's evacuation zone.

I myself am one of those who lost their home in April 1986, whose childhood was broken by the Chernobyl disaster. Due to my activities, I often visit the territory of the zone and the city of Pripyat. It is difficult to surprise and shock me with the sight of abandoned human habitation — I have hardened, got used to, seen enough in 20 years, since my first trip. But when I stood on the shore of the ocean in the disaster zone of the Fukushima-1, among the wreckage of children's toys, seeing in front of me a wasteland stretching to the horizon, strewn with crushed, worn-out carcasses of cars, fragments of buildings, I realized that all our activities over the years, all accumulated experience — all this will be unnecessary and meaningless if right now, immediately, you do not find a way to use it to solve the living, fresh, bleeding problems of this particular land, these people.

Fukushima Disaster Zone in 2012
Radiation survey. Hirono-machi Futaba-gun, Fukushima, Japan.

The fact that the Japanese do not need help is a lie.
The fact that the Japanese do not accept help is a vile lie.
Who offered it to them and how ?!
I was in volunteer centers in the affected regions, communicated with those who work directly «in the field», and do not theorize in comfortable offices and cozy Internet conversations. Over the past year, after the disaster, only a few foreign citizens contacted them to help. And for the most part, they had absolutely no idea what they would have to face. Heroes-rescuers are not needed there now, there are enough of our own. Even the finest theorists are not needed. To eliminate the consequences of the tsunami and earthquake — to rake and sort five-meter mountains of garbage, special talents are not required, except, perhaps, patience and a sincere desire to be useful.

And one more thing: potential volunteers need to remember that without knowledge of the language, they will create more problems rather than real, measurable benefits.
The statements of certain politicians about the assistance to the fraternal Japanese people, which our country will certainly provide, also look ridiculous and ridiculous.
What help can they offer? Financial?
Or, perhaps, an exchange of experience in concealing the true scale of the Chernobyl disaster? By means of deceiving their own fellow citizens-victims? Or methods and best practices for cleaning and decontamination of territories? The latter is possible. Although experience suggests that the nature of the Chernobyl zone is being restored not due to our activity in this area, but rather in spite of it. And the Japanese government is doing very well without us to hide the real situation at the damaged nuclear power plant and the affected territories from its own citizens and the world community.

I am not saying now that Ukraine cannot help Japan. Maybe it should. This is a huge moral debt to the Japanese, who throughout the post-Chernobyl period provided invaluable assistance and support to both individuals and organizations and the country as a whole.

But the help that is really needed there is not populist statements, but our — post-Chernobyl — experience of survival in conditions of radiation pollution of territories, information blockade, lack of support from the state, bureaucratic lawlessness, and lies of doctors (albeit on a smaller scale, after all, the Japanese, for the most part, are much more cultured and more humane than us, but all this is also present there). This is now invaluable for ordinary Japanese

Fukushima Disaster Zone in 2012
Temporary camp for evacuated. Minamisoma, Japan.

The experience of ordinary Ukrainians — people evacuated from Pripyat, liquidation participants members at the Chernobyl NPP, the experience of specialists currently working on the territory of the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone — this is what the people with whom I met were interested in the first place.

25 years of Chernobyl. 1 year of Fukushima. What is the future?

Post scriptum:

Fukushima Disaster Zone in 2012
Before the tsunami, there was a hotel on this very place, with a beautiful view of the ocean.

Fukushima Disaster Zone in 2012
Fukushima exclusion zone. Abandoned cars.

Fukushima Disaster Zone in 2012
Fukushima exclusion zone.

Fukushima Disaster Zone in 2012
Katsunobu Sakurai, mayor of Minamisoma.

Fukushima Disaster Zone in 2012
Fukushima exclusion zone. Hirono-machi Futaba-gun, Fukushima, Japan.

Fukushima Disaster Zone in 2012
Town of Date is located about 50 kilometers northwest of the damaged Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant outside the Japanese government's evacuation zone.

Fukushima Disaster Zone in 2012
Town of Date is located about 50 kilometers northwest of the damaged Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant outside the Japanese government's evacuation zone.

Fukushima Disaster Zone in 2012
Evidence of the earthquake. Hirono-machi Futaba-gun, Fukushima, Japan.

Fukushima Disaster Zone in 2012
Oleksandr Syrota in Tokyo.

Fukushima Disaster Zone in 2012
Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant.

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