Original Japanese written by staffer
The English below written and arranged by Heeday, based on the original Japanese
The English edited by Rev. Dr. Henry French, ELCA
Below: Article from the March 27th, 2016 edition of the Asahi Shimbun newspaper
Mr. Ryoichi Wago is a high school teacher and a poet.
Born and raised in Fukushima, he suffered in the East Japan Earthquake of 2011. Mr. Wago has been expressing, through his poetry, what goes on in the minds of Fukushima residents. Today, five years after the catastrophe, he described his thoughts on the Asahi Shimbun webpage. I, Fumi Kawamori, found his thoughts quite amenable, so below I share some them with you.
“When the meltdown began, I despaired that Fukushima might become a ghost prefecture, with no humans living there. So, I decided to remain here in Fukushima till I die. It was then that the poem “Radiation is coming down. A silent night,” came to my mind.
The 2011 earthquake shook and broke something within me. By then, I had already been creating poems for more than two decades, questioning the irrationalities of the human world. Still, all my creations were useless before the seismic catastrophe. Everything I saw was irrational. My imagination was unable to say anything. What we had taken for granted as “the daily” was so fragile. I was terrified!
Before the 2011 disaster, my direction in writing poems was, “let those who have ears listen and understand.” That catastrophic experience changed my direction to “let more hear of this.” Now, I want to describe the irrationalities right in front of my eyes as they are, and I want to make this post-meltdown world known to as many people as possible. What is happening here in Fukushima is an issue for the whole society. It affects individual lives as well. So, I now use very plain words. I also use some words I never used before the meltdown, such as “sorrows” and “tears.”
In the minds of many people in the affected areas, there are still some dark things remaining, left unattended—just like those black vinyl bags containing contaminated soil, piled up here and there in Fukushima. Reading a poem can expose such “dark matter.” A reader of my poems wrote to me, saying “Your poems describe precisely my resentments and sorrows, and brought me to tears.” Such dark matter must be exposed and spat out, to create some space in the mind to accommodate something new. So, our fears, anxieties and sorrows should be given shapes and shared by many. For that reason, I keep to my music and theater activities as well.
Also, presenting the same old things in the same old language will make the messages stale. Bringing up the disaster again using new language that has never been used before can make people think about it once again. For instance, I want to see as many people as possible visit and see the hard-hit areas. Still, I need a word other than “tourism.”
“Reconstruction” is a word that sounds brutal to me. It implies that the acceleration of work and good results are what is wanted. So, all our tragedies and our agonies are measured by work and results. Here in Fukushima, some 100,000 people have evacuated. Many children who lost their homes to the tsunami only recently have been able to visit the beach. So, I intend to find words to describe their current feelings and thoughts fully, day in and day out.”
The Japanese author’s feelings
Once you have decided to keep living here in Fukushima, radiation is something you just have to learn to live with. Year after year, living in this desperate situation, it has grown harder and harder to talk about radiation with people here. Thus, we have anxieties, sorrows, etc. that we cannot let out of our mouths. They are piled up in the dark of our minds.
Such “dark matter” must be spat out one way or another—shared with others. Such sharing purifies my mind—this I can say for sure, out of my own experiences.