Letters from Fukushima

Foto: MasaruKamikura/flickr.com (CC BY-NC 2.0)

On the 11th of March 2011, right after the Tsunami hit the Japanese coast and Fukushima started a meltdown, I spotted the Facebook status of Hirotsugu K. who asked the crowd for information about the dangerous situation he was in. People recommended him to leave the Fukushima area immediately. After I followed his escape on Facebook for 24 hours I joined the conversation. What happened next was a nine day long, breathtaking conversation with Hirotsugu K., a person I never met before in my life. I was his only European contact with information his government concealed. I remember my hands where shaking every time I got a new message from Hirotsugu on my mobile phone. Now, one year later, I decided to post the full, unedited conversation.

 

 

 
11. March  –  15:19
Hirotsugu K.
please give me information. should I need to run away from here?
 
11. March  –  23:49
Luke F.
How far are you from the nuclear plant? In KM?
 
11. March  –  22:53
Hirotsugu K.
want to escape from here…. train is still not available
 

 
 
11. March  –  23:56
Hirotsugu K.
I’m not sure but now trying go out from here
 
12. March  –  00:03
Luke F.
Hey man, if I was you just walk away from Nuclear Power plants.
Get your warm clothes and money and drinking water.
 
12. March  –  05:16
Anonymous Yris
wherever we go, if it’s not our time then it’s not our time… but if it’s our time then it’s our time…
just pray for the best…
 
12. March  –  5:19
Hirotsugu K.
Thanks Luke! I already get almost all my money from bank.
I’m in Shinkansen now. ok 🙂 Yris. thank you. I also pray for safe….
 
12. March  –  5:06
Hirotsugu K.
thank you all. I’m in Shinkansen now. I’m wondering meltdown in there.
 
12. March  –  5:37
Hirotsugu K.
I already pass Nagoya
 
12. March  –  6:10
Hirotsugu K.
I’m in Kyoto. next is Shinosaka!
 
12. March  –  9:37
Hirotsugu K.
on the way to Hiroshima…
 
13. March –  12:48
Bjoern Hering
Hirotsugu, how are you? Where are you now? Our thoughts are with you.
 
13. March  –  12:58
Hirotsugu K.
Thank you very much for your comment.
I back to my home town (Kyushu Island) on Saturday.
I was lived in Tsukuba (200km far from Fukushima).
I just wonder about meltdown. Because the effect will be depend on wind.
 
In Tsukuba, I could not get water in usual way.
City support to supply water in the park.
Difficult to get food.
I don’t know when it will stop gas line.
There is still a potential M7 class earthquake.
should I back to there for work?
I do my best….Please give us correct advice.
 
13. March  –  20:23
Bjoern Hering
Dearest Hirotsugu,
 
It is hard for me to give correct advise from here, I live in Germany. Here is what I can tell you:
European news as well as CNN are full of dramatic news about the nuclear disaster. Two blocks in Fukushima are still out of control. Nobody knows if the nuclear plant is still going on. Nobody knows about the amount of radioactivity in the area. The government is not telling us. A third block in Onagawa is burning, but still under control. European news and CNN telling us that the Japanese government and Japanese news are trying to calm down the people, MAYBE NOT TELLING YOU THE WHOLE TRUTH.
This is what’s on the news here. In a situation like this I would not take the risk to go back north. Radioactivity is so dangerous and governments are always trying to calm down.
My advise from here is to stay as far as possible away if you can till the situation is fully under control and the news are trustable.
 
Please keep us updated. All the best,
Bjoern
 
13. March  –  20:37
Bjoern Hering
Update from our latest news:
I saw European reporters in Japan on the news. People are still LEAVING the north. Streets are packed with people. Meltdown in Fukushima is possible, not confirmed. Radioactivity in Onagawa seems to come from a cloud from Fukushima (this is 150 kilometres distance). If you have the possibility, stay as far from the north as possible till news are trustable.
 
14. March  –  00:09
Hirotsugu K.
Dear Bjoern Hering,
 
Thank you so much for your information and advice.
I agree and fully understand your message.
Now it is very difficult to know the correct information.
I’m working in a national research institute where located in Tsukuba (200km distance from there).
Even this condition, now they want to start to work!!
I just move to „safe“ place in that time, and meet with my loving father and mother.
„News“ just report things which is already happened.
„Government“ just make decision depend on condition.
In this system, public system can not make good advice.
Only my father said there is a potential „meltdown“. in that time because out of control.
It is better to escape from there even though pay high cost.
If it was happened, it will be over.
 
Now I’m very wondering about meaning of „humanity“.
What does it means?
they just work for their system(company, economy).
remind „modern times“ by Charles Spencer Chaplin….
Work correctly like a machine is good things.
If dont help it, they will said are you h – an?
This is current education. (but I’m not sure another country).
But, I believe most important things is „love“ more than it.
love family and friend.
Even my family is crying, should I back to there for my work?
 
Again Thank you again your message.
If you possible, please give me your opinion.
I’m still confused, back or not.
 
Hirotsugu
 
14. March  –  08:40
Bjoern Hering
Fukushima is still not under control , a 3rd reactor is defect. News here are full of talking about danger with radioactivity. This is the worst disaster your country had since ww2. 10.000 people died, 600.000 evacuated. government gives jod pills to the people because of radioactivity. 150 got infected by radioactivity. i would not even think of going back to work. stay with your family in a safe place. or leave the country till situation is under control. This is no game. This is seriously dangerous. This is my advise. Keep me updated and all the best for your family,
Bjoern
 
14. March  –  09:40
Hirotsugu K.
Dearest Bjoern,
I’m really appreciate to receive your advice.
I also think and want to prepare a plant to escape from my country.
I already try to ask and my love country Indonesia and Mexico’s friends already say ok I live in there.  My relatives still stay in Tokyo and Chiba for their work.
My friends also live in near Tsukuba.
I just say please care your life more than work.
I think Fukushima is getting worth more than before.
And I’m wondering about giving sea water to reactor, where go out it….
I can not understand why government don’t try to move people from there who live in there. If there is some suggestion from your government and you, please inform me.
I can not say all Japanese government choice is correct.
Much thanks for you. Keep in touch.
Hirotsugu
 
14. March  –  10:36
Bjoern Hering
dear Hirotsugu,
you seem to be an intelligent and philosophical character. Thinking about live, work and humanity makes you strong. I would leave to friends outa Japan if I could afford it, too. Japans economy will be down for months. Once it is safe to go back you can get jobs everywhere, rebuilding your country. On the news they say that there can be 3 possible meltdowns in Fukushima. there was one meltdown in Tschernobyl 25 years ago and it was a disaster for the people. in this situation its time to create egoistic thoughts and decisions. I keep you updated,
Bjoern
 
14. March  –  10:51
Hirotsugu K.
Dear Bjoern,
thank you for your warm word about me.
there is a reason why I think about this.
because my father have been opposed nuclear plant from when I was child. In this reason, in Oita there is no nuclear plant until now. my father and friends made a song to protest it and make protest concert in that time. the term in that time is „we’re people who dont need nuclear plant“. He and my family create house by ourselves and I start to learn about ecological engineering.  My carrier you can find from my website.
I do my best and want to use my full network.
I want to make a plan to escape from here as soon as possible.
Thank you for your support.
Keep in touch.
Hirotsugu
 
14. March  –  19:31
Bjoern Hering
Dear Hirotsugu,
Some updates from European newscenters:
 
3 reactors in Fukushima still not under control. Government confirmed that there is a radioactive cloud from Fukushima in the air. Wind will turn Tuesday morning about 4 am to north-east. Very possible that the cloud will hit Tokyo before turning east towards the ocean again. And the announced RAIN, too. Weather experts in Europe are very convinced that parts of Tokyo may be contaminated with Caesium. Government is giving Jod pills to the people.
I am not sure how much you can trust these news. Staying south sounds still like a good idea. Going back to work in your hometown sounds like a joke to me now. Take care my friend,
Bjoern
p.s. German government is thinking over to close down nuclear plants earlier as announced. The crisis in your country started big protest waves against nuclear plants with thousands of people in the streets. Just like in the 1960s, just like your Dad did.
 
15. March  –  01:08
Hirotsugu K.
Dear Bjoern,
Thank you for your message.
Only your message is from Europe.
So, it is very important for me.
 
I want to cry but should think what should I do.
I’m planning to escape from Japan to Indonesia.
 
Now I’m so sad… it was happed.
Now 4th reactor in Fukushima also not under control now….
 
15. March  –  10:26
Bjoern Hering
dearest Hirotsugu,
we cry with you. Its hard for me and for Linda to go to work these days, acting like nothing happened. our thoughts are with you. the whole world is holding their breath. i am just glad you didnt go back. the cloud is over your hometown, too. People leaving Tokyo as well. there is no panic out there what is good. Stay with your family in a safe place. Fukushima will definitely end in a disaster. on the news the said it is getting worse for people working in the control rooms without getting long time injuries. Keep me updated,
Bjoern
 
15. March  –  11:53
Hirotsugu K.
Dearest Bjoern,
Your message is really warm for me.
This is first time to see my father’s tears in my life.
But it is not time to cry, it is time to act.
I already know that we lost east side of Japan.
Now I’m thinking how to stop another nuclear plant in Japan.
It is very difficult to do it.
Because, people still believe that they need energy to live.
I want to give lecture for people who live in here.
But bit difficult how many people can gather here.
my father try to do it in 30 years ago, but it is not to be….
Please advice how people understand or how to do it…
Your country…
Please give me information about your country experience…
I dont want to work in my office again…
I’m so sad and bit panic… but I want to think…
Hirotsugu
 
15. March  –  14:42
Hirotsugu K.
we can not stop nuclear plant.
even though earthquake near there.
now in Tokai has earthquake but nuclear plant still working.
please press from oversea.
we need to power from oversea.

15. March  –  21:05
Bjoern Hering
Dearest Hirotsugu,
 
I cant give you an advice how to convince the people…the answer would hit you into the face. The reason why our government is re-thinking the nuclear power issue is because of the fate of your country. Now your nation is carrying this burden for the rest of us. Anti-nuclear protests are going on in the streets here. The German government decided to stop 2 nuclear plants (from 17) that are similar to the Fukushima reactors. They also want to check 5 more on safety. Why does it need that catastrophe for first steps like this? I hope this unbelievable drama in your country will change the people’s minds. Governments have to stop the lobbyism of the nuclear industry. To be honest: This will not happen in the near future. Lobbyism is always too strong.
How are you today? How is your family doing? Could you talk to friends, brothers, sisters? I understand that you don´t wanna go back to the office again. Please stay in the south. On the news they said people are still leaving the north because of radioactive clouds. Tokio has a higher radioactivity level. German Non Profit Organisations bringing back their rescue-units to Germany because irradiation could be too dangerous. Lufthansa, our biggest airline, is not flying to Tokyo any more. Japanese government is giving first aid info to the people in case of nuclear diseases. That´s what’s on the news today. Take these in information really serious. I would stay with my family. Please send them greetings from me. Take care and keep me updated,
Bjoern
 
16. March  –  14:44
Hirotsugu K.
Dearest Bjoern,
Thank you. I can totally agree your country doing.
But Japanese.. what a sick…..
 
I try to image for the near future in my country.
This is my image (not real) about Japan;
A class of nuclear radiation safety will be started in elementary school.
They will not be able to graduate if they can not pass this exam.
New university for high education about management of nuclear plant will be opened in Fukushima. New Japanese fashion style to protect nuclear radiation will be shown in Akihabara. Japanese idol group will support it.
People works under high radiation to produce top class eco car in the world.
They said „we have most ecological technology in the world“.
Do you want to buy? Sorry just kidding. lol
Yes. My image is like Zombie nation…..
Japanese media still say radiation is safe. 🙁
 
I already discussed with my family about the possibility to escape from Japan.
Bit difficult for them, because my brother still works in company in Oita.
I already said the important things is safe and life.
But he may can not separate with his girl friend.
And our family need to pay debt.
I already give a lot of information about nuclear radiation for my friends. But only few people could understand and just do the protection.
Now my institute want to recovery in there.
I receive many mail from them.
 
everything was changed.
now I feel sad and bit tired.
bit difficult to think about money and life.
I only hope to get good for life.
 
Thank you for your great support every time.
My family also want to send greetings for you.
Hirotsugu
 
16. March  –  20:31
Bjoern Hering
Hirotsugu,
 
your imagination of Japan amused me, only the worst situations can create the best sarcasm. I can’t believe every country in the world has these stupid Idol shows 🙂 This would be my picture of the apocalypse: No people on the planet any more, only TV screens showing these Idol shows in hot rotation.
Today a friend told me that someone he know is married to a Japanese girl, they live in Japan and are leaving to Germany now. She got fired from her job directly. But you know what? They don’t care at all. This situation is too extreme to just get back to a normal life. Sometimes you can turn a situation like this into a new path of life. Is your institute asking you to come back? Would you be able find a job in the south, too?
I only can advise you to stay in the south. Evacuation zone is now 30 kilometres around Fukushima. Your hometown is only 170 kilometres more. Remember the facts from Tschernobyl in Russia 25 years ago. Radioactive clouds, smoke, dust – 200 kilometres are nothing for weather conditions. Fukushima is on our TV stations 24 hours a day. The world is scared. Experts are talking and talking and talking. Japan asked for international help today. We have donation hotlines now on TV. People in the north are still out of water, food and medicine. Drinking water from the tab can be contaminated with radioactivity. Take this as serious information. Don´t let the „normal life“ around you blind you from the danger. This is a century catastrophe. Pray to god for these 50 men in the control room. They are already heroes. Hope they can turn the situation. To be honest – this would be luck like winning in a lottery. Linda is next door, watching the news, crying. Take care my friend and write down what’s on your mind. I will be here and I will listen to you.
Bjoern
 
17. March  –  02:57
Hirotsugu K.
Dearest Bjoern,
Thank you so much.
I hope I can get job in south…
Do you know website where can watch about Fukushima?
Japanese TV finally stop to show it….
Keep in touch
Hirotsugu
 
17. March  –  06:54
Bjoern Hering
Try http://www.reuters.com/
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/
http://news.google.co.uk/
or CNN. I don’t know how good they are but they show topics in English. Later,
Bjoern
 
17. March  –  22:41
Bjoern Hering
On the news they say that it’s still very critical. A lot of European and US concerns bringing back their citizens. They ordered them to leave Tokyo. In a worst case scenario there will be a 500 kilometre area around Fukushima in danger. They give the workers 2 more days to fight this scenario. They do what they can. I saw the videos of the reactor today, shoot by one of the helicopter crews. It looks awful. The reactor 3 is totally damaged, a big hole in the wall and no water in it. They try to set up a cable for electricity to run the coolers. I am so glad you went south so early. We all are staring at your country and pray for the best. What a disaster people don’t get help in the destroyed villages. They still have no food and are freezing to death. International help must be way faster!! Take care my friend,
Bjoern
 
18. March  –  00:35
Hirotsugu K.
Dearest Bjoern,
yes… next 48 hour seems time limit.
Japanese already lost the word of „safe“.
Even though danger they will make new standard….
 
We just start to make a big dance event in 19 night to 20 under full moon.
We need dance to stop every disaster.
In my head, I’d like to burn out all electric device.
but still struggle.
Do you have a plan in that time?
Hirotsugu
 
18. March  –  06:49
Bjoern Hering
Hirotsugu,
A dance event under full moon? What a beautiful idea! No, I have no plans in that time. We will be here at our place. Guess we will be dancing, too!
Bjoern
 
21. March  –  11:57
Hirotsugu K.
Dear Bjoern,
 
I got information about Japanese nuclear pollution from your country.
http://www.dwd.de/
http://www.dwd.de/bvbw/generator/DWDWWW/Content/Oeffentlichkeit/KU/KUPK/Homepage/Aktuelles/Sonderbericht__Bild4,templateId=poster,property=poster.png
very useful information.
On the other hand, all Japanese media said current pollution is safe.
I already disappointed it.
How many people believe and spend usual life.
very scare nation…
Hirotsugu
 
21. March – 21.14
Bjoern Hering
Dearest Hirotsugu,
How are you doing these days? How are your plans for the future?
We are thinking of you every day. Thanks for keeping the communication.
Bjoern
 
 
At this point the communication between Hirotsugu and me stopped. We once tried to make another contact in May 2011 but I got no information where he lives and works now. His Facebook account got deleted some days later and I lost all contact to him. Dear Hirotsugu K., thank you that you chose me as your contact person. Hopefully I could help you with my limited and subjective knowledge. I wish all the best for you and your family. Take care and contact me back if you get the chance. Your friend Bjoern.

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About the author

Bjoern Hering lebt seit über 30 Jahren in Dortmund, aufgewachsen zwischen Graffiti, schwitzigen Konzerten und haufenweise Instrumentenkabeln. Bjoern liebt das Reisen und das Entdecken von Vergänglichem inmitten von hektischem Großstadttreiben. Auf seinem Blog Last Junkies On Earth dokumentiert er das Treiben seiner Stadt.

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