Fukushima children start new school after f leeing radiation

By Yuri Kageyama
Associated Press


Kokoro Kamiyama, 13, left in foreground, attends an opening ceremony of her Aida Junior High School on April 5, as she starts her new life in Matsumoto, central Japan, after moving from Fukushima. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)

MATSUMOTO, Japan (AP) – The 12-year-old girl didn’t want to leave her younger brother, and her grandparents didn’t want her to go away. But a family living near the “no-go zone” surrounding Japan’s destroyed nuclear plant has other things to consider.

Yukie Hashimoto and her husband sent their daughter 200 miles away to the picturesque ski town of Matsumoto, where the mayor offered to take in and educate young people living in the shadow of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant.

Research has not shown the children to be in clear danger from exposure to low-dose radiation, but mistrust of the authorities remains high. The Hashimoto family, and the parents of seven other children, accepted the offer.

“I didn’t really believe things are as safe as the government is telling us,” said Hashimoto, who lives in Koriyama, about 20 miles west of the 20-kilometer no-go zone. “We made our decision with her future, 10 years and 20 years later, in mind.”

The eight students — seven in junior high school and one in elementary school — began their new lives this month, with the beginning of Japan’s school year. They live in a rented house with bunk beds and live-in caretakers.

The project is the brainchild of Mayor Akira Sugenoya, a medical doctor who performed more than 100 thyroid cancer surgeries in neighboring Belarus after the 1986 Chernobyl catastrophe.

Divisive decision

For those outside the largely off-limits 20-kilometer zone, taking such a drastic step is relatively rare. The Hashimoto family went back and forth.

A wide range of views on the risks of radiation has divided both their family and entire communities. Hashimoto was nervous about speaking to a reporter, because raising questions can get one branded as a troublemaker. She requested that her daughter remain anonymous for fear of a backlash.

Like many near the Fukushima plant, Hashimoto routinely measured the radioactivity in her neighborhood. Some spots were a bit high, in a gray area where science is divided about the longtime effects. Children are far more vulnerable to radiation than adults.

The girl’s grandparents and her college-age brother find the fretting about radiation ridiculous. But for the 12-year-old herself, the sticking point was her 5-year-old younger brother, who cannot be a part of the program, which starts at third grade.

The girl said she was worried that she wouldn’t be there to watch over the boy, making sure he wore masks and didn’t eat local food.

Then the girl started getting nosebleeds and growing pale and lethargic. That may have had nothing to do with radiation, but it made Hashimoto decide to get her out, and her husband relented.

“The low-dose radiation is continuing. There is no precedent. We don’t know what effect that will have on our children,” Hashimoto said.

Cancer diagnoses

So far, 33 children have been diagnosed with thyroid cancer in Fukushima in the last three years among 270,000 checked, 18 years old and under. Thyroid cancer among children is rare at a handful in a million.

Some experts say the higher cases are merely a result of more rigorous checking, and that the surge in thyroid cancer did not surface until four or five years after Chernobyl.

The U.N. Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation has concluded that cancer rates won’t increase in a discernible way, estimating the risk for thyroid cancer to be for “fewer than 1,000 children.”

“The bottom line is, no one knows for sure. What we do know is that the cases of cancer are up, and so naturally we are worried,” said Hiroshi Ueki, a former Fukushima resident, who moved with his wife and two children, and currently oversees the nonprofit Matsumoto project. It relies heavily on donations. The parents pay 30,000 yen ($300) a month to cover basic living expenses.

A recent government study by the National Center for Child Health and Development found one in four children from the prefectures struck by the 2011 disaster, including Fukushima, suffered depression, anxiety, and other mental problems.

Kokoro Kamiyama, 13, the first child to sign on to the Matsumoto project, was prone to skipping school when she was in Fukushima, which her mother believes was a sign of stress from worrying about radiation.

Living through the 2011 disaster made her decide to be a doctor when she grows up, she says in a soft voice. She is happy she can run around outdoors in Matsumoto without wearing a mask.

“The air feels so clean here,” Kamiyama said. “I love playing badminton. And tag.”

Last week, Kamiyama looked very much at home as she sat in the gymnasium decorated with flowers at Aida Junior High School for a school opening ceremony.

So did Hashimoto’s daughter, though she had a rough start in Matsumoto. She was in constant tears for the first few days, but by Friday, she said she had made lots of great friends.

Those friends are mostly her fellow boarders, from Fukushima. They’re sticking together. (end)

No related content found.

4 Responses to “Fukushima children start new school after f leeing radiation”

  1. There are rare fumes from electronic cigarettes, and that enables
    a smoker to smoke safely to puff a cigarette even frankly in front of
    the family members or children. Use it will a nicotine patch to fight the
    addiction head on. As the name suggests, ecig is an electronic smoking
    device which is powered by a battery.

  2. awhich, obviously, doesn’t consider the sting
    from these instant-kill spike pits that litter the landscape
    like Starbucks coffee stores. The objective
    of the web web sites would be to give enjoyable games which ought to only be generally found in casinos.

    However, all parents must make sure that what your kid is up to while surfing the internet.

    Here is my webpage … how to hack crazy taxi

  3. Most people check their emails at least twice a day. If you are selling golf clubs, you can build a series having some basic information about it.
    When it comes to business, there has to be
    a technique that can facilitate business communication and marketing
    purposes in a cost-effective and quick way.

    Have a look at my site email marketing software download

  4. You can’t get your ex back through sorrow or pity, or by trying to guilt her into going back out with you.
    I don’t know about most of you, but when I break up with
    someone, I try not to be places where I know they’re going to be.
    Things like this can make your ex boyfriend come back to

    my web page; I want him back (https://Northmarion.Zendesk.com)


Leave a Reply


Community Calendar

Subscribe to our e-news