From Fukushima, Yoko sudo

Can you tell us about your life before the earthquake? How did you spend your days?
Before the earthquake I cultivated land in Fukushima. I would regularly sell the produce from my organic vegetable plot to restaurants or buying groups for home consumption. I started seven years ago, and since then I have grown around 70 different types of vegetable. Immediately after the accident, I recorded over 10,000 becquerels in my field. After plowing, that fell to 5,000 bq. I try to protect myself and not expose myself to the radioactivity of the soil and the air. So that I could keep working, I rented a 2-hectare field, where less radioactivity has been detected, and I am trying to grow soy beans. The soy removes the radioactivity: There is no trace of it in the oil produced from the beans. Wheat has the same ability, I’ll try it after the soy harvest. I am trying everything possible to stay in Fukushima and keep farming.

Can you go back to “normality”?
My area, far from the coast, was not struck by the tsunami. I didn’t lose any family. But in the coastal area, the situation has not normalized, there are still many refugees and there are people who are dying alone. Reconstruction has gone ahead, but now it is time to take care of the refugees, their employment and also their mental condition.

Are you still afraid of food?
There are still agricultural and seafood products that are not allowed to be sold. In every town there are laboratories working to analyze samples. But there is still no trust. Young parents are especially mistrustful and do not give local food to their children, even though the level of radiation is below the allowed limit.

How are you working to clean up the area? Is there any hope that contaminated land will be restored? Do you think that the government is doing enough to help?
We are trying to do everything we can to clean up the area. For example, in the field where the level of radiation has gone over the limit, we are removing the surface layer and turning over the soil. Additionally, many farmers have sprinkled their fields with zeolite, following the instructions of the authorities. Unfortunately, however, this work will not completely clean the land but only stop radioactive substances from transferring to the crops. At the start of September, they finally started clearing away the highly contaminated soil and rubble from the coastal area. This is an incentive to start cleaning up the big residential areas, but unfortunately we still don’t have a way of cleaning up the vast contaminated zone that includes the rivers, mountains and forests. 

We mostly know Japanese cuisine through restaurants and sushi bars, but we know very little about its traditions and principles and how people eat every day. Can you tell us about the traditions of your region? What do you eat at home? And in restaurants?
At home we eat rice, miso soup, vegetables, fish and meat mostly, and fermented foods: miso, soy sauce, salted vegetables, fermented soya (natto). When we eat out, we eat different things: Italian food, French, Japanese, etc.

In Turin, you will be participating in the conference “The Seeds of Reconstruction,” a meeting which wants to transmit a message of hope and help those who are going through similar struggles by recounting positive examples. Can you finish by telling us what message you want to give and how you are working to make sure that hope becomes reality?
Now we have to make a big effort to confront our problems and to make sure we don’t leave our damage for future generations. I’m staying in Fukushima so that I can do my best. I don’t want people to think “It’s not worth working for Fukushima.” All of my efforts are directed towards the city I love and creating a utopia of a sustainable society, and I am working so that Fukushima can become that utopia soon.

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