It’s the fifth anniversary of the Fukushima disaster, when an earthquake led to a tsunami which led to a nuclear plant being destroyed. Japanese locals are still trying to cope with both health-related concerns and a huge cultural shift:
“In Japanese society, self-interest is inextricably tied to family, work, and community. But the Fukushima disaster has sliced through those ties like an axe coming down on a bundle of rope. Virtually overnight, tens of thousands of people were set adrift. What looks on the surface like frivolous squabbles are expressions of the profound anxiety many people feel about their place in post-Fukushima Japan. The question of returning home has become a kind of loyalty test that nobody can pass, because home no longer exists.
Nobody understands this better than Kiyoshi Watanabe, president of Naraha’s commerce and industry association and a stolid member of the generation that had a duty, as he puts it, ‘to keep the house and the family tombs.’ Watanabe has returned to Naraha to help ‘create more opportunities over the next three to five years for younger people to come back and find work.’ It won’t be easy. Paradoxically, the disaster has liberated young people from traditional obligations that kept families bound to the same area, even the same house, for generations. Naraha has to reinvent itself to attract new blood.
‘In the past, even if the first son lives in some other place, he has to come back to take care of his parents if they ask,’ Watanabe explains. ‘But now he has a good excuse not to: radiation. The parents can’t say anything.’”
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