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Day 2: Field Trip in Fukushima

Activities of college student volunteers

For Day 2 of the field trip, the JRCS asked nine college student volunteers from Fukushima University and Fukushima Medical University to plan the trip and act as guides in order to convey the current situation of Fukushima to the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies from around the world.
 
First, the students set their own theme for the field trip: “Look to merits of Fukushima more than negative images.” Based on the theme, they thoroughly discussed a selection of places to visit, an explanation of each place and finally hammered out an itinerary. On the bus between stops, the students explained in English the overview of the places to visit, efforts for reconstruction and the current situation of Fukushima. The students said that they learned a lot from the participants’ different views, and that this became an invaluable experience to them.
 
The following is what the student volunteers had to say about their activities for the field trip.

Thoughts in selecting the trip route and places to visit


Stop 1: Kawamata Town (Temporary Gymnasium in Iitate Village)
Funded by international donations from Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, construction of the temporary gymnasium in Iitate Village was supported by the Japanese Red Cross Society (JRCS) as educational support of Recovery Programmes for People Affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami. So, we strongly wanted them to see the gymnasium.
 
Stop 2: Temporary storage area for soil from decontamination in Iitate Village (looking from the bus window)
We wanted the trip participants to look at the contaminated soil storage area. You can see a temporary storage area not only here but anywhere in Fukushima City.
 

Meetig Room

Stop 3: Municipal Office of Namie Town
The trip participants entered Namie Town with a special prior permission. Living in the town is not allowed due to the effects from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant accident. Most people seen in the town were workers involved in decontaminations and other works.
 
Every house showed damages from the earthquake which illustrated the magnitude of the earthquake. Before the disaster, there should have been many people out in the street in front of the railway station, but at the moment a broken street lamp pole was left with the upper part on the ground. It was a striking sight.
 
Ukedo Area in Namie Town, a coastal area, was devastated by the tsunami. A lot of debris and fishing boats were washed onto the land. This sight showed the enormity of the tsunami. In this area, there is a little cenotaph for the earthquake and tsunami victims. Mr. As Sy, Secretary General of the IFRC, paid a floral tribute at the cenotaph on behalf of the trip participants and then all of them observed a silent prayer.
 
Namie Town lies wide east and west. Depending on the wind direction at the time of the nuclear accident, the radiation level was high even in some areas which are far from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, and low in other areas close to the power plant. There are three restricted areas which were decided according to the radiation level. There is no prospect about when former residents will be able to return. It is not easy for us to imagine how impatiently and eagerly they are waiting for the day when they can return to their homes, but we hope as citizens of Fukushima that they can return as soon as possible.

Namie Town

Stop 4: Haragama Fishing Port in Soma City
The fishing port was devastated by the earthquake and tsunami. Resumption of fishing was delayed by harmful rumors of contaminated sea water due to the radiation effects of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant accident. We were told that due to the accident the number of fishermen decreased to less than half of 800, which was the highest number before the earthquake. Haragama used to be a busy fishing port for many types of fish including flatfish and flounder.
 
It has been three years since the earthquake. The damaged fishing port and warehouses were recovered, and people who used to be involved in fishing have been gradually returning. At the moment, experimental operations of fishing are being performed on the condition that the caught fish are monitored and the results disclosed. Some kinds of fish are still restricted from shipment because of the effects from radiation. But little radiation is detected from fish allowed to be shipped, and we are gradually seeing a situation where people can eat fish from Fukushima reassured.
 
People of Haragama Fishing Port told us: “We continue to work hard to have no shipment-restricted fish.” We felt their strong determination for reconstruction. The sky was clear on the trip day. We saw some of the trip participants take pictures of people fishing and the beautiful sea. We think that the participants could see the damage of the earthquake, the tsunami and the Fukushima Daiichi Accident but also see many people who are moving forward with their lives.

Haragama Fishing Port in the City of Soma

Stop 5: Ice cream shop in Date City
Food produced in the areas near the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant after the disaster was tested for food safety. There were a lot of foods which were not allowed to be shipped. Thanks to this system, all foods on the market were safe because they passed the test. However, harmful rumors largely decreased sales, which struck the farmers. We wanted to wipe out such harmful rumors and also wanted the trip participants to have some delicious foods of Fukushima. With that thought, we included a visit to this ice cream shop in the plan. It looked like the participants enjoyed the ice cream sipping a cup of hot coffee because it was cold on that day. We hope that this visit can help reduce harmful rumors in other countries as much as possible.

Jersey-cow-milk Ice cream shop in Date City

Stop 6: Sasaya-East Temporary Housing
Some people evacuated from their homes due to the earthquake, the tsunami and the Fukushima Daiichi Accident are living in temporary housing set up in various places in Fukushima. We were told that about 400 people forming 175 households are living in this temporary housing. They evacuated from coastal areas of Namie Town including Ukedo Area. Construction of temporary housing of this type takes 2 - 3 months. There are three types of units prepared here. An alarming lamp is installed in front of the unit for the elderly. Electric household appliances (refrigerator, TV and microwave oven and etc.) were provided for this temporary housing by the JRCS. After the earthquake, the people were forced to evacuate their homes without bringing anything and they were pleased with the provision.
 
Survivors living under evacuation circumstances are scattered across Japan. We think that this field trip was meaningful in terms that the trip participants look at the current situation of the survivors and the roles of the JRCS.

 

Sasaya-East Temporary Housing

After the field trip


Prior to the planning of this trip, we were informed that the Reference Group Meeting was aimed at responding to nuclear and radiological emergencies. So, we wanted to include merits of Fukushima and the debunking of harmful rumors into the field trip plan, as well as looking at the damages that people incurred from the nuclear accident and the benefits of JRCS activities. Based on these aspects, we made a plan.
 
We think that what the participants saw in the restricted area left them with a strong impression, and what they directly heard from the people evacuated from their hometown made the situation in Fukushima more realistic than on TV. At the ice cream shop in Date City, the participants said: “This ice cream is delicious.” We think this trip helped them know that Fukushima is gradually recovering. Our plan for the field trip was focused on conveying the real situation in a direct way instead of in data, and we think that we could accomplish the purpose.
 
Most of the nine student volunteers were from other than Fukushima Prefecture, and we learned a lot of things through the process, from planning the day to guiding the participants. We also think that this experience will contribute to our confidence for the future. If we spread the knowledge and experience that we learned this time as much as possible, we, the college students, will face response to nuclear emergencies, even if that may not involve direct activities.

 

Activities of college student volunteers

Field trip reviews by the student volunteers


I was very much impressed by the members of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies from overseas listening seriously to explanations and asking many questions. Before this trip, I actually did not try to engage in the trip so actively. I was unconsciously reluctant to be involved in this activity. However, as I saw the serious attitude of the trip participants coming from abroad, I came to strongly think that I have to seriously face issues of nuclear power and the reconstruction of Fukushima, because I am living here in Fukushima. Also, I was inspired by these joint activities with the students of Fukushima Medical University. (Freshman, male, Fukushima University)
 
Just because I was interested in the trip, I decided to participate in the planning activity. I mean I had no so serious intention at first. However, on the trip day, as I saw the Red Cross and Red Crescent members who came from abroad listening to explanations and asking serious questions at each place, I realized that I had been involved in activities of responsibility. And that inspired me to learn about Fukushima and Red Cross activities. This activity gave me a very good experience.
(Freshman, male, Fukushima Medical University)
 
The field trip was planned as part of the Reference Group Meeting on Nuclear & Radiological Emergency Preparedness and aimed at understanding the current situation of Fukushima. I learned a lot from this one-day guiding of the members of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies of other countries. Particularly, when I saw them actively ask questions about the radiation effects and the reconstruction progress at every visiting place including a fishing port which incurred the radiation effects, I recognized again that the whole world is watching closely the recovery from the Fukushima Daiichi Accident. At the same time, I realized that there are still many countries which are concerned about areas even with less than standard values of radiation level. (Freshman, male, Fukushima Medical University)
 
This completely new experience was very good to me, which was guiding of field trip participants from other countries. At the beginning of the trip, I was too nervous to talk to them. But the participants were so kind and friendly, and I was able to relax. Later at the temporary housing, I was able to guide them with more smiles than when the trip started. But when the participants talked to me in English, I could not reply to them because of my poor English ability. So, this strongly inspired me to study English more. I am very glad for this invaluable experience. Thank you. (Freshman, female, Fukushima University)

Pre-meeting

The college student volunteers