On 25-26 November 2017, we held "Dialogue with residents of Yamakiya to share current situations" in Yamakiya district, Kawamata Town.
On the first day, we had a tour around Yamakiya district. Gathered at
Kawamata Town Office in the morning, and after having had a greeting
from Mr Kanemasa Sato, the mayor of Kawamata Town, we set off in two
separate buses. The following description is based on the schedule of
the group which Ando had attended.
Yamakiya district is in the Abukuma highlands. Nevertheless located in
the mountain area, the terrain is very gentry-sloping around there,
letting you forget the fact that you are on the mountaintop.
Agriculture had flourished since long ago, and also the land had been
used for grazing since before the war, utilizing the gentle terrain.
Cattle grazing had been active before the disaster, and it is told
that military horses had been also raised before the war. This tells
the long history as a rangeland.
Climbing long stairs, we first visited Yasaka Shrine, which has a roof
covered with copper sheeting. At the shrine, a performance called
"Sanbiki-shishimai (dance of three lions)", which is told it has a
history more than 300 years, is offered on every October. This custom
had been paused by the evacuation order from the accident. But
following the lift of the order, the performance is resumed on October
2017, the first time in seven years. Originally, performers should be
boys around ten or eleven years old, but this time adults performed
instead since there are few children in the district.
We heard some stories of troubles, e.g. they started to patrol around
the shrine while the period of the evacuation order, especially to
secure the copper sheeting of the roof from robbery.
Unfortunately it got cold on the day, and it snowed and hailed while
we visited the Yasaka shrine, so we turned up the collar of our coat
while the visit.
Then, we visited Ms Kuniko Hirono, who cultivates lisianthus. Yamakiya
has been known as one of the best lisianthus-producing districts from
way back, for its rich flower colour brought from the temperature
difference and its high quality.
The sudden NPP accident and the following evacuation order had forced
to discontinue the production. Not a few people had nothing to do at
the refuge as they lost their farmworks, but within them, she told
that she worked hard instead as a board member of the temporary houses
and so on. Even from before of the lift of the evacuation order it had
been allowed to resume the production of lisianthus in Yamakiya, but
she told that at the early stage she had been dispirited seeing ruined
greenhouse by heavy snowfall after the evacuation and so on. Even so,
she was encouraged by some factors, such as that marketers told there
is hardly any reputational damage for lisianthus. Consulting with her
family, she finally has managed to resume the production, with rebuilt
facilities such as greenhouses by utilizing subsidies and so on. It
was impressive that she told smiling that she loves lisianthus.
However, while the production pause, some new variations of lisianthus
have been introduced, and market preferences have been changed for
flower training (arrangement of branches and number of flowers). So
some trial and error were needed to update the situation awareness,
but with this effort, she becomes able to keep the satisfactory
quality, and the market also values it highly. I realized that
producer-side efforts are also needed to update the situation when
restarting production for flowers and ornamental plants, which are
influenced by the technical advance and the fashion of the times.
She told that now her biggest trouble is short of hands, since from
decreased population by the evacuation, there are few neighbours who
come and help farmwork in a busy season. She concluded her talk by
saying that one will enjoy agriculture, especially the culture of
lisianthus, so if there are young people who want to try it, she
welcomes them to join.
Next, we visited the forest verification site in Yamakiya district.
Chiba University and other institutes continuously
observe the dynamism of cesium in the forest. This time we had an
on-site explanation from Dr Tatsuaki Kobayashi from Chiba University.
He explained that the continuous investigation here shows that the
most part of cesium-137 stays in the forest floor. Cesium is hardly
flown out to the outside water, and mostly stored in the forest.
Especially in the forest floor, cesium stays in black and soft soil
within about five-centimeter depth, and no tendency is observed to
sink into the deeper soil. And he told the absorption of cesium-137
into timber varies by the tree species. In case of red pine there is
virtually no absorption, but in case of Quercus serrata it slightly
absorbs and transfers cesium. That said, even in case of Quercus
serrata, the overwhelming majority of cesium-137 is deposited on the
bark in the current situation. Still it seems we need to keep the
In the afternoon we resumed the tour by visiting a temporary storage
site of decontamination wastes located in Yamakiya district. A part of
the decontamination wastes, stored in the place which had once been
ricefield, is currently being transferred to intermediate storage
facilities. There are totally 22 temporary storage sites in Yamakiya
district, and the total amount of the stored decontamination wastes is
about 220,000 bags. Within them, as of 30 November, 100,000 bags are
already transferred and about 100,000 bags still remain.
We would like
to thank people from Fukushima Regional Environmental Administration
Office of Ministry of Environment, and on-site management people,
despite it being a holiday.
Reference: Kawamata Town webpage for temporary storage sites (Japanese)
Finally, we visited Mr Kinichi Ouchi in Yagi area. The entire Yamakiya
district is a place of scenic beauty surrounded by gentle hills, and
furthermore, Yagi area is prominent within the district. So the
scenery from his house was excellent. It was impressive that he often
told he wish to protect and care the beautiful scenery.
He told that the disaster came just when things were going smoothly
for his farm of the greenhouse cultivation of mini tomato after many
troubles. The NPP accident and evacuation ruined the farm, just after
he'd thought he can take some repose. Because he had to care his old
mother at that time, he evacuated after the completion of temporary
housing construction to avoid multiple movements during the
evacuation. He also worked as a board member of the temporary houses,
rather harder than he and his wife had before the disaster. Still,
every day he visited his house twice a day, taking two hours once, to
feed his dog left at the house. The only time he couldn't go was when
heavy snow had blocked the road, and even at that time, he walked to
the house pushing the snow aside, after driving a car up to halfway,
as soon as the snow had been cleared from the nearby main road.
He said he is currently preparing to start greenhouse cultivation of
anthurium, not an edible product which has a concern for reputational
damage. Questioned that how official supports from the government,
municipality and experts helped his business, he answered that he
expects nothing from such official supports. He told he had done
everything by himself from before the disaster, and still he is doing.