Home will never be the same again for elderly couple evacuated from Fukushima

Mr Hideji Suzuki, 78, and Mrs Toshiko Suzuki, 72, evacuees from Iitate village in Fukushima prefecture, Japan.
Mr Hideji Suzuki, 78, and Mrs Toshiko Suzuki, 72, evacuees from Iitate village in Fukushima prefecture, Japan.ST PHOTO: SEOW BEI YI
Mr Hideji Suzuki, 78, and Mrs Toshiko Suzuki, 72, evacuees from Iitate village in Fukushima prefecture, Japan.
Mr Hideji Suzuki, 78, and Mrs Toshiko Suzuki, 72, evacuees from Iitate village in Fukushima prefecture, Japan. ST PHOTO: SEOW BEI YI

FUKUSHIMA, JAPAN - “Even if we wanted to return home, we can’t,” said Mrs Toshiko Suzuki, 72, when asked about her plans to relocate if evacuation orders on her village in Fukushima prefecture were lifted.

“Our house is in the mountains, which cannot be decontaminated,” said her husband, 78-year-old Hideji Suzuki.

The couple had expected to return home not long after the disaster, but the wait of one to two years soon became five years.

“Our lives are completely different now,” Mrs Suzuki told The Straits Times from the temporary housing quarters in Fukushima city, an hour’s drive from the couple’s home.

 
 
 
 
 
 

“After years of living here, our bodies have weakened. Even if we returned to the village to become farmers again, we might not be able to do the same work.”

She added that the though of returning to a village with a much smaller population is also too daunting for them.

“It’s not as though we can see our neighbours when they are at home ordinarily, but knowing that everyone else is nearby, you don’t feel lonely.”

Nonetheless, the couple has tried to stay positive in the wake of the nuclear disaster.

The bright side, said Mrs Suzuki, is that the 150 or so residents in the same housing area all hail from the same village - the Iitate village. 

“Even if we have not seen each other’s faces before, it is a familiar community,” she said, adding that this has made it easier getting used to a new environment. 
Many people living in the temporary housing quarters are relatives.

The couple plans to move to Minamisoma city in the coastal area of Fukushima to live with their son. Their three daughters live in Tokyo. 

“As people move away eventually, the community we have rebuilt here (at the temporary housing area) will collapse as well,” said Mr Suzuki. “We’ll all be going to new places and start from zero again. That is not easy.”

byseow@sph.com.sg