The Nuclear Family
From the 70th Anniversary of the Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki through the 5th Anniversary of the Fukushima Disaster, I interviewed people affected by nuclear technology. With the support of Fulbright and National Geographic, I started a blogumentary The Nuclear Family where I post news, videos and photos related to all things nuclear.
Yoshie Oka revisited the bunker where she survived the atomic bombing of Hiroshima as a young girl. Read her story and her Message to President Obama. I published it with National Geographic News on May 26, 2016.
I couldn't believe it when I heard it. President Obama mentioned me in his speech yesterday in Hiroshima. When he said, 'the woman who forgave the pilot.' That's me! I came face to face with Co-pilot Robert Lewis when I was ten years old. I was so angry to that point I thought of all the things I could do to get revenge. When I saw him. He had tears in his eyes. I realized then and there we were the same human heart. Nothing more nothing less."
If what happened to Sadako happened to me, there wouldn't be a monument. No, my sister was special. Her ability to show grace when she was in so much pain. We couldn't afford pain killers back then. She suffered in agony, but she never complained. She put all her pain and prayers into the tiny paper cranes. That's why she became a symbol of peace, and a symbol of the children of Hiroshima.
He was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2015. I asked him what he would say if he won, "I want you to imagine a world where the atomic bomb survivors are no longer alive. Heed our warning now. Rid the world of nuclear weapons. If you dont, entire countries will be left uninhabitable from the next nuclear war."
I found a rosary in the rubble the day after the atomic bomb. I've been praying with it every day for the past 70 years. I never figured out who it belonged to though.
5 Years After Tsunami, Seafood, Sake, and Candy Come Back
The Sanriku region’s main source of economic value comes from the sea, and nearly every port along the northeastern coastline was destroyed by the earthquake and tsunami.
“I was out at sea fishing for scallops when the earthquake hit,” says Jun Sasaki, a fisherman from Koishihama, a small inlet on the Sanriku Coast. While we ate a meal that almost wasn’t, a fresh catch of sweet succulent scallops grilled over a fire, he told me about his survival.
Read his harrowing account and about his business he was able to salvage and more on National Geographic's Food Blog The Plate
When the swell of waves struck Ofunato Bay, they washed away the headquarters of Saito Seika, makers of kamome no tamago. Kamome no tamago, which literally translates to “seagull eggs,” is a candy in which a sweet white bean paste makes up the “yolk,” vanilla cake is the “egg white,” and white chocolate icing is the “shell.” These treats are a favorite in the Tohoku region.
Read his harrowing account on National Geographic's food blog, The Plate.
A haunting image of the tsunami wave, the first four floors are washed out, and the 5th remains untouched.
"I looked outside toward the ocean through a window and I saw something like smoke rolling over the trees planted along the coast to stop sand coming from the beach. I wondered if it was fire. But it was spray of the tsunami wave."
Read Ryo's unbelievable survival story on National Geographic's voices blog.
Takue Hosokawa, Iitate Village
“My grandfather started this farm, and I inherited it from my father. When the nuclear reactor melted down, I refused to leave behind the horses, and I tended to all 130 of the animals on this farm despite the contamination around here. The radiation killed 90 of them, we only have 40 of them left alive. I watched them get sick and die over the last five years. What else could have done this? When we did an autopsy we found 200 becquerel/kg of cesium in their muscle, but that is not enough to be considered lethal. Many of my surviving horses have been sent to live on other farms, but I have to prove my ownership of them to get compensation. So far I have not been compensated for any of them, but I also have not given up. If I have to, I’ll die here with my horses.”
“When I was in middle school I was a good boy and did my homework. When they told us to think about slogans about how great nuclear power was, especially for our town where it brought so much money, I came up with the slogan ‘Nuclear Power is the energy of a bright future!’ That slogan won and I used to be proud to see it on the main street. After the disaster I was ashamed of myself, and of that sign, but I was even more ashamed that the government decided to remove it. We needed that sign to stay up. It was an ironic reminder of the failures of humanity, and a stark lesson that we should learn from.”
Kenta Sato, Iitate Village
“The definition of a hibakusha is someone who was exposed to the atomic bombs, but with another Chinese character and same pronunciation hibakusha means someone exposed to radiation. We stayed at home for one month watching the radiation level increase on our geiger counter. We were outside of the immediate exclusion zone and thought we were safe. Radiation doesn’t care about borders. We were informed to evacuate over one month after the disaster. I know that Fukushima is one of the largest prefectures, and the radiation hasn’t affected everyone the same, but I am certain that I am a hibakusha.”
Eisaku Sato, Former Governor of Fukushima Prefecture
When I was governor of Fukushima, we received word of many problems at TEPCO's nuclear power plant. I was very strict with them, and used to always go to the government to make sure they were monitored. Perhaps I was too strict. I believe it was the reason why I was forced out of office. They said I accepted bribes. They never found any money, but you know what? They found many problems at the nuclear power plant. After the earthquake and tsunami, I immediately worried that the reactor would meltdown. They told us it was safe, and even I believed them at first. I have to wonder though, with two power plants near each other [daiichi and daini], with the same level of destruction one of them was fine and the other failed. To me that means there must have been a problem that was not caused by the natural disaster.
Katsuko Arima, Sukagawa
“I opened [the organic restaurant] Ginga No Hotori [which translates to Edge of the Galaxy]’s new branch on March 11, 2011, the day of the disaster. My mission has always been to help people realize they can change their eating habits, not just by eating here but at home as well. Food is medicine. [But] however healthy the food, if it isn’t tasty, no one will eat it. The accident caused a far worse problem for our food than pesticides. Customers who come to this type of organic restaurant were the first to leave Fukushima. We couldn’t serve from our garden. That’s why we started monitoring. We use a greenhouse sheltered from the effects of cesium and the rice we had on reserved from the year before, and have been in production ever since. I’ve added new ingredients to the menu, for example I’ve added roasted Adzuki bean to my coffee and cocoa cleanses. [I believe it] enhances antibodies and the rate of secretion of cesium from the body. Now my philosophy has evolved from healthy eating, conscious living, to processing the nuclear exposure from our bodies.”
The road which connects Tokyo to the northern most part of Japan was recently reopened, though towns that are still evacuated due to the Fukushima disaster, are cordoned off.
Temporary Housing Shelter
This is a bedroom in a temporary housing unit. People have been living there for the past six years with no hope to return home.
The Nuclear Family
Ari Beser is a Freelance Multimedia Journalist, Field Producer, Videographer, Photographer, Writer, Editor, Storyteller
Ari is the Author of The Nuclear Family, a Getty Images Contributing Photographer, and a former Fulbright National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellow.
Read Ari's Book here. https://www.amazon.com/Nuclear-Family...