On the 3rd floor, the old living quarters for store employees, I met Katsuyasu, the curator of the exhibition. Raised in Iwaki, Katsuyasu was working in Tokyo at the time of the tsunami. He made the brave decision to quit his job in Tokyo and return home to help in Fukushimas’s recovery. Many other people of his age – mid 30s, also returned from Tokyo to help in the rebuilding. Later in the day I met another local man who commuted that spring every weekend from Yokohama driving up the expressway for 4 hours in a vintage Mini Austin. They must have had strong feelings towards their hometown.
Katsuyasu also said there was an understandable exodus of younger people in the other direction, away from Fukushima. The saturation media coverage of the disaster, with frightening radiation warnings would have been impossible to completely ignore.
The disaster changed Katsuyasu. He became an avid news watcher. After watching a press conference, he read how it was reported in 10 different newspapers. He noticed all of the articles had distinct takes on the stories. That struck him as really strange. I asked him who he trusted now. He said people he knew, “faces I can see”. I suppose it is hard to lie to someone who you will see the the next day.
In Fukushima Minpo, the local paper, Nishida Toshiyuki, the Fukushima-born star of the film Gakko (School), was quoted as saying that the disaster has forced Fukushima residents to think about the meaning of life. What Fukushima citizens have learnt about the meaning of life should be shared with the rest of the world.
Fukushima is slipping off the front page. The NHK homepage has stories on a distant typhoon, a slight increase in summer bonuses and the American mid-term elections. No mention of the ongoing crisis two hours north of Tokyo where thousands of people are preparing to spend another winter in emergency living shelters.