JAPAN | Elderly Fukushima woman kills self ‘to evacuate to grave’

Posted on July 9, 2011


JAPAN | MAINICHI | 9 July 2011

This is one of four suicide notes that the 93-year-old woman left behind in her house in Minamisoma, Fukushima Prefecture. (Mainichi)

This is one of four suicide notes that the 93-year-old woman left behind in her house in Minamisoma, Fukushima Prefecture. (Mainichi)

MINAMISOMA, Fukushima — A 93-year-old woman, dejected over the ongoing nuclear crisis, was found hanged at her home in Minamisoma, Fukushima Prefecture, in late June, leaving behind suicide notes that said in part, “I will evacuate to the grave. I am sorry.”

After hydrogen explosions at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant in March, the woman was forced to evacuate to the house of her second daughter in Soma and was later hospitalized for two weeks before returning May 3 to her house in Minamisoma, subject to a possible emergency evacuation order due to the nuclear disaster.

“If we have to evacuate again, elderly people (like me) will become a drag,” her suicide note said.

The elderly woman, whose identity was kept confidential to protect her privacy, lived with her 72-year-old son and his 71-year-old wife and two grandchildren in a quiet rice paddy district. Her son said she kept herself busy with daily chores despite her weak feet and also kept diaries.

After the hydrogen explosions at the nuclear power plant, about 22 kilometers from her house, she and her family left Minamisoma on March 17. She took refuge at her daughter’s house in Soma while her son and his family moved into a guest house in Katashina, Gunma Prefecture, on March 18.

She was hospitalized in late April. After two weeks of treatment, she returned to her house on May 3 and frequently telephoned her son and his family in Gunma Prefecture, asking them to come back.

Her son and his family finally returned home on the night of June 6, and she happily greeted them. But the son told his mother that they may have to evacuate again if the nuclear accident gets worse.

About two weeks after the five-member household resumed living together, the 93-year-old woman was found hanged in the garden on June 22.

Her four suicide notes addressed to her family, ancestors and a close neighborhood friend were later found in the house. “My heart is in my mouth everyday due to news of the nuclear power plant,” she wrote to her family.

“Doing things like this (killing myself), I am disgracing my children and grandchildren and relatives, but it cannot be helped in this day and age,” said her note to her parents.

After her death, neighbors frequently come to her house to pray. Her neighborhood friend, to whom one of her suicide notes was addressed, choking up with tears, asked, “Why did this have to happen to her?”

A 74-year-old former priest of Ganoku Temple in Minamisoma who recited a sutra at her funeral, said, “There are some evacuees who feel depressed after waking up and noticing different ceilings (from their own house). It’s really hard for elderly people to evacuate.”

Her son and his wife told the Mainichi, “Please tell your readers why she killed herself.”

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