JAPAN | Mother caught between radiation threat and breaking up family

Posted on August 14, 2011

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JAPAN | MAINICHI | 14 August 2011

Kaori Sato feeds her daughter Rin at her home in Date, Fukushima Prefecture. (Mainichi)

Kaori Sato feeds her daughter Rin at her home in Date, Fukushima Prefecture. (Mainichi)

DATE, Fukushima — A mother whose home is in an area where high radiation levels have been detected is caught between wanting to evacuate and wanting to stay with her parents and other family members.

“My family will be scattered. Will we ever be able to live together again?” wonders Kaori Sato, 24.

Her home is located in a “hot spot,” an area of comparatively high radiation levels, and the government has recommended it be evacuated. On Aug. 7, an apartment in Fukushima city where Sato, her husband Toshiaki, 28, and her baby daughter Rin could live together turned up, but it could not accommodate her whole family.

Currently living under the same roof with Sato is her 84-year-old bedridden grandmother, her 21-year-old younger sister — who has cerebral palsy and is usually in a care facility but at home on weekends — her parents and four pets.

The evacuation recommendation came on June 30, on the day of Rin’s birth. Worrying about the health of her daughter, Sato replied to a city survey that she wanted to evacuate. To facilitate care for her grandmother and sister, who cannot move about easily, she requested a one-story house or a first-floor apartment. She also wrote that all her family members needed to live close to each other.

However, everywhere the city has so far offered has been small and forbidden pets. Sato’s parents have told her that because she has a newborn she should evacuate with her child and husband. In fact, the Fukushima apartment was found by Sato’s mother. Sato and her husband and child could move in as soon as September, but Sato is reluctant.

“Is it OK for us alone to go and leave the rest of our family behind?” she questions.

Her parents work during the day, and there is a limit to how much they can look after Sato’s grandmother. Although every other day the grandmother is taken to a care facility, Sato’s father, a taxi driver, is sometimes on the job until late at night. Sato says that if she and her husband leave, “There will be times when Grandma is alone, and I worry about what could happen in an emergency.”

Looking at her daughter in her arms, Sato said, “I wanted to raise my children where they could be with the rest of my family. How much longer will this all go on? Will I find peace of mind by the time my daughter has grown up?”

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