– The Geiger Club: Mothers Bust Silent Radiation Consensus (Wall Street Journal, June 17, 2011):
When explosions started to rock the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant complex in mid-March, spewing radioactive particles into the air, there was an exodus of pregnant women and mothers with young children from Tokyo to other parts of Japan, such as Osaka.
Some, who were due in March or April, gave birth overseas or as far away from Tokyo as possible. Most expat wives and their young kids left Japan, leaving their husbands here.
But for the vast majority of Japanese families, leaving their homes was simply not an option.
Yuka Sasaki, who is 28 years old and has a four-year-old son, lives in Kawashi in Chiba prefecture, which has been designated as a “hot spot” with higher-than-usual radiation levels – even though it’s 200 kilometers away from Fukushima. She says she can’t afford to move. Instead, she has invested in a dosimeter, which she’s waiting to be delivered.
She says a rift has developed between the group of mothers in her community who are concerned about the radiation levels and the other mothers – who comprise the vast majority – who are going about their lives as normal. “Parents and teachers and doctors all say Kashiwa is fine,” says Yuki Osaku, her friend and also a mother of two. Ms. Osaku says that her children now play with different friends due to the divide.
Japan has long been a country that values consensus – and thus it’s particularly trying for mothers who are speaking out against the very system that’s responsible for educating their children. Most have invested in their own dosimeters, as the local government is not providing daily radiation readings.
“We joke that it’s our Geiger club,” says Ms. Sasaki, referring to the most widely known radiation meter. When asked if she wants more children, she says: “Not right now. I couldn’t have another child when the situation is like this.”