In January 1991, I set out on a trip to Chernobyl with Minoru Kamata, my good friend, and director of Suwa Central Hospital at that time. Being guided by assorted information and mysterious chance, we entered the contaminated zone in Belarus, which is downwind of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. The small village Chechersk, which is situated 60km from Gomel (the second largest city in Belarus) and 170km north of Chernobyl, was in the midst of confusion caused by strong contamination, though four years had already passed from the nuclear power plant accident.
We were told that this was the foreign aid agency accompanied by a doctor to come to this remote place.
What we saw there was a contamination map that covered the whole wall of the village office. This was an elaborate map using different colors to distinguish the degree of contamination at intervals of one meter within the village. They said Health Service Bureau members, hospital staff together with residents of the village conducted the measurements of contamination. But they had totally no knowledge of what to do in order to continue living there based on this map. There was no designated method of decontamination, and they had no access to decontamination materials. They had no treatment, no medicine, no medical instruments and no medical materials, and no medical technology, for treating thyroid cancer, blood disorders, lung cancer, etc. that have the possibility of arising in old age. Seeing these people at a total loss and still struggling against radiation desperately, we decided to target these people in Chechersk for support. And we have spent about 20 years, fighting a fierce battle against invisible radiation with the villagers.
Now, in Chechersk, a food evaluation system is in operation in every elementary school district. And whole-body counters are kept permanently so the villagers can measure internal exposure doses mainly of the children. Twenty years have passed since we visited Chechersk, and finally, the results of the people’s fight against radiation are clearly visible. I now see the same confusion in Fukushima as it was in Chechersk when we visited it that day. And I foresee the long struggle for Fukushima residents from now in the same way Chechersk people had to battle. Having made a time-slip to twenty years ago in Chechersk, I can foretell the future 20 years from now in Fukushima. People of Fukushima, never give up! Because our experiences and those of the people in Chechersk with radiation for 20 years reveal that the Fukushima people can face up to the struggle against radiation.
Takushi Takahashi, the chief priest of Jinguuji Temple in Matsumoto City, Nagano Prefecture.