Update: YouTube video of interview with the man added. 2011.09.03.

Amazingly, there is still one man living in the nuclear no-go area in Fukushima.

Nearly six months after Japan’s catastrophic earthquake and tsunami, the 53-year-old believes he is the only inhabitant left in this town sandwiched between the doomed Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power station to the north and another sprawling nuclear plant to the south…

Matsumura is an anomaly in a country where defiance of the government is rare and social consensus counts above everything else. Yet, Matsumura’s quiet civil disobedience speaks loudly of the dilemma facing the more than 100,000 silent “nuclear refugees” who were displaced by the March 11 disaster.

I admire his courage, or is it stubbornness? And his decision to stay seems to be based on moral principles. However, when it comes down to it, he’s living on handouts, on tax-payers’ generosity. He cannot make a living by selling his crops and is unlikely to in the future. He doesn’t seem to have thought of that: “As a heavy rain began to fall, he walked down an overgrown mountain path to his rice paddy. He pulled up a plant by its roots, twisted it between his fingers then tossed it into an irrigation ditch with a resigned sigh. There will be no cash crop this year. Or maybe ever again.”

On the other hand, it speaks well of the Japanese police (and society generally) that he hasn’t been forcibly abducted by heavily armed SWAT teams, or bombed by a drone for his failure to capitulate to the authorities:

Officers are sent into Tomioka each day to search for burglars or violators of the keep-out order. By law, anyone caught inside the zone can be detained and fined.

But authorities mostly turn a blind eye to Matsumura, though he says he has been confronted by the police a few times. If there are other holdouts, they have escaped detection…

via Japan nuke holdout resolved to stay – TwinCities.com.

[yframe url=’http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d5JCK3kWnPY’] (mouse-tip to EX-SKF for the video link).

Why does he stay? A matter of principle

“I’ve gone to Tokyo a couple of times to tell the politicians why I’m here,” he said. “I tell them that it was an outrage how the cows were left to die, and how important it is for someone to tend to the family graves. They don’t seem to hear me. They just tell me I shouldn’t be here to begin with.”

“If I give up and leave, it’s all over,” he told The Associated Press. “It’s my responsibility to stay. And it is my right to be here.”

Responsibility for what? His farm, maybe? The other animals still living in the area. To his family’s grave, his ancestors. He is staying on principle, but he seems a little fuzzy as to what those principles are.

He did try to leave once, but…

“I drove to a relative’s house thinking I would stay there,” he said. “But she wouldn’t let me in the door, she was too afraid I was contaminated. Then I went to an evacuation center, but it was full. That was enough to convince me to come home.”

Decisions made by a pen-pusher with a 500-yen compass!

This reminded me of the misuse of Speedi in the early days after the disaster: a system specifically designed for this kind of emergency failed to help citizens because government officials didn’t pass the data on, and Kan and his cronies didn’t understand how Speedi works or really what it’s for.

local authorities are increasingly frustrated with the lack of progress toward resolving the nuclear Diaspora.

Tamotsu Baba, the mayor of Namie, a partially evacuated town near Tomioka, said in an interview it was reasonable at first for Tokyo to establish a geometric ring extending outward from the center of the plant. But he believes data collected since should be used to fine-tune the exclusion area to reflect the actual amounts of contamination.

“We have invested millions in developing a system to measure radiation,” he said. “But it is like the whole thing is being decided by someone behind a desk with a 500 yen ($5) compass.”

Modern-day Kensuke

British writer Michael Morpurgo in 1999 wrote a children’s story called “Kensuke’s Kingdom” about a friendship between a young British boy and a Japanese exile on a desert island. At the end, the boy is rescued, but Kensuke changes his mind about leaving: “This is my place. This Kensuke’s Kingdom. Emperor must stay in his Kingdom, look after his people. Emperor does not run away. Not honourable thing to do.”

how important it is for someone to tend to the family graves…

Matsumura now likens himself to the Japanese soldiers who refused to surrender until decades after the end of World War II.


“It was strange being alone at first, but I am resolved to stay,” he said. “I’m getting used to this life.”

“If I give up and leave, it’s all over… It’s my responsibility to stay. And it is my right to be here.”