A year has passed since the March eleventh earthquake. Things are not the same, but a sense of normality is returning to Fukushima, where people have been quietly going about their business and rebuilding their lives.
I used to live in Iitate, a village of about 6500 people. It wasn¡Çt a well known place, but now it is famous as the village that was evacuated because of high radiation levels. It is still unclear when we will be able to return. Yet through all the doubt and heartache, the people of Iitate, and everyone in Fukushima, have shown great resilience and determination. They have begun to live a normal life again.
Iitate is not alone in being relocated. The restriction zone around the nuclear plant meant thousands of people were evacuated. Entire towns were moved to different areas of Fukushima. Iitate residents were scattered around several locations. It was especially hard for the older generation to cope with the changes and many occasionally returned to Iitate to spend the night there. Yet over time, they have adjusted and are more settled in their new lives, where they were welcomed with understanding and warmth. To facilitate the change, day to day meetings and activities are scheduled, various workshops are offered and special events are celebrated. So while the old community spirit is still strong, new friendships have been made. A good support network has also been put in place. It offers assistance with buying essentials and help with everyday life. Newsletters are also circulated regularly and the information being shared is much more forthcoming than before. Therefore, people are much better informed about current and ongoing issues.
So what about education in Iitate? Currently, the schools are in temporarily locations, but from August, the students will move to a newly built school. The future is brightening for them: they continue to learn together, can participate in club activities again and are allowed to play outside. Their faces once more carry smiles.