Bekoya of Fukushima: Three Women, Three Choices
Bekoya of Fukushima: Three Women, Three Choices
Almost daily in the news today, we are witnessing Russia's invasion of Ukraine displacing millions of people. Glancing back at Japan's situation, the Fukushima nuclear refugee problem in Japan has not only been solved but is also about to be forgotten.
This year marks the 11th since the Tokyo Electric Power Company accidents at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. The people of Fukushima and more than 30,000 people who remain displaced are still suffering.
In addition, the ongoing electricity shortages due to the crisis in Ukraine have turned the Japanese government's policy to resume the suspended nuclear power plants. Because of this current situation, I felt I must now record what happened in the nuclear accidents and what the accidents brought to people in this film.
This documentary portrays the lives and changes of the people of Iitate Village, Fukushima Prefecture, through three women of "Bekoya (cattle farmers in a dialect of the north-eastern region of the central island of Japan)" that I have been following since the nuclear accidents in 2011.
For many years, my main journalistic focus has been on Palestinian refugees in the Middle East. The Palestinian crisis overlapped with the agony of the people of Iitate Village in my mind. I felt so when the village was designated as a planned evacuation area due to the nuclear accidents, and the entire village had to be evacuated.
In May 2011, I met three women in the village, Mrs. Nobuko Nakajima, Mrs. Kimiko Harada, and Mrs. Hanako Hasegawa, all of whom were Bekoya then. One decided to continue to be Bekoya outside the village, one decided to go back to the village, and one decided not to go back but keep visiting the village.
Each of their stories shows their survival struggling with the harsh reality and making choices for their life. One-third of the village's farming population are those who moved in after World War II under the Postwar Reclamation Projects. Their parents' generation struggled with reclaiming the land. Especially, Nobuko's parents moved to Manchuria during the war, and her father was incarcerated in Siberia when the war ended.
Through the personal history of these Bekoya women overlaying with the history of Iitate Village in this film, we can also learn how the villagers have been tossed about by national policies related to war, reclamation, and nuclear power.
■ Key Casts
Women of Bekoya: Mrs. Nobuko Nakajima, Mrs. Kimiko Harada, and Mrs. Hanako Hasegawa
Nobuko grew up in the Hiso area in the Iitate Village. She started cattle farming as a junior high school student and continued it for 45 years. Although the land of Hiso has been special for Nobuko, her husband, and their parents because they struggled to reclaim the land, they became unable to live there because of high doses of radiation. After much deliberation, they decided to move out to another area. But they could not completely give up the village. They visit the village almost daily to do farm work, such as flower cultivation.
Kimiko started helping cattle farming from a young age. When her husband thought of quitting because most cattle farmers were quitting, she persuaded her husband to move to a new area to continue cattle farming. Even after evacuation, she continues to regret that she could not save her cattle because she could not get food to feed them at the time of the nuclear disaster. Her hardships continued in the new area.
Hanako and her husband had been cattle farmers for 35 years. After living in temporary housing for seven years, she pondered whether to return to the village or not. Finally, she returned to the village with her husband for her parents-in-law. Her husband started making buckwheat to protect the ancestral land.
■ Duration: 180 minutes
■ Staff: Cinematographer/Director Mizue Furui, Editor Takuji Shingai
■ Support: The "Mothers of Fukushima" Production Support Committee
Mizue FuruiDirectorMothers of Fukushima: Eiko & Yoshiko (2017), Ghada – “Songs of Palestine” (2007), Bokutachi wa mita : Gaza samunike No kodomotachi (2011)
Nobuko NakajimaKey Cast
Kimiko HaradaKey Cast
Hanako HasegawaKey Cast
Project Title (Original Language):飯舘村 べこやの母ちゃん ～それぞれの選択～
Runtime:3 hours 7 seconds
Completion Date:March 11, 2023
Production Budget:8,000,000 JPY
Country of Origin:Japan
Country of Filming:Japan
Born in Shimane, Japan, in 1948. She is a member of the ASIAPRESS International and the Japan Visual Journalist Association. She has been covering Palestinians resisting the Israeli occupation in Palestine since 1988, focusing especially on women and children.
Ghada - Songs of Palestine (2006); Bokutachi wa mita: Gaza samunike no kodomotachi (2011); Mothers of Fukushima: Eiko & Yoshiko (2016)
[Awards] Special Prize of the Judge of the “DAYS JAPAN International Photojournalism Award” for her photography work, “Ghada - Songs of Palestine” in 2006, the Grand Prize of the “Ishibashi Tanzan Memorial” and the Namiko Arai Prize of the “Peace & Cooperative Journalist Found of Japan Award” for the film, “Ghada - Songs of Palestine” in 2006, and the Grand Prize of the “ZA-KOENJI Documentary Festival Competition” for the film, “What We Saw – Gaza, The Children of Samuni Family” in 2012.
I made this film to inform as many people as possible about the current situation in Fukushima. After watching this film, I would greatly appreciate it if you could tell other people you know about what you learned. I truly hope that the villagers of Iitate and the people of Fukushima will be able to live a happy life in the future.