March 11 has come around again and is now a part of the past.
I imagine that everyone reflected solemnly on this past year in his or her own way, wherever he or she was, harboring his or her own various thoughts.
At the commemoration ceremony, the words of His Majesty the Emperor became deeply impressed upon me, and each of the stories told by the representatives of the bereaved families in Iwate, Miyagi, and Fukushima Prefectures resonated intensely within my soul.
There was Ms. Eriko Okuda of Miyagi, who lost her parents and two children in the tsunami, including her son who had just recently gotten married, and Mr. Hiromi Kawaguchi of Iwate, who lost his four-year-old grandson. And there was Ms. Miku Muraoka of Fukushima, who lost her father, a firefighter, and said, “In the future I hope to work at a job that is in some small way helpful to others.” I am profoundly moved when I think of the countless sudden heartbreaking farewells on that day and I find myself at a loss for words.
Reading the newspaper the following day I found out that Ms. Okuda had one sentence that she simply could not bring herself to add to her remarks. That sentence was, “If I could return, I would go back to that day.” It seems that time and time again she wrote it then deleted it, wavering over whether or not to include it.
The profound grief of the bereaved families may be something that never disappears regardless of how much time passes. And yet even if that is the case, I can only pray that they somehow continue to have the will to move forward towards tomorrow.
The period of intensive reconstruction is five years, with the aim of achieving reconstruction in 10 years. The one year mark is nothing but a single milestone. We must continue our support for the disaster area in a sustained manner.
What I would like to emphasize once more is the issue of the wide-area disposal of debris.
The enormous amount of debris in Iwate and Miyagi cannot be disposed of only in the disaster area. This is not a matter we should view in terms of distinctions between “the disaster region” and “other areas,” or “the national government,” “the local governments,” and “the citizens.” It is instead a matter I would like everyone to consider under the premise that all citizens are “interested parties.”
In having local communities outside the disaster area accept debris, there has been a tendency for them to be concerned about the effects of radiation, but the level of radiation coming from this debris is low, and the impact once it is incinerated and then disposed of in a landfill is less than 0.01 millisieverts per year. As the amount of radiation found in nature is 1.48 millisieverts per year, this is a level at which people can feel at ease. There is no significant gap between this and regular incinerated trash, either.
Minister of the Environment Mr. Goshi Hosono has already visited the relevant people within local governments. By actually having them see the results from measuring the radiation from the rubble before it is transported, I understand that the vast majority of the persons in charge of this matter have been satisfied.
Yesterday, we launched a ministerial meeting for ministers involved in this matter. METI minister Mr. Yukio Edano will ask for further cooperation from the cement, paper manufacturing, and other industries as well, and the government will make a formal request, based on law, to the prefectures besides the three stricken by the disaster.
The debris from the Great Kanto Earthquake was used to reclaim the waterfront, transforming it into the famous spot in Yokohama, Yamashita Park. I hope that the debris from last year’s disaster is recycled to be transformed into elevated areas to be used for forests to control tidal waters or as evacuation sites, thereby becoming something that will save people from future disasters.
The noble spirit of the Japanese as they helped and supported each other has been praised all around the world. Now once again the national character of the Japanese is being tested.
Of course, in order for the government to be trusted, we will endeavor to achieve thorough information disclosure and to explain matters in a way that is easily understood. I intend to move forward on this matter by gaining the understanding and the acceptance of as many people as possible.
I believe that the spirit of “mutual help” among the people will be fully demonstrated once more.