Japan: Tamami Morino and her young family were evacuated from their home

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For Tamami Morino and her family, it’s been a rare carefree and happy afternoon as her two small children have wallowed and bounded around in the pool of multi-coloured plastic balls, the bouncy castle and the inflatable roller.

She sits on a bench watching them play at the Smile Park indoor playground, set up by the Japanese Red Cross in Fukushima City, some 70 kilometres from the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. After a year she hasn’t really felt it was safe for them to play outdoors. 

“Today I feel very grateful to the Red Cross for creating an indoor play area like this; the two kids look very happy and they don’t want to go home,” says Mrs Morino. “We initially registered them for two hours, and then extended their stay to four hours.”

Although she says she no longer makes her daughter Mana, four and son Seiya, eight, wear face masks to protect them from the risk of radiation exposure, it has been a difficult time for the family.

Since being evacuated from their home in the town of Namie, which lies within the 20 km exclusion zone around the plant, the family have stayed in their car, in hotels, with relatives and in several different locations, since moving to their current prefabricated home in Fukushima city.

They’re still not sure whether they will stay, because of Mrs Morino’s and her husband’s jobs, or whether they will pack up and leave for somewhere further afield.

She feels angry that her children are being made to pay the price of decisions about the nuclear power plant, taken by adults. “It is our fault that we created a situation where the kids can’t play outside. Kids love playing outside.”

The family are making themselves as comfortable as they can in their temporary home. Like 125,000 other new households who lost their homes to the tsunami, they have been given a set of six domestic appliances by Japanese Red Cross to help them settle in.

What they really need, though, says Mrs Morino, is someone to tell them whether it’s ever going to be safe to return home or whether they have to resign themselves to a life elsewhere.

“I would feel easier if someone told me how to think about it,” she says.

Photo: Masaki Kamei / Japanese Red Cross organized an indoor playground called “Smile Park” in Fukushima City, mainly for children whose parents do not let them play outdoors because of concerns over radiation. More than 3,600 children had fun in using the pool of multi-coloured plastic balls, the bouncy castle and the inflatable roller

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