Silent Killer



by Setsuko Adachi


Ever since Prometheus presented humans, antagonizing Zeus and other gods, with fire… carbon dioxide has been taking a long time teasing the Earth; the Earth now shakes, quivers, sweats and … it is heating up… global warming is visibly affecting the infrastructure of the globe causing disasters everywhere.

secure your life, evacuate, if you are trapped don’t give up, stay away from the water as best you can, the rescuers are on their way, make yourself visible so that they can spot you…

The voices are heard from the screens of electric gadgets.  — “The government will stand united and do its best to deal with the disaster, by putting its highest priority on people’s lives.”[1]

Choppers of the media and of the self-defence forces fly over the flooded land. Sympathetic viewers on the other side of screens watch the show — it runs 24 hours a day. Watchers thankful that lives are saved from the raging stream, by the skilled and committed personnel.

Immediate danger passed. Lives were saved, lives were lost. …You can’t beat nature, replies a victim to a reporter.

Choppers are no longer feeding stories to the screens. The sympathetic sentiment level drops. The stories are left to the followers. The issue was raised later that foreigners who did not have the language were left in darkness.


A picture of the drowned body of a three year old refugee on the seashore gives rise to the humanitarian sentiment in Europe.[2]


The government took advantage of the invisibility: It’s okay, they said. Stay and continue on with your life.

Unable to construct a reality, which would have been easy if radiation was visible like haze in the air, oil in the sea. They stayed.

If visible, radiation-safe zones would not have been easy to find since the government instruction in this invisibility was a 20 km radius for evacuation; within a 30 km radius, people were to stay in buildings. 230 km away, the capital was showing increased radioactivity.[3]

A month later, they announced the nuclear alert level is at 7 – the highest possible and not at 5 as they had been insisting. The situation was either getting worse, or they lied — probably both. Radiation is invisible and factual information is invisible, too. And somebody is censoring the internet… this cannot be shown in this region.


Media constantly repeating microsieverts — a unit of radiation absorption. People quickly become familiar with the alarming increase in the number of microsieverts from pre-radiation leakage days. The government and scholars that appear on TV said that the numbers were a tolerable amount for people to go on with their lives in the capital. Pacification strategies blurring invisible realities.

Schools and kindergartens cancel swimming lessons and dig up the radiation absorbed sand. However, this was the extent of the actions to protect their children from radiation.

They won’t move out from the capital of their own accord —nobody was physically stopping them. They didn’t see the statement their action was making, “Going to school was more important than escaping radiation exposure.”


The bullet train southbound from the capital on a weekend was very crowded. The train conductor apologized: Due to a three-day weekend coming up, the train is very crowded, we apologize for your inconvenience.[4] This flow of people was not covered by the media — they were the usual people on a weekend getaway. Double standard – shifting between realities so easily.


The international airports became busy with foreigners leaving, many countries advised their citizens to do so. Some foreign companies operating in the place pulled all the employees from the capital, including the locals working for their company, to work from their branches abroad — putting their humanitarian considerations into action.


The shift — from the country serving individuals to individuals serving country— happened in an instant and it went unnoticed. The ideology of preferring death for country than the survival of individuals… the country was not willing to let go of their thing in order to save individuals…


A derogatory term gave birth — flyjin meaning foreigners that fled. A foreigner who stayed during that time recalls two years later of the anger and contempt he felt and still holds towards flyjins.

The country was in a crisis and the people who were here only for money deserted the country.

I was ashamed for the fleeing masses. They gave all foreigners a bad name, and those like myself who love the country were made to look bad. Now the term “fly-jin” has come into the language.

The Australian Embassy telephoned me more than eight times during the first few weeks of the crisis, telling me to leave. I was married and was not going to run away from the country or my wife to protect myself. This is my home and my country; I am not going to flee at the first sign of trouble. I am here for the good and the bad times, and will support the country in any way I can.[5]

The ghost re-haunts — for the country instantly deactivating thinking in individuals replacing thought with stay and if needs be let’s bear the unbearable together.


Junior high school kids are shedding tears on their graduation day. They are fifteen — the world, the future is there for them! But they are crying because they want to stay; and them and everybody in that group can’t stay. So strong are the emotions, the tears of regret and resentment towards the future that destroys the group keep. The sense of satisfaction for earning the certificate is not there? … it must be because you weren’t challenged to develop your thinking skills…

High school youths, they are shedding tears after losing the nation-wide competitive baseball tournament. Enjoy yourself, you did your best! But with the game over, the mourning for the death of the team. Winners need no tears, they gained the memory —the ecstatic memory of the group bearing gruesome training together rewarded with the dominance and glory. Their tears are the sorry tears mixed with the grudge towards the memory of victory deprived from the team…


— Was it not the focus on their miserable states that let themselves cancel the weight of their deed as aggressors?

Deteriorating humanism.

The two a-bombs have lost their significance — the gory effect, once vivid now forgotten; Chernobyl invisible from the beginning.

Now, as peace approaches, one asks where they will find objectives worthy of their best.

—wrote an administrator and scholar for big science who coordinated the activities of some six thousand leading American scientists in the application of science to warfare to produce Atomic bombs.[6]


“The government will stand united and do its best to deal with the disaster, by putting its highest priority on people’s lives.” [7]

— While the dramatic rescue went on, the same downpour had “overwhelmed the [Nuclear Power Plant] site’s drainage pumps, sending hundreds of tonnes of contaminated water into the sea.” And “[w]orkers at the plant have had to store huge quantities of contaminated water used to cool melted fuel in three badly damaged reactors in thousands of steel tanks.”[8]

People took cursory heed to the news.

395 bags (each bag holds one cubic meter) containing radioactive waste were swept away from the plant down the river in the same down pour. “314 bags were retrieved, and out of 314 bags 163 bags were found damaged and with the content having spilled,” briefed the Minister of the Environment.[9]




“Some may have concerns about the Nuclear Plant. Let me assure you, the situation is under control. It has never done and will never do any damage to the capital,”[11] said the Prime Minister shamelessly hungry for money. The capital has been chosen as host for the Summer Olympics.


“Our Nation is built on the freedom of expression, and we rely on the arts and humanities to broaden our views and remind us of the truths that connect us,” says Mr President. [12]


But the shifting of realities happens so easily with each category of human tweaking invisible for the survival of their self-interest.


…I don’t want to kill my children and their future…

… the Earth might not be able to take it


[1] Justin McCurry, “Typhoon Etau: thousands evacuated as severe flooding hits Japan,” The Guardian, Thursday 10 September 2015.

[2] “Migrant crisis: Photo of drowned boy sparks outcry,” BBC News, 3 September 2015.

[3] The Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant accident in Ukraine (1986) gave European and other countries the alert for the need to protect lives. They messaged citizens at the time of Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant incident their evacuation guidelines. An 80km radius was the bare minimum for the US, UK, Australia, New Zealand, and Korea. The shortest in Japan — 30km. Singapore has it at 100km; Spain 120km. France, Italy, Switzerland, Austria, Finland, Israel, and Germany: their citizens were to evacuate from Tokyo. Leaving the country was also recommended in most of the countries that are mentioned. Yomiuri Shimbun, March 19, 2011, p.5: Japanese government evacuated 20km radius, told to stay within the buildings for 30 km radius.

The gap in the treatment of lives did not seem to register to Japanese when these facts were presented. US, UK, French, Irish embassies were practical, they started distributing iodine as preventive measures within a week. On the other hand, Japanese media were looking for various ways to prevent or lessen the effect from exposure — Media says iodine: Japanese were eating sea weed.

[4] The experience is the author’s. The author took her son out from school and stayed with her mother-in-law in Kyoto. When her son returned to school, she learned her son was the only one that left Tokyo. The rest of them stayed. The sand in the kindergarten attached to his school was renewed because it was contaminated.

[5] Tatsushige Shigure, “Deport the solo ‘fly-jin’ of 3/11,” The Japan Times, Jan. 19, 2013. For the vignette the author changed “Japan” in the article to the country and deleted the word Japanese from the original.

[6] Vannevar Bush, “As We May Think,” The Atlantic, July, 1945.

[7] Justin McCurry, “Typhoon Etau: thousands evacuated as severe flooding hits Japan,” The Guardian, Thursday 10 September 2015.

[8] Justin McCurry, “Typhoon Etau: thousands evacuated as severe flooding hits Japan,” The Guardian, Thursday 10 September 2015. The author has deleted the pronouns, ‘Fukushima’ and ‘Pacific Ocean’ from the article.

[9] Ryo Watanabe, “関東・東北豪雨:除染廃棄物流出395袋,” The Mainichi, September 15, 2015.

[10] From an email to the author by a friend, a prominent scholar on fluid dynamics, cc-ed by Michael Kearney. March 17, 2011. My gratitude goes to Michael Kearney, who kept feeding the author with information which the Japanese government and media were not providing.

[11] Presentation by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the 125th Session of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Buenos Aires, Argentina, Saturday, September 7, 2013. The pronouns are deleted and replaced by general terms.

[12] Barack Obama, Presidential Proclamation — National Arts and Humanities Month, 2014, September 30, 2014.