8 Novembre 2015
November 7, 2015
By TOSHIHIDE UEDA/ Senior Staff Writer
TANOHATA, Iwate Prefecture--Anti-nuclear campaigner Hisa Iwami, who worked as a public health nurse in this northeastern village, died on Sept. 19. She was 97.
I returned to the village recently to mourn for her.
As I wrote in an earlier column about Iwami, a proposal came out of the blue more than 30 years ago to build a nuclear power plant in this village. Women in Tanohata became united under Iwami to fight the project. No nuclear plant was built there.
Iwami was lying in bed when I last met her in July. She was no longer able to move her body at will, but she spoke in a firm tone when she said, “Perhaps I didn’t come to Tanohata in vain because I blocked the plan to build a nuclear plant.”
A folk heritage museum of the village government stands near Hofukuji temple, where Iwami spent more than half a century of her life. The museum shows the history of Sanhei Ikki, a peasant uprising that originated twice from here during the late Edo Period (1603-1867). By the side of the museum stand statues of two villagers who led the uprising, along with a monument inscribed with a poem written by Iwami.
“There is no sweet home for me but here/ I say to myself/ The air is clear/ With no trace of dust”
She wrote the poem when she first visited Tanohata in the early postwar period. A nuclear plant was probably something that would have soiled her “sweet home.” By the side of the statues of the two leaders of Sanhei Ikki, the monument to the poem preserves the memory of the “third uprising” that took place here again.
Looking up, I found the sky perfectly clear and blue. That was the “authentic sky,” the beauty of which Iwami said held her spellbound.
'SHIELD' FOR PRESERVING LIVES
Iwami’s actions must have been driven by a desire to preserve all lives that have been born into this world.
She showered her only son with all her love after her first husband died of an illness. The mere sight of a pointed bamboo stump cut slantwise led her to fear that her son could get hurt on it if he took a tumble.
But a disease took his life at a young age. Iwami was startled to discover that the sight of a bamboo stump no longer induced any fear in her.
“I used to concentrate my attention so much on my own child alone that I didn’t care about a child next door,” Iwami said. “I felt ashamed about that.”
Her autobiography also mentions that moment in her life.
“I learned that many things were still left in this world for me to do,” she wrote in the book. “That was the starting point for my own rebirth.”
Iwami remarried the head priest of Hofukuji temple and began making the rounds of new settlements as a "development public health nurse." She put her heart and soul into improving the health of villagers, children in particular. Nowhere else than in the natural environment of her newfound “sweet home” did she see a shield for preserving lives.
“What’s the situation in Fukushima like?” Iwami would ask me every time I met her.
She would listen to me with a serious look when I told her about the harsh conditions of areas affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster of 2011 and about the plight of evacuees. Perhaps her mind’s eye at the time was seeing the terrain in Fukushima covered with bamboo stumps.
'AUTHENTIC SKY' OVER FUKUSHIMA
The Fukushima Renewable Energy Institute, part of the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST), was opened in spring last year in the city of Koriyama to serve as a center for the rebuilding of Fukushima Prefecture.
Three pieces of Japanese-style paintings are hanging in its main building. They were painted by Kaneko Takahashi, a resident of Maebashi, the capital of Gunma Prefecture, on the southern side of Mount Akagiyama, who died at 80 late last year. The works were donated in March by the painter’s oldest son, Masaki, 52, a research manager at the AIST’s Research Institute of Geology and Geoinformation.
“My mother insisted on living with Mount Akagiyama standing in the background,” the painter’s son said. “She continued to believe she was the happiest that way.”
Takahashi took motifs from Fukushima after the 2011 disasters.
“So: Fukushima no Umi” (In thought: seas of Fukushima), her 2012 work, and “Seiso no Umi (Fukushima)” (Ocean blue (Fukushima)), her 2013 piece, each show a woman, painted as large as the canvas, casting her eyes downward against the backdrop of a dark ocean. But “Adatara no Sora” (Skies over Adatara), her 2014 work, depicts a female figure sitting on folded legs on a green patch of earth and staring in the distance, with a bright-colored sky and mountains in the background.
Adatara is the name of a mountain in Fukushima Prefecture. In “Chieko-sho” (The Chieko Poems), a well-known collection of poems by Kotaro Takamura (1883-1956), the poet quoted his wife, Chieko, who grew up with a view of Mount Adatara, as telling him that there was no sky over Tokyo and she wished to see an “authentic sky.”
The sky on the canvas probably shows the "authentic sky" in that poetic work. The female figure in the painting is probably looking toward hopes for the future.
“The woman appears to be floating,” painter Shigeyoshi Sakai said he told Takahashi when he saw the painting. Sakai, 67, who also lives in Maebashi, is the deputy director of Nihonga-In, an association of painters to which Takahashi belonged.
“I don’t mind if she looks that way,” he quoted Takahashi as telling him.
If that is the case, the female figure probably embodies the souls of Fukushima residents who descend on their “sweet home.”
In reality, four years after the nuclear disaster, more than 100,000 residents of Fukushima remain evacuated and have yet to have an opportunity to descend on their "sweet home," which serves as a shield for preserving lives.