MINAMISOMA, FUKUSHIMA PREF. – Students returned Monday to four schools in Minamisoma, Fukushima Prefecture, that were in areas where residents were ordered to prepare for evacuation from the nuclear power plant crisis.
The nuclear crisis resulted in 12 elementary and junior high schools finding themselves in the city’s emergency evacuation zone, which covered areas between 20 and 30 km from Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.
Those who had to evacuate attended classes at temporary schools or were taken in by other schools. The government then lifted the evacuation order for eight of the 12 schools in September.
The remaining four — elementary schools Ishigami No. 1 and Ishigami No. 2, and junior highs Ishigami and Haramachi No. 3, have completed radiation decontamination procedures.
On Monday morning at Ishigami No. 1, Ryuji Kotaka, 11, a fifth-grader, said he was happy about getting back.
“I’m so glad we’re back here. I can’t wait to read the encyclopedia of animals at the library because we didn’t have a library at the temporary school,” he said, adding he was also looking forward to playing soccer on the school pitch.
For first-grader Haruto Sato, 7, it was the first time to enter the school. “I was sad until now because I wasn’t able to see what my school looked like. So I’m really excited today,” he said.
Ishigami No. 1 had 196 pupils before March 11.
Now the school has just 78.
Students at five schools in Minamisoma that are in the no-go zone, as well as one in the Kashima district of the city hit hard by the tsunami, are still using temporary buildings.
In Kamaishi, Iwate Prefecture, about 360 pupils at Unosumai elementary school, which was inundated by the March 11 tsunami, began holding classes at a temporary building Monday.
Kids’ photos tell all
A new book of photographs taken by children in the disaster zone show how they are expressing their feelings about their families, lost homes, schools and friends following the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
The book of photos taken by 33 elementary and junior high school students in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures is titled “3/11 Kids Photo Journal” and published by Kodansha Ltd. It went on sale last Thursday.
The collection, which contains about 150 photos, captures scenes of kids’ favorite places, including school buildings and gymnasiums altered by the tsunami. It also has photos of school backpacks that were swept away and the temporary homes they have been living in.
Photo consultant Yumi Goto was among those who planned the project, which was launched last June. She recruited children and taught them how to take pictures.
“Children’s photos have the power to appeal to people as children have purer hearts and greater sensitivity than adults,” said Goto.
Each photo is accompanied by a caption, but some also have a short essay attached from the young photographer.
“I have learned, lost and gained too many things due to the disaster to grasp them all with my child’s hands,” wrote Yuma Watanabe, 14, a second-year junior high schooler from Minamisoma, Fukushima Prefecture.
Haruki Kanno, 12, a sixth-grader who lives in temporary housing in Rikuzentakata, Iwate Prefecture, said: “I want to promote (this collection) to people who don’t know about such disastrous situations, and to coming generations and those who have yet to be born.”