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Widow in farmer suicide sues Tepco

Nuke crisis was cause of death, Filipina argues

by Tomohiro Osaki

Staff Writer

A Filipino woman whose Japanese husband committed suicide after his dairy farming business was decimated by the March 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster is suing Tokyo Electric Power Co. for about ¥126 million.

“Had there not been that nuclear disaster, he would still be alive,” Vanessa Kanno told a news conference Thursday. “It deprived us of everything. My kids lost their dream, and I’m totally powerless.”

Shigekiyo Kanno killed himself in June 2011. His previously brisk dairy business plunged amid the radioactive fallout and rumors that Fukushima dairy products were unsafe, his widow said.

Shipments of his milk were suspended by government order, terminating his source of income, she said. Two months before the nuclear crisis started, Kanno borrowed ¥5 million to build a new compost shed. The disaster made paying of the debt impossible.

The main focus of contention will be whether there was a correlation between the nuclear accident and the suicide. Vanessa Kanno’s lawyer, Yukuo Yasuda, said the unprecedented gravity of the disaster played a primary role in ruining his future financial prospects and splitting his family apart.

The suicide was seen as a desperate attempt by the farmer to provide for his family with insurance money, according to film director Hiroshi Shinomiya, who has made a documentary about farmers suffering through the nuclear crisis.

Present at the news conference, Shinomiya said that immediately before Shigekiyo Kanno killed himself, he phoned his wife in the Philippines to assure her “she and her kids will be able to feed themselves just fine.” She had taken their children there to escape the radiation leaking from the Fukushima No. 1 power plant.

Shigekiyo Kanno was found dead in the shed he had just purchased.

On nearby walls was a message scribbled in chalk that read: “If only there were no nuclear reactors . . . ” along with an apology for his family.

During the news conference, Vanessa Kanno expressed great concern over the health of her two sons, especially the youngest, who has asthma.

“I want my husband to fight with us. I want him to take care of us,” she said.

Shinomiya’s latest documentary, titled “Wasurenai Fukushima” (“Fukushima: We Won’t Forget”), spotlights the suffering of local farmers like Kanno and their struggle to cope with the aftermath of the radioactive fallout.

It includes an interview with Vanessa Kanno, who spoke of her frustration over the tragic death of her husband.

“Nothing must be tolerated here in Japan that would rob its people of their jobs, destroy its beautiful nature, separate families and drive its innocent citizens into illness and death,” Shinomiya said.

When contacted by The Japan Times, a Tepco public relations official, who asked not to be named, declined comment on this lawsuit. However, the official said the company “would like to offer its deepest apology for the widespread trouble caused by the nuclear accident,” and said Tepco will “scrutinize the claim and deal with it in a sincere manner.”

Brazilian can return

SHIZUOKA
Kyodo

A Brazilian woman of Japanese descent has been given the green light to return to Japan after she filed a lawsuit against the government demanding she be allowed to re-enter and live in the country, her lawyer said Wednesday.

Giullyane Futenma, 21, filed the suit with the Shizuoka District Court on May 8, after being denied re-entry to Japan by a local immigration office in Hamamatsu, Shizuoka Prefecture, because she had left for Brazil under a 2009 program.

The program provides financial aid to foreigners of Japanese descent who become unemployed in Japan and helps them return to their home countries.

“It is an appropriate measure,” lawyer Ryo Takagai said at a news conference, in reference to Nagoya immigration authorities’ change of heart in giving her residence status. He added the lawsuit will be dropped.

Her husband, Lucas Futenma, 22, also a Japanese-Brazilian, returned to Japan last year and found a job in Hamamatsu.

Her husband applied for her resident eligibility in December 2012 with the local office in Hamamatsu but the application was rejected.

According to the lawsuit, Giullyane Futenma came to Japan with her parents when she was 7 years old and they lived in Hamamatsu. They returned to Brazil in June 2009 after her parents lost their jobs.

In 2011, she married Lucas Futenma, who had also returned to Brazil but not under the support program.

Giullyane Futenma, who lives in Brazil, has said there is no legal basis for her being denied re-entry to Japan and her right to live with her spouse is being violated.