Young Fukushima evacuee who suffered bullying urges others to stay strong

Kyodo, JIJI

As teachers and authorities struggle to eliminate bullying at schools and prevent suicides by victimized students, a 13-year-old boy who evacuated Fukushima Prefecture is taking the initiative to highlight the problem.

The boy, who evacuated from Fukushima following the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, has released a statement describing how he was bullied by other students at an elementary school in Yokohama. He pledged to live on despite describing the bullying as “painful” and asked those undergoing similar ordeals to stay strong.

“I wished to die many times. But I’ve decided to live even if it is painful because so many people died in the earthquake and tsunami,” the boy said in the statement, which was released by his lawyer at a news conference on Tuesday.

The boy wrote the statement in July last year when he was refusing to attend the school due to the bullying. He is now a first-grade junior high school student in Yokohama.

According to the lawyer, the boy moved to Yokohama from Fukushima in August 2011, when he was a second-grade elementary school student.

“I was treated like a virus,” the statement said. “It was always hard to think I was treated that way because of radiation. I thought people from Fukushima are bullied.”

He was bullied continually at the Yokohama elementary school. Homeroom teachers urged his tormentors to stop each time, but the boy could not attend the school between June and October 2012.

After returning to the school, the boy fell prey to bullying again. It escalated, too, and the boy was the victim of violence.

When he became a fifth-grader in 2014, he was made to hand over money to pay for snacks and arcade games. He gave between ¥50,000 and ¥100,000 in cash he took from home to the bullies each time, for a total of some ¥1.5 million.

The boy was told, “You’ve been paid compensation money (over the nuclear accident), haven’t you?” according to the statement.

He began refusing to attend school again in May 2014 and graduated the following year without going back to the school.

In the statement, the boy said, “I was so scared,” and “I regret that I was unable to fight back.”

The statement was released at the request of the boy and his parents. “I decided to disclose the statement because I want people being bullied to keep living,” the boy was quoted as saying.

The boy’s mother submitted a written request to the Yokohama Municipal Government last December to investigate the bullying.