The Lives Of The Legendary Fukushima Mothers

by Kareena Dodeja
The Lives Of The Legendary Fukushima Mothers

March 18, 2021

Imagine a laboratory with women in lab coats setting up radiation testing, this is real and happening. In Fukushima, ordinary mothers have built an extraordinary lab. The legendary mother’s purpose was to protect their children and they did a phenomenal job!

In March 2011, there was a 9.1 magnitude earthquake in Japan which led to a tsunami making it one of the most devastating incidents in the country. 20,000 people lost their lives because of the disaster. But the real disaster struck when the tsunami led to a meltdown in Fukushima Daiichi Power Plant resulting in a radiation leak. Everyone evacuated within the 20 km radius but there was still panic in the air.

With the lack of information from the government, the brave mothers in Fukushima, Japan set up a radiation testing laboratory to test everything under the sun such as rice, dust, seafood, soil to check the toxic levels of radiation. The women tested everything to keep the public informed about the radiation levels. They took matters into their hands to start the radiation measuring lab to keep their children safe.

The women were in desperate need to keep their children safe so the heroic mothers began testing food and water to make sure everything is clean and sanitary. They had no prior experience but they built a lab from scratch. They were driven to learn everything that is needed for the job. The lab is called ‘Tarachine’ which is the Japanese word for ‘caring mother.’

The lab is called ‘Tarachine’ which is the Japanese word for ‘caring mother.’

Misinformation Led To A Change

The lab director, Kaori Suzuki says in an interview that as mothers, they had to figure out what they can feed their children and if the water was safe for them. She added that they had no choice but to measure the radiation so that is how Tarachine was started. Suzuki declared the aftermath of the disaster as complete ‘chaos.’

After the nuclear accident, the Fukushima residents waited for radiation experts but none came to help. The Japanese government passed on misinformation after the meltdown which led to distrust in the residents. They failed to disclose the direction in which the radioactive materials were drifting from the power plan which was caused chaos. The poor communication resulted in thousands who fled to the direction where the radioactive materials were flying.

Banri Kaieda, the former trade minister felt a ‘sense of shame’ because he overlooked the energy policy and did not disclose the information. After this incident, the mothers of Fukushima find it hard to trust the government as they feel deceived. The mothers work at the clinic part-time to protect the children.


Because of the misinformation passed by the government after the meltdown led to mistrust by residents.

The Women Taught Themselves

Their life hasn’t been easy at all; none of them were taught how to do radiation testing. They ended up teaching themselves how to use the equipment. Kaori said that the software with the machine was in English so it made it harder for them to understand. They listened to the explanation of the manufacturer and slowly comprehended what to do. They got the Japanese software later on and started using the machines. The mothers were trained with the best equipment and radiation experts from prestigious universities.

One of the mothers, Noriko Tanaka was pregnant when the tragedy struck and she lived 50 kilometers south of the power plant. She was under immense panic when the radioactive iodine was released from the meltdown. She fled the scene and when she came back after 10 days, there was fear lingering in the air because of the contamination. The government was unprepared for the disaster which led to panic and worries for the residents.

Health Hazards Still Remain

Radioactive Caesium was found in the domestic powdered milk so she had to figure out a way to get powdered milk from overseas which was a struggle. She takes her children for free thyroid checks in the clinic to make sure there is no radiation exposure. It has been said that thyroid cancer is a risk on the children by the experts because of the radiation.

One of the doctors in the clinic, Doctor Noso was concerned about thyroid cancer because of the meltdown. They used to inspect cesium 134 and cesium 137 and check for tritium and strontium in food. Tritium is difficult to detect so it needed special treatment. They had to be certain no chemical elements could remain in the body and cause cancer or leukemia.

At the moment, the Fukushima plant has stabilised and radiation levels have come down. Still, there are issues like contamination of food being the main concern. The disaster created a stand-still in Japan but Australia was one of the first countries to lift import restrictions on Japanese food. There are more than 20 countries that have kept their import restrictions on Japanese agricultural products.

Even after 20 years the effects of radiation can be seen.

The Mental Impact Of The Incident

The mothers were in fear of their children being bullied because of the incident. Some of the children have even fled to other parts of Japan because of the bullying. Tanaka said that even if the radiation level is low in the area, it will also be treated as the area with high-level radiation. The incident had an emotional impact on the children and the mothers; they have been treated with prejudice. The mothers are worried about the marriage of their children and if the incident has led to genetic issues.

The volunteers educated the public about the radiation levels in food and water. The Japanese government has deemed it to be safe for the people to return as it has been completely decontaminated. The mothers are still apprehensive as the schools were cleaned but not the forests or mountains. They wanted to make sure the radiation levels are constantly checked and the government should decontaminate the houses.

The fear of the incident still remains in the minds of the residents. When everything seemed impossible, the mothers took a step to change the lives of the children for their future. This initiative by the Fukushima mothers is noteworthy and exceptional!


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