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特集ワイド:日本よ!悲しみを越えて ノンフィクション作家・佐野眞一さん


Japanese hearts must be cleared of rubble to overcome triple disasters

さの・しんいち 1947年、東京都生まれ。早稲田大学文学部卒。97年に「旅する巨人」で大宅壮一ノンフィクション賞。「東電OL殺人事件」など著書多数。近著に東日本大震災の現場をルポした「津波と原発」。=梅村直承撮影
Non-fiction writer Shinichi Sano

"It was apocalyptic," said 64-year-old non-fiction writer Shinichi Sano, as he recalled the nightmarish reality he witnessed in the Tohoku region after the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami. "I realized that the scene spread out before me would probably continue to appear in my dreams until I die."

What Sano saw on March 20 after he arrived in the Iwate Prefecture city of Rikuzentakata -- nine days after a massive quake hit off the coast of northeastern Japan -- seemed to him to come straight out of a painting by the Belgian-born surrealist painter Paul Delvaux.

"A terrifyingly bright full moon bathed the deserted ruins that remained after tsunami wiped everything out. I felt dread, terror, and perhaps a sort of dreaminess. It may have been the same thing that people who were swallowed by the waves saw before their lives ended. And I'm alive." The thought had made him tremble, Sano said.

Sano is concerned with giving voices to the victims who have lost theirs. "How do I communicate their silence?" he asks himself. Because of his conviction that non-fiction is created not through second-hand information, but by the careful accumulation of first-hand experiences, Sano has always rushed to the scene of accidents and disasters to hear fresh voices before they began to "scab over." He was not as swift in leaving for the disaster area this spring due to health concerns following a major operation last year, but he eventually made it to the Sanriku coast. What he witnessed he recorded in his latest book, "Tsunami to genpatsu" (Tsunami and the Nuclear Power Plant).

"Let us pass down to future generations the modesty of the Japanese people, who did not plunder (in the face of disaster)," Sano had written in a Tokyo-based newspaper soon after the quake. This had been before he had gone to the disaster area himself. It was the kind of heartwarming stories that made the rounds in Tokyo, and won praise for Japan around the world.

"But there actually was looting," Sano said. "I experienced a mix of emotions." He added that vigilante groups were patrolling neighborhoods at night. "Major disasters reveal both human beings' virtue and monstrosity. We can't look away from that reality."

Still, Sano knows full well it's not easy for people who have been hurt to go forward. While in Tohoku, Sano met a 57-year-old president of a fixed-net fishing business in Miyako, Iwate Prefecture, who drank all day, sobbing and lamenting the "death of the Japanese fishing industry." The fisherman, who'd lost five of his six boats to the tsunami, had slurred: "If only I had my boats."

 「ところが東京都知事が『天罰』と発言してみたり、『がんばろう』では済まないのに、テレビではエラソーな評論家がもっともらしい顔で空疎なコメントを繰り返す」。そのコメントで妙に納得してしまう。  「日本人のすべてが彼らの身の上を思いやれるか、その想像力を問うているのが今回の震災なんです」。
"Meanwhile, the governor of Tokyo was talking about (the disaster) being 'divine punishment,' and the slogan 'let's hang in there!' was thrown around unhelpfully. Critics on television repeated hollow words as they acted like they knew what they were talking about.

"The latest quake disaster is a test of the Japanese people's ability to be truly concerned for others' circumstances, and whether they have the imagination to do so."

"We have spiritual rubble on our hands," Sano answered. "Just look at the Diet."

As Sano sat in a room overflowing with books on the second floor of his home in Chiba Prefecture, he said that the post-quake slogan that he detested the most was "Nihon wa hitotsu (Japan is one)."

 「冗談じゃない。日本って一つじゃなかったんですよ。福島県の原発は東京のため、中央のため。(沖縄の米軍)普天間飛行場と同じ植民地が福島にあった現実が、あらわになったんです」。"What a joke. Japan hadn't been one to begin with. The nuclear power plant in Fukushima was for Tokyo, for the central government. It just became evident that there was a colony in Fukushima, just like Futenma Air Base (in Okinawa, of the U.S. Marine Corps)."

The prosperity we enjoyed was made possible through the energy sent to us from the power plants. We'd been talked into believing that this energy was clean. And now an irreversible disaster has taken place. Still, Sano warns that taking all our anger out on the government and the utilities is too simplistic a response.

Photo by AP

"There are no songs for people who work at nuclear power plants," Sano said. Coal miners -- despite their labor being used to generate energy in the same way as nuclear power stations -- had songs they worked to. Despite fishing being described as a dangerous job where "death lies below just one plank," Sano said fishermen "had pride for their work. Pride that they were supporting their wives and children. It wasn't just about the money."

Suddenly, the tone of Sano's voice shifted, growing more passionate. "With people working at nuclear power plants, the more they work, the more they're exposed to radiation. And in the end, they're abandoned. It's not so much that they're getting paid for physical labor, but more that they're selling their bodies. Before we could attribute our prosperity to nuclear power plants, we were using people as stepping stones. And we were too insensitive to that fact," Sano said. "It's been over 40 years since nuclear power plants were built in Japan, and we hadn't noticed. This comes from a lack of imagination. It's a grave sin."

Photo by AP

Even now, some 3,000 people are working -- in fear of radiation exposure -- to get the stricken Fukushima plant under control.

According to what Sano heard from those who'd evacuated from Fukushima to the Saitama Prefecture city of Kazo, residents living near the troubled plant were descended from farmers who'd been gathered from around the country by the then Soma domain to provide manpower that had been lost in the Great Tenpo Famine of the 1830s.

"And now they've been forced out of their homes. ... The day after the (1995) Great Hanshin Earthquake, I went to Kobe. There was a couple sifting through the scorched earth as ash smoldered around them. I moved closer and saw something white," Sano said. "They were looking for the bones of their child. In the Sanriku region and Fukushima, people can't even do that."

 今取り組んでいる作品は、ソフトバンク社長、孫正義さんの人生記だ。以前から取材を続けていたという。「震災の後に何をしていたか尋ねたら、彼は、ずっとテレビを見ていたと言うんです。Sano is now working on a biography of Masayoshi Son, the president and CEO of major telecommunications company Softbank Corp. Sano had been following Son since before the March 11 disasters.

"When I asked him what he did in the days following the quake disaster, he said he just watched television. And that he'd seen a girl dressed in red calling for her mother on the Sanriku coast, and that he'd cried in spite of himself. I asked him what he thought at that moment, and he repeated, three times: 'I'm powerless.' I think those are the kinds of words that we'd usually hear from politicians."

Son visited evacuation centers in Fukushima, offering to provide transportation fees for the temporary evacuation of 1,000 children to Saga Prefecture in Kyushu out of his own pocket.

"Maybe this isn't the best way to describe him, but Son's just a cell phone seller. And here he was, not merely saying he would do something, but actually taking action. Meanwhile, it became clear that Japan lacked effective leaders. Former Prime Minister Naoto Kan, the Cabinet members who were ousted for their gaffes, the Democratic Party of Japan, the Liberal Democratic Party and the New Komeito all continue to waste time," Sano said. Indeed, the Diet's attention seems to have shifted to the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership (TPP).

"Everything rests on how we weave our words together, and how we decide to act. We must use our imagination without being swayed by the words of politicians and others. We need to train ourselves to think. I think that's one way to overcome the quake disaster. Post-war Japan was able to rebuild because it was young and had momentum. Today, we have an aging population. Unless every single one of us washes away the rubble strewn about our spirits, we might not be able to triumph over the challenges we face this time."

Washing our spirits of rubble may actually be a lot harder than clearing the disaster areas of physical rubble.

(By Taichi Nemoto, Evening Edition Department)











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