Maruzoi fled his home, less than two miles from the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex, on March 12. In a fit of fury and despair, he decided last week to return and see for himself the havoc wrought by Tokyo Electric, known as Tepco.
He got into his white Subaru and set off for a 25-mile drive back to Okuma, the site of Tepco’s tsunami-battered plant. Police in anti-radiation protective clothing tried to stop him at a checkpoint but, after a heated argument, let him pass. Arriving in Okuma, Maruzoi drove past cows wandering along deserted streets. He thought of “The Day After,” a 1983 TV movie about the aftermath of a nuclear war.
He went, he said, because, unbelieving of everything Tepco says, he had to see with his own eyes what had happened to his home, and to a pet cat and dog he’d left behind. He stayed for less than an hour, just long enough to inspect his property, grab some clothes — and dig up some soil from his garden.
He wrapped the earth in plastic and set off back to Tamura, his dog, left behind yet again, yelping as it tried to keep up with his accelerating Subaru. Back in the gymnasium, Maruzoi had the soil tested at a radiation screening center. The Geiger counter flashed an alarm. Maruzoi quickly got rid of his contaminated sod. He also ditched all hope of returning to Okuma to live anytime soon.
“I wish I could go back, but realistically it will not be possible for 20 or 30 years,” he said, smoking a cigarette outside the sports complex where he sleeps on the floor with 600 others evacuated from Okuma. With him is a son who used to work at Tepco’s plant.
Before a tsunami crashed into the six-reactor complex, Maruzoi “never worried at all. They kept saying it was safe. We were brainwashed.”
Now, like many others, he blames Tepco more than nature’s furies for the ruin of his life. He wants the company to pay, not just in cash but also in honor.
When Tepco sent company vice president Norio Tsuzumi here to offer apologies on March 22, Maruzoi demanded to know why the president, Masataka Shimizu, hadn’t come instead.
“Where is Shimizu? Can we see Shimizu?” he asked the vice president, who had no answer and “just kept mumbling, ‘Sorry, sorry.’ ”
Shimizu, Tepco has since revealed, was recuperating from a “small illness” due to overwork. Shimizu suffered another bout of ill health early last week and was hospitalized with hypertension and dizziness. He was still in the hospital Sunday, the company said.
At Tamura’s town hall, fury at Tepco and dismay at its absentee boss is also running high.
“We are beyond anger,” said Tokutaro Kato, the head of the economics section.
The town has set up three posts that monitor airborne radiation and is now waiting for equipment so it can check soil.