Saved by the words, “It’s fine just the way you are”, I live in Minamata, struggling along.
Seven years have passed since I returned home to Minamata, where I was born and raised. I’m 33 years old now. It’s not been that long since I began to actively speak out about what I think about “Minamata disease”. I have never had a deep involvement in the Minamata disease case, nor do I have any relatives suffering from it. However, since my parents are so-called “the Supporters for Minamata disease patients,” I have been in contact with Minamata disease patients and their families through my life. When I was a child, I used to recognize the patients just as “big brothers and sisters”. After I entered college outside Minamata, I had a chance to write a report on Minamata disease. Only then did I realize that they were the patients with congenital form of Minamata disease and some of them were even the victims not-yet certified as the subject to public salvation. I had been this ignorant and indifferent about Minamata disease in my youth.
After I made a U-turn to Minamata to take over my parents’ business, I became involved in the sales of sweet summer oranges grown by the patients’ families. I finally began to learn in depth what the Minamata disease case was all about. When I came in contact with numerous testimonies and records, I was filled with guilt and helpless anger for not knowing, and I agonized over what I had seen and what I had not seen in Minamata. On one hand, I was in anguish, and on the other hand, I knew my standpoint of being a participant in all this, but also being away from the center of it. Being in this position, I began to think about what I could say about the Minamata disease case. Two years ago, my brother and I were invited to a conference in Fukushima. At the conference, we were given the opportunity to express our full thoughts and feelings about Fukushima and its disaster as well as Minamata and its disease. What struck me the most was that the people who participated in the conference saw in us the children of Fukushima in the future. I felt that they were looking at us with a mixture of hope and anxiety, wondering how the next generation of Minamata disease survivors like ourselves were going to tell the story of the Minamata disease case. The reason they look at us that way may be because the people in Fukushima have been constantly asked to “tell their stories” for the past 10 years. I remember one of the participants showed a strong sense of discomfort with the idea of adults demanding their children perform their narratives.
Mr. Aiichiro Kawamoto, a storyteller of the Minamata Disease Museum Storytellers’ Association, once said to me, “I get flashbacks every time I talk about my junior high school and high school days.” He also said, “It may go like this. I usually keep the trauma pushed into the bottom of my consciousness. When I talk about my school days, I draw it out and put it into words by the force of my own will. By doing so, I may have been sublimating the trauma little by little.” These words left a strong impression on my mind. Here is a farmer of sweet summer oranges whom I trust with all my heart. Many of his family members have been affected by Minamata disease, but he rarely talks about it. At first, I wondered why he wouldn’t talk about the Minamata disease case, which caused so much harm to his family. One day, I confided in him, “I feel a sense of shame and guilt about telling the story of what I did not experience in order to explain what damage Minamata disease caused. He said, “For me, the story of Minamata disease is a story of my dearest family. I love my family, and I cherish them. That’s why I can’t talk with others about Minamata disease. But if I were in your shoes, I would talk about it. So it’s fine just the way you are. The thing is I can’t speak out yet because it’s about my family and it’s fine with me.”
Here is a farmer of sweet summer oranges whom I trust with all my heart. Many of his family members have been affected by Minamata disease, but he rarely talks about it. At first, I wondered why he wouldn’t talk about the Minamata disease case, which caused so much harm to his family. One day, I confided in him, “I feel a sense of shame and guilt about telling the story of what I did not experience in order to explain what damage Minamata disease caused. He said, “For me, the story of Minamata disease is a story of my dearest family. I love my family, and I cherish them. That’s why I can’t talk with others about Minamata disease. But if I were in your shoes, I would talk about it. So it’s fine just the way you are. The thing is I can’t speak out yet because it’s about my family and it’s fine with me.”
I was saved by this line, ” It’s fine just the way you are”. So I would like to tell the people in Fukushima, if they are suffering from “the pain of not being able to speak out” and “the inability to speak out”, that “it’s fine just the way you are”. I truly respect those who continue to tell their stories, which are supposed to be personal, in order to keep the memories of what happened alive. And at the same time, I also respect another choice not to tell anyone about what happened and keep the stories to themselves. When the next generation like me comes along and speaks out with their worries, I want to be there to give them a push and say, “It’s fine just the way you are.” I hope that Fukushima and Minamata will continue to mutually question each other, talk to each other, and tell each other’s stories for many years to come. I myself will continue to live in Minamata, struggling along the way.
Written on August 28, 2022
Writer Tsuzumiko Takakura
Born and raised in Minamata. Returned to hometown in 20s. While as a salesclerk for sweet summer oranges produced by Minamata disease patients and their families, growing sweet summer oranges using natural cultivation methods that use no pesticides or fertilizers.
Producer Group KIBARU:https://kibaru-mikan.net
コメント ( 0 )