Since the disaster at the nearby nuclear power plant, life has been difficult for residents of Fukushima city. Mother-of-two Yukie Moriguchi is particularly worried about the consequences for her children.
Yukie says: “I feel sorry for my kids – because of the radiation they can't play outside like I used to. Two or three days after the earthquake, I saw on the news that it wasn’t safe for children to play outside. Other places have to recover from the disaster, but here in Fukushima we have anxiety about the radiation so it's a constant worry.
In the summer my kids used to go to the swimming pool, but this summer they can't. Yuna, my daughter, likes to play in the sand pit in the park but now she can’t; we don't go to the park anymore.”
An invisible danger
Yukie finds it hard to explain the danger to her son Sea, two, and daughter Yuna, four. She says: “I showed my daughter the power station explosion on TV and explained to her that this is where the radiation came from. The kids know that it’s dangerous but I haven’t been able to explain to them why.
“One thing I am worried about is that because I’ve been telling my son that the ground is dirty he’s scared to touch the ground, so it affects the way he walks and moves.”
Like many families, the Moriguchis face a difficult choice. She says: “There are different ways of thinking – some of my friends moved away but their kids are missing their families, so I feel it’s better to stay and not split the family apart.”
Husband Takayuki says: “We just don't know when this is going to end, but we have to live with the situation. At the beginning I thought about leaving but I have a job here and I can't just quit and leave.”
A chance to be children
Thanks to the Red Cross Smile Park in Fukushima, a large indoor playground, Yukie’s children will today get a chance to play. She says: “My daughter has been looking forward to today all week.”
Initially opening for nine days, and able to host up to 250 children each day, the Japanese Red Cross is planning to open the park in different rented locations across the city at least four more times during the year, and more often if they can secure space.
Yukie is happy to see her children playing. She says: “The kids have stress so it’s good that there is this facility. I’m very thankful for the support from all over the world, but I also feel that the difficulty of living in Fukushima is something only people living here can truly understand. It's very hard for people who are not experiencing this to understand our anxiety.”
Find out more about the Red Cross' response in Japan