Sato and Kubota are joining a class-action lawsuit being prepared against the government and Tokyo Electric on behalf of Fukushima-area residents affected by the meltdowns. It demands an apology payment of $625 a month for each victim until all the radiation from the accident is wiped out, a process that could take decades, if ever, for some areas.
Independent investigations into the nuclear disaster have concluded that the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant was unprepared for the massive tsunami, in part because of the nuclear industry's cozy relationship with government regulators.
“We think people have the right to live in an environment not polluted by radiation that may harm their health, and that right has been violated by this accident,” Izutaro Managi, one of the case's lawyers, said in a meeting earlier this month for plaintiffs in Naha, a major Okinawan city.
Japan's statute of limitations requires that the lawsuit be filed no later than March 11, 2014. About 20 of the evacuees in Okinawa have signed on to the lawsuit, which has gathered 100 other people in the three weeks since it began.
Kubota, who now works part time for an Okinawa magazine publisher, said the problem is that no one is taking responsibility for the accident.
“Seeking accountability through a lawsuit may feel like such a roundabout effort. But in the end, it's going to be the best shortcut,” she said.
She is getting health checkups for her children, fretting over any discovered problems, including anemia, fevers and nosebleeds.
Her fears are heightened by the fact that she and her children had lived in their car right after the disaster, which had liquefied the land and destroyed their home. They had unknowingly played outdoors while the nuclear plants had been exploding, she recalled.
The disaster ended up separating her family. Her husband refused to leave his dentist practice in Ibaraki Prefecture. They argued over whether to relocate, but she knew she had to leave on her own when he said: “There is nothing we can do.”
These days, he visits her and their two boys, ages 8 and 12, in her new apartment in Okinawa on weekends. He sends her money, something he didn't do at first.
“I wake up every day and feel thankful my children are alive. I have been through so much. I have been heartbroken. I have been so afraid,” she said.