by Ida Torres / via The Japan Daily Press / February 25, 2013 /
Almost two years have passed since the gigantic earthquake and tsunami in northeastern Japan that killed nearly 20,000 people and caused the world’s worst nuclear disaster in 25 years. And after these 24 months, the Fukushima nuclear disaster is still putting immense stress on the family life of all two million people across the affected area, creating marital discord that has been so common that the phenomenon has been named genpatsu rikon, literally “atomic divorce”.
There are no official numbers yet, but Noriko Kubota, a professor of clinical psychology at the local Iwaki Meisei University, confirms that there are numerous cases of the said phenomenon. “People are living with constant low-level anxiety. They don’t have the emotional strength to mend their relationships when cracks appear,” she explains. Relationships are being torn apart over such disaster-related issues as whether to stay in the area or leave, what to believe about the dangers of radiation, or whether it is safe to get pregnant. “When people disagree over such sensitive matters, there’s often no middle way,” adds Kubota.
Moreover, Kubota knows that long-term psychological trauma is setting in with the people affected by the disaster. “We are starting to see more cases of suicide, depression, alcoholism, gambling and domestic violence across the area,” says the psychologist. “From the point of view of mental health, this is a very critical time,” says Kubota. To top all of that, cases of discrimination against people from Fukushima are slowly rising within Japanese society. The social stigma attached to victims of radiation, not all that different to the discrimination the survivors of the wartime atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki suffered, has started to come up – when men could not find work and women were unable to marry due to fears they were “contaminated”. Last year, prominent anti-nuclear activist Hobun Ikeya, the head of the Ecosystem Conservation Society of Japan, said at a public meeting: “People from Fukushima should not marry because the deformity rate of their babies will skyrocket.”