The Great East Japan Earthquake of March 2011 shook the part of the country where we've been volunteering for the past few weeks. The meltdown of the Fukushima nuclear power plant was all over the news and has affected thousands of people here in Northeastern Japan. High levels of radiation can be found everywhere, especially in soil and crops. The campus of the Asian Rural Institute is about 65 miles from the power plant.
Although that seems far away, ARI is in fact considered a “recoverable area” meaning that radiation has deeply affected the land here. The campus has a large number of acres in crops like soybeans and rice as wells vast gardens of vegetables from garlic to eggplants. With the nuclear disaster all of this was at risk. Rice paddies that were built up over 40 years could have been lost. Fields that were cultivated and cared for over the decades might have ceased to bring forth nourishing food. It was and continues to be a reminder of the fragility of creation.
ARI is dealing with the problems of radiation. The cow that provided milk and yogurt for the ARI community is no longer here due to radiation concerns. Soybeans and sunflowers were planted in large numbers after the disaster as these crops help to clean contaminated soil.
There is also a radiation testing facility on campus that serves the wider community for ensuring the safety of food and soil. The food we eat is tested periodically as well to make sure it is safe.
Certain foods still need to be avoided. Chestnuts, found basically everywhere you walk, cannot be eaten due to high radiation levels.
We are still learning about the radiation issues here as well as the technical lingo that accompanies most discussion about it. Suffice it to say that this is a scary topic. Imagine your immediate water and food supply unusable. I can't really wrap my mind around it because I have pretty well always taken these things for granted.
But it is with the joy that we can say this place, the campus of ARI, is now considered a recoverable area. It is an area that is being renewed and cared for with purpose and with gratitude.
Also, thanks so much for the emails and comments many of you have sent. We appreciate your support and are glad you are enjoying the blog so far. Also, many have asked about what we are up to in Japan and want further details about the Asian Rural Institute. Check out their website here HOME (Eng) | Asian Rural Institute and you can learn a bit more about this unique training-center/farm/international-crossroads/faith-community. It's a pretty darn cool place to be.