Two wonderful volunteers from Tokyo, Anna Vieste and Etsuko Hori, recently spent time at the JEARS shelter in Inawashiro, Fukushima prefecture. A formerly popular ski area. I say "formerly" because the name Fukushima is now internationally synonymous with the sentiment `Danger Keep Out` and the droves of visitors who sought out Fukushima's natural beauty are thin on the ground these days. The JEARS shelter is located about 130km away from the TEPCO plant. The shelter offers sanctuary to abandoned animals from all over Tohoku and peace of mind to pet guardians who temporarily place their animals in JEARS care while they get the rest of their lives up and running again. Anna penned the following account of her recent volunteer experiences with the human Angels of Inawashiro. Her trip to Namie, a town 30km away from the nuclear plant.
A surreal story of the forgotten fourleggeders of Fukushima.
On Saturday we (Etsuko and I ) went with Alex to Namie town in Fukushima to do some food drops. After showing the appropriate passes we entered the abandoned town, geiger counter on lap and face masks uncomfortably in place. Alex said we should put them on when the counter hits 2.0 which it did well before the entrance to the ghost town. At first it seemed a li...ttle surreal how the counter started climbing up 2 - 5- 10 -12 -13 -20 finally up to 30 .The strangest most unsettling part of the trip was the totally abandoned town..houses unlocked with slippers neatly arranged at the entrance. Deserted businesses, machinery left to rust , a little van left neatly at the side of the road ivy creeping up over the windshield and doors, grass covering the foot paths on the side of the roads .
As we stopped to leave yet more food at a designated spot 2 young cats came running up right in the middle of the road seemingly unaware of what a road should be. We left food near houses were their feline occupants had been left to fend for themselves and saw kittens born well after the quake growing up in a world devoid of humans. Alex told us of a recent trip where she had spotted wild boars and babies which had now started breeding.
Please take me with you!
We went to visit and feed a poor dog that had been left chained up by a sad little dirty filthy kennel........its only shelter. JEARS had been in contact with his owner begging to take the dog and care for him assuring the owners that they could visit whenever they liked but they refused and said they go twice a week to leave food.(as if that was more than enough) They warned that there were now wild boar and he wouldnt stand a chance. Their warnings falling on deaf ears. We saw animal footprints near his kennel out of reach from his leash so he is being visited by others who may want to take his food. He fell in love with Etsuko and we started sobbing at having to walk away from him praying his owners would come to their senses before it was too late.
Then the eeriest of all ... the spiders! They were simply everywhere spinning their webs from power lines on sign posts over almost everything...The absence of movement and human vibrations creating their ideal environment. Even a trio of wasps nests that had taken over the eaves of a house didn't deter them . At first we marveled at their bright lime coloured bodies and strong webs but the further in we went and the more spiders we saw the admiration turned to an uneasy nervousness. There were just so many and they were simply everywhere that we wondered how many may be there in a few months time.
When and if the inhabitants of these deserted towns ever go back what will they find? How will the animal inhabitants cope with their return? How will the animals cope with the coming winter?
JEARS does amazing work leaving food, capturing cats to spay and neuter, caring for any sick animals they find. And all WITHOUT government assistance! There is no animal fund no money coming to help these poor creatures or assist their owners to be able to take them to temporary housing. Its so sad and seems actually barbaric that they can just be treated like the rest of the abandoned objects left to rot and rust.
The girls at the inawashiro shelter do the drops twice a week rain, hail, shine and radiation . It takes about 6~7 hours to drive there do the drops and get back. Sometimes Alex Susan or Selena have to do this alone if there is no one else available to help! AMAZING!
I had a lift back to Tokyo the next day ..my new family member Sophi in her carrier (and her complaining meows) on my lap appreciating my life all the more and as always in complete admiration and gratitude of the important selfless work JEARS does!