This is a compilation of the eight installments that appeared between Nov. 15 and 27.
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According to Greek mythology, it was Prometheus who gave fire to humans.
The acquisition of fire allowed humankind to develop civilization. Fire derived from fossil fuels further spurred production capacity. In time, humans attained atomic fire, a feat that was also described as "superior energy." Playing with fire, however, has presented humans with a dilemma.
Humans, who achieved a civilized world through Prometheus, are now troubled by atomic fire. The series of articles contemplate the country, its citizens and electric power in light of the failure of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
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The first series, "Men in Protective Clothing," looks at the fate and experiences of 25 people who evacuated to Mizue Kanno's home in Namie, Fukushima Prefecture, following the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
'Please, get away from here'
Tsushima district in Namie, Fukushima Prefecture, is located in the mountains approximately 30 kilometers northwest of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, operated by Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO).
On March 12, the day after the nuclear accident, 10,000 people fled to the Tsushima District from the coastal area that lies within a 10-km radius of the nuclear power plant. Residents took people into their homes, since there was not enough room at the elementary and junior high schools, community centers and temples.
One after another, people began arriving at Mizue Kanno's home throughout the day. By evening, 25 people had gathered. Although many were relatives and acquaintances, there were also strangers among them.
Her new house had recently been built after having torn down the family's 180-year-old, traditional Japanese home. It has an impressive gate, expansive grounds and a large room measuring 20 tatami mats (approx. 33 square meters). It was just right for accepting evacuees, and the yard was filled with evacuees' cars.
"I don't know what happened at the nuclear power station, but if we evacuate this far, then we should be OK." Everyone looked relieved for the moment.
Kanno, 59, cooked two pressure cookers full of rice and made an evening meal of rice balls and miso soup with pork and vegetables. People who fled with only the clothes on their backs assembled in the large room and began eating.
Following dinner, everyone introduced themselves and formed rules for living together:
* To prevent the toilet from getting clogged, toilet paper should be thrown away in the cardboard box placed next to the toilet.
* Everyone should help cook and serve meals.
* Do not hesitate to be open with one another. ...
The people split into groups and slept in two rooms. Kanno handed out all the futons she had.
Then, Kanno stepped outside, where she noticed a white van that had stopped in front of her house. Inside were two men wearing white protective clothing. They turned toward her and shouted, but she couldn't make out what they were saying.
"What? What's the problem?" Kanno asked.
"Why are you here?! Please, get away from here."
Kanno was shocked.
"Flee? But this is an evacuation shelter."
The two men got out of the car. Both were wearing gas masks.
"Radioactive materials are spreading."
They spoke in a grave tone and with a sense of urgency.
National road No. 114 that runs past her house was bumper to bumper with cars at a standstill, full of people who couldn't get into evacuation shelters. The two men also shouted to the people who had gotten out of their cars, "Quickly, get back into your cars!"
The two men then drove off in the direction of Fukushima city. They did not go to the branch office of the town hall, or place a warning on the message board.
The government had said that areas outside of a 10-km radius were safe. Why, then, were those two men wearing protective clothing and gas masks as well? Who exactly were they?
Kanno was puzzled, but at any rate she hurried back to the house and told the evacuees about the men in protective clothing.