Children of the Tsunami

Synopsis: The Japanese tsunami of 2011 and the ensuing nuclear disaster in Fukushima, told through the eyes of 7-10 year-old children.
Genre: Documentary
Director(s): Dan Reed
60 min

This is the story of the Japanese tsunami

and the nuclear disaster which followed,

told through the eyes of children.

The tsunami struck on a Friday afternoon

just before the end of the school day.

It destroyed dozens of schools

along 200 miles of Japan's

north-east coast.

All the schools evacuated to

high ground except for one.

Okawa Primary School,

more than two miles inland

by the Kitakami River.

Ten-year-old twins Soma and

Fuka were in the fourth year.

The earthquake which produced the tsunami

struck at 2:
46pm on 11th March.

The earthquake measured

nine on the Richter Scale

and lasted more than two minutes.

Before hitting Okawa Primary,

the tsunami would destroy two

other schools closer to the sea.

The first stood by the river

mouth, looking out over the ocean.

The teachers at this school led the

children to safety on higher ground.

Now the tsunami surged

up the Kitakami River,

engulfing a second primary school.

Teachers and children at this

school escaped to the roof.

Now the tsunami headed for Okawa,

the school furthest inland.

More than half-an-hour had

passed since the earthquake.

Around 100 children were still

in the playground, waiting.

The teachers were debating

whether to go up the hill

behind the school, used

as a nature trail...

or head for the nearby bridge.

In the space of half-an-hour,

the tsunami laid waste to 200 miles

of Japan's Pacific coastline

and claimed 19,000 lives.

As the tsunami subsided,

Primary School, in Fukushima,

another calamity was unleashed.

The tsunami had knocked

out the cooling systems

at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station.

Nuclear fuel in three of its

reactors began to melt down.

As the power company struggled

to regain control of the plant,

one of the reactors exploded.

Two days after the first, a

second explosion released

a cloud of radioactive dust

high into the atmosphere.

the government issued an evacuation order

to everyone living within

Over the next two days, 80,000

people abandoned their homes.

The government imposed a

sealing off the plant and the now

empty towns from the outside world.

Ten-year-old Rikku is from Tomioka,

a town deep in the exclusion zone.

It could be decades before

children can go back to Tomioka.

Radioactive contamination didn't stop

at the boundary of the exclusion zone

which was an arbitrary line

drawn by the authorities.

It spread throughout the

wider Fukushima area,

creating ghost towns up to

Many families with children

fled to distant parts of Japan.

But some, reluctant to

leave their home area,

evacuated no further than Minamisoma,

the city on the very edge

of the exclusion zone.

Children from the exclusion zone

were absorbed into Minamisoma's schools.


The children of the exclusion

zone exist in a kind of limbo,

waiting for the authorities

to decide when or if

they can return to their homes.

The nuclear accident took

away not just their homes

but their communities and

most of their friends.

In the meantime, they've had to

adapt to a strange, new world

in the shadow of the stricken reactor.

Ten-year-old Saki's bedroom window

looks out over the exclusion zone.


Saki's home town lies beyond the barrier.


For the children of

Fukuskima, learning about

the dangers of radiation has

become part of growing up.

As part of a long-term experiment,

every child in Fukushima's been

asked to carry a dosimeter

which records their exposure to radiation.




Good morning, everyone.

How are you?

Please have a nice day.


Ayaka is an evacuee from the exclusion zone

but she has nowhere to go back to.

Her family home was

destroyed by the tsunami.

All that's left are the foundations.

Ayaka's grandfather was at

home when the tsunami came.

At weekends, Ayaka is

allowed to play outside,

but only once her father has checked

the radiation in the street.

Radioactivity in Ayaka's street,

measured in microsieverts,

is 15 to 20 times what it

was before the accident.

While the children of Fukushima

adapted to a new way of living,

the tsunami hit hardest

nearly 4,000 of its victims

were still missing.

At Okawa Primary School

on the Kitakami River,

ten teachers and 74 children

died that Friday afternoon.

Two months after the tsunami,

six children and one teacher

were still missing.

When the authorities

scaled down their efforts,

Naomi and a few other parents

carried on searching.

While a handful of parents looked

for their children's remains,

others were searching for an explanation.

The school authorities had delayed

four weeks before meeting

with bereaved parents to

explain what went wrong.

There were 11 teachers at Okawa

School when the tsunami hit.

One survived - Junji Endo.



As the crisis at the Fukushima

Daiichi nuclear plant wore on,

children from the exclusion zone

were left wondering when, if ever,

they'd be able to return home.

Eight-year-old Kosei was evacuated

to his grandmother's house

in Minamisoma, the town

next to the exclusion zone.

The house is close to the Fukushima Hills,

where radiation is high.

"Fur Elise" by Ludwig Van Beethoven


To a 10-year-old from a small

town in the exclusion zone,

the emergency housing

camps are an alien world.

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Dan Reed

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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