Column: Alternative medicine tried by A-bomb survivors offered to people of Fukushima

by Masaya Yamauchi, Deputy Editorial Writer

“Hoshano de Shuto Shometsu” [“Annihilation of the Metropolis by Radiation”], “Naibu Hibaku no Kyoi” [“The Threat of Internal Exposure to Radiation”], and “Okasan no Tame no Hoshasen Bogo Chishiki” [“Radiation Protection Know-how for Mothers”]… I was surprised to read these titles of the bestselling books in Tokyo in the book-review corner of yesterday’s newspaper. Five out of the ten titles were concerned with radiation and nuclear power generation. This indicates that many in Tokyo are feeling anxious even though they live more than 200 kilometers from the troubled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

This situation is similar to what I saw in Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, five years after the Chernobyl accident. Located 150 kilometers from the nuclear power plant, Kiev was outside the contaminated area. The milk, meat, and vegetables in the markets were checked every day, they said. But still, many people were anxious about their children’s health.

Radioactive materials are invisible. In the case of the Fukushima crisis, too, the contamination is spreading to the soil, vegetables, and into the sea. The government repeats the assurance, “At this level, there are no immediate health risks,” but it is only natural that the concern of the local people is mounting.

Following the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, there was a dire shortage of medical supplies. Some of the survivors claim that alternative medicine saved their lives. They tried various home remedies such as consuming the extract of a herb called “dokudami” [Houttuynia cordata] over a long duration; eating eggplants pickled in miso, a seasoning made of fermented soybeans; and eating pickled plums. The effects of these remedies may not be proven by modern medicine, but the survivors tried such methods on their own bodies.

With this experience, the Junod Society, a citizens’ group in Fuchu, Hiroshima Prefecture, has begun an effort to send locally-produced miso and pickled plums to the people in the affected areas in Fukushima Prefecture. This group has also been providing aid to the victims of the Chernobyl accident. Hopefully, the wisdom learned in Hiroshima will serve the people of Fukushima.

(Originally published on April 4, 2011)