The Most Radioactive Man on Earth Has the Kindest Heart

Naoto Matsumura, a 53-year-old fifth-generation rice farmer, returned to his contaminated home near Japan's Fukushima power plant to care for his cows:Courtesy of <a href="http://www.vice.com/read/radioactive-man-japan">VICE</a>.

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UPDATE: Many of you asked where to donate to help Naoto and the animals he’s caring for. VICE told me this: “This is the NPO organization that Naoto and his supporters run: http://ganbarufukushima.blog.fc2.com/. It’s a Japanese website but on the middle-left there is donation information in English.”
 

This 18-minute video by VICE Japan profiles Naoto Matsumura, a 53-year-old fifth-generation rice farmer who went back into the dead zone around Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power plant to take care of his cows (and pigs, cats, dogs, and ostriches), and then stayed there. If you’re wondering why anyone would live in a place with >17 times normal radiation, Naoto, in the video, explains his rationale on moral grounds. Including this:

Our dogs didn’t get fed for the first few days. When I did eventually feed them, the neighbors’ dogs started going crazy. I went over to check on them and found that they were all still tied up. Everyone in town left thinking they would be back home in a week or so, I guess. From then on, I fed all the cats and dogs every day. They couldn’t stand the wait, so they’d all gather around barking up a storm as soon as they heard my truck. Everywhere I went there was always barking. Like, ‘we’re thirsty’ or, ‘we don’t have any food.’ So I just kept making the rounds.”

As for the filmmakers, Ivan Kovac and Jeffrey Jousan, here’s some of what they had to say:

The radiation dosage per hour inside Naoto’s house, as measured by the Geiger counter we brought with us, is two microsieverts per hour, and outside our reader spiked to seven microsieverts. When we asked Doctor Hiroyuki Koide at the Kyoto University Research Reactor Institute how bad this was for Naoto, he said, “Japanese law states that any location with an hourly dosage exceeding 0.6 microsieverts [per hour] should be designated as a radiation-controlled area and closed off to the general populace. Once inside a radiation-controlled area you can’t drink the water, and you really shouldn’t eat anything. It’s inconceivable to me that a normal person could live there.”

All of the other ~15,000 residents of Naoto’s town still live in shelters—except for Naoto and his animals. And they’re not going anywhere, say the filmmakers.

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THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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