By SHINICHI KAWARADA/ Correspondent
March 21, 2019 at 17:15 JST
Matsuki Kamoshita, an evacuee from Fukushima Prefecture, visits the Vatican to meet Pope Francis. (Shinichi Kawarada)
VATICAN CITY--After being bullied and attacked, Matsuki Kamoshita appeared to be living a fairly peaceful life by concealing the fact that he was an evacuee from the nuclear disaster-hit Fukushima Prefecture.
The secrecy, however, was eating him up inside, and the junior high school student finally revealed his inner turmoil to a higher authority and made a special request.
“Could you visit Fukushima Prefecture to pray for victims of the nuclear accident?” Kamoshita, 16, asked Pope Francis.
The pope promised to do so when he visits Japan in November.
The exchange took place in the General Audience with Pope Francis at Piazza San Pietro in the Vatican on March 20.
The teenager’s talks with the pope stemmed from the magnitude-9.0 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011, that triggered the triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant. Kamoshita and his family were living in Iwaki, a city south of the nuclear plant.
Their home was located outside of the 20-kilometer no-entry zone where residents were ordered to evacuate, but the family, worried about high radiation levels, decided to relocate to Tokyo.
When pupils at his new elementary school in the capital learned that Kamoshita was from Fukushima Prefecture, they assumed he had been exposed to high doses of radiation, called him a “germ” and even physically attacked him.
Kamoshita became so traumatized by the bullying that he wrote a note when he was around 9 expressing his wish to “go to heaven.”
To avoid a similar experience, he decided not to tell his classmates about his past after he entered junior high school.
He thought that he would lose his new friends and his peaceful life if he revealed that he came to Tokyo to escape the nuclear disaster.
But he gradually found it agonizing staying mum about what he and his family went through and what was happening in his home prefecture.
“I felt like I would break into pieces because I was torn by those conflicting ideas,” Kamoshita recalled.
Encouraged by supporters of Fukushima evacuees, the teenager described his inner turmoil in a letter that was sent to Pope Francis in November last year.
The letter was delivered to the Holy See, which sent the boy an invitation to the General Audience with the pope.
“I could convey the sufferings of the evacuees with the pope,” Kamoshita said. “From now on, I want to give my thoughts while revealing my name and face.”
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