Fifty Samurai

Still shot from Seven Samurai

While the world sleeps, eats, shops and fights, 50 nameless people are battling to save it.

Dubbed ‘Fukushima 50’,  the group of volunteers is selflessly facing escalating health and survival risks as they fight to prevent the nuclear catastrophe on a scale not seen since Chernobyl in 1986.

Two workers went missing a day earlier after the blasts, while one other worker was hospitalised after finding himself unable to breathe.

Yet, they won’t retreat.   A Japanese official who spoke to American channel CBS, said that he had made contact with a worker inside the control centre, who told him that he was not afraid to die, that that was his job.

In the aftermath of Chernobyl accident, 237 people suffered from acute radiation sickness, of whom 31 died within the first three months. Most of these were fire and rescue workers trying to bring the accident under control, some of whom were not fully aware of how dangerous exposure to the radiation and smoke was.

Knowing this, the personal sacrifice of Fukushima 50 for the collective good seems ever more awe-inspiring and unthinkable. I would speak for everyone I know that we are deeply humbled and grateful for your your sacrifice. I hope you all will, somehow, be allright. And if not, rest assured you will not be forgotten and the world will give generously to support your families left behind.

To me, the Fukushima 50 are a living example bushido (武士道), the way of the warrior, the spirit of samurai. A code of conduct developed amongst the warrier class during the feudal period, it emphases honour, loyalty and self-sacrifice. The history of bushido can be traced to the 8th century, with the virtures of self- sacrifice coming to utmost prominence in the 19th and 20th century. One can imagine the way it was popularised and exploited by the military and government, to ensure that the soldiers fight to the end. What cannot be denied is that the concept of sacrificing one’s needs, even life, for the collective benefit, and ideals of personal honour and duty developed for centuries and thus are woven into the fabric of Japanese soul.

A nation that produced the Fukushima 50 has a beautiful soul indeed.

Edit 18/03/2011:  50 Samurai become 180 Samurai.

Today I found out that there are 180 rescue workers at the Fukushima nuclear plant. They work in shifts of 50, hence the “Fukushima 50”.  Their names and communications with the outside world started filtering through. Mitchiko Otsuki, a TEPCO employee, remained at the plant from the time of the disaster until Monday. She wrote on her blog on the Japanese social networking site Mixi:

“In the midst of the tsunami alarm at 3am in the night when we couldn’t even see where we going, we carried on working to restore the reactors from where we were, right by the sea, with the realisation that this could be certain death.

“Fighting fatigue and empty stomachs, we dragged ourselves back to work. … There are many who haven’t gotten in touch with their family members, but are facing the present situation and working hard.

“Please remember that. I want this message to reach even just one more person. Everyone at the power plant is battling on, without running away.”

The update on the situation at the Fukushima plant can be found here.

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