Monday May 30th found us doing animal care and getting ready for a pick up. The previous day Miho and Miwa had been forced to leave two dogs behind at one location because the dogs were too large to fit into the car. We also had heard from Fran that he had been unable to feed the chickens that weekend because he had been caring for the cow whom he had been supporting with massive doses of antibiotics and fluids. She had died that Saturday almost a week after myself and the other Kinship Circle volunteers went to see her. Thus we needed to feed the chickens, as well, so Susan and I helped to take care of the animals at Club LOHAS and took off towards Kawamata in the mid afternoon.
It was an uneventful ride (though quite rainy because a typhoon was coming through) and we made it to the pick up location with only one U-turn (a feat in and of itself). However, the driveway up to the house was unpaved and very precarious. Driving on it in an old van was less than pleasant. When we got to the top of the driveway we were preparing to get out of the van when suddenly a police car pulled up behind us! They must have been following us from afar because we were out in the complete middle of nowhere at the top of a steep dirt path.
Susan went out to talk to them in her JapEnglish (broken Japanese mixed with English words) and attempted to explain that we were here at the guardian's request because they had evacuated, leaving their dogs. The police wanted to know who the guardian was. At this point we had to call Miho. We hadn't anticipated needing to pick up these dogs thinking that they would be picked up all together the previous day so we didn't have the paperwork releasing the dogs into our care; Miho did. So Miho explained to the officers over the phone the situation and once she talked to them their demeanor became much more congenial so she must have really impressed them. They took our information and told us that we were ok to be in this area of Kawamata/Namie (it's hard to tell when you are in there exactly where the borders are between towns) but requested that we please stay away from the 20 km exclusion zone. We assured them that we would stay away and proceeded to find the dogs.
We heard the first dog before we saw her. She was howling as we approached the house. When we spotted her, she was huddled in front of a dog house absolutely coated in mud. She is a black and white spaniel mix, but it was hard to tell since she was filthy. We approached slowly with treats and she quickly became friendly. We easily loaded her into the car but mud dripped off of her medium-length coat all over us. At the time we weren't sure of her name since there were two dogs and we didn't know which one she was. We later learned that her name is Mickey.
Susan and I then went in search of the second dog who we had been told was not chained and was running loose on the property. Well, she was nowhere to be found. We called and whistled and shook bags of food hoping to attract her, but she clearly wasn't in hearing distance, or if she was, she was hiding from us. We dropped some food outside of the door of the house and left.
We made for the big chicken coop, but it was getting dark and the rain continued so it was quite creepy. To get to the coop you have to pass a few roadblocks meant to keep out non-residents so we knew what we were doing was not exactly illegal, but definitely not really allowed. About 10 minutes from the coop we passed a cop car. Relieved that they didn't stop us, we kept going, but about a minute later we saw that they had turned around and were following us. Susan and I began freaking out. I kept saying, "What do I do, what do I do???" and she kept saying "I have no idea!!!" I decided to keep driving mostly out of instinct. We had passed all of the roadblocks we were going to not-so-legally enter and were so incredibly close to the chickens it seemed like a waste to get close and not keep going. Luckily the cops never told us to pull over using their loudspeakers (the Japanese cops don't seem to have sirens that they use and only signal for you to stop by flashing their lights at you or using the speakers) and we made it to the chicken coop. I parked the car and the police used the loudspeaker to tell us to stop (so weird). Susan again used her JapEnglish and hand signals to explain that we were here to feed the chickens, but the cops kept questioning us: Why were we there? How did we get here? Did we know that we weren't supposed to be here? Finally Susan and I put on our best pouty faces and begged the cops to let us feed the chickens. They relented and said that they would wait for us but that we had better hurry.
Running on pure adrenaline I sprinted to the coop with the 20 kg bag of feed in arms and ran back for the second bag. We dumped the bags and Susan lined up buckets for me to fill. I ran with the buckets to the gutter that we used to get water and did this about 6 times. It was exhausting and I was soaking wet and covered in mud and chicken poop. We knew that this was a high radiation area (when Brian and I had come the previous Wednesday with the Geiger counter it was up to about 20 microsieverts/hr), but were so frantic to get the chickens taken care of before the police kicked us out that we completely forgot to put on face masks or gloves or Tyvek suits.
As we were finishing up another cop car pulled up behind the first one. It was our same friends from earlier and they wanted to talk to Susan in the car (we didn't know how they knew her name, it was quite eery). So we got into the car and they asked Susan if she knew how close we were to the 20 km and hadn't they told us not to go to the 20 km? After a few minutes of explaining ourselves and trying to get confirmation that, yes, we could be in the area around the coop as long as we didn't go too much further, but, really, it was quite dangerous for us to be in here because of the radiation and also the typhoon, the cops decided we weren't a threat and could leave.
We were finally allowed to go and we had to follow the cops out of the evacuated zone. Susan and I reflected on how scary the situation was and how we were glad that we hadn't gotten arrested and were able to feed the chickens. When we got to the manned police blockade (the same one that we are always circling in Kawamata/Namie on Rte. 114) we spoke to an officer who had some English proficiency. He told us that it was ok to feed the chickens, but that in the future we should come to this manned blockade and ask to be let in. I asked him for his name so that we could reference him as being the person who gave us permission to come in, but he indicated that he was from another prefecture and wouldn't be around much longer. So I don't think we will rely on going straight up to the police blockade to ask for permission because it seems quite clear it won't be granted. We will continue to use backroads to feed our chickens.
As we were heading back to Inawashiro, the dog pooped in her kennel. The smell was so horrendous that we had to put on our particle masks (the ones we really should have been wearing while we were feeding chickens in the radiation area) to block it out. When we got back it was quite late, but we still had to take care of the dog. We washed her, dried her, and took off 40 ticks!!! She settled in quite nicely and is a very sweet dog, but we had to call her Mickey-Lucky for a few days when we weren't sure who she was.
Myself and Selena washing Mickey at Club LOHAS. Photo courtesy of Susan Roberts