Nagasaki’s Lesson for the People of Fukushima
By Makiko Segawa
SNA (Tokyo) — Fukushima residents are increasingly facing the necessity of gathering information to protect themselves against radiation. One major facet involves a reevaluation of just what people are eating and drinking. Internal radiation exposure is a grave concern.
Within this context, the SNA has learned that many are turning to folk remedies for radiation sickness; that is, a macrobiotic diet such as consuming miso, brown rice, seaweed.
Indeed, this is thought by many Japanese to be a lesson learned an earlier encounter with deadly radiation―at Nagasaki.
The main protagonist of this movement is the late Dr. Tatsuichiro Akitsuki, who was the director of the Department of Internal Medicine at Urakami Daiichi Hospital (now St. Francis Hospital) in Nagasaki when A-Bomb was dropped in August 1945.
His book Shi no Doshinen (Concentric Circles of Death) was published in 1972 by the Kodan Publishing Company, and purports to explain how the doctor saved his patients from radiation back in the old days.
The “Dr. Akitsuki Treatment” ordered his patients not to eat sugar, but to have a healthy intake of miso, brown rice, seaweed, and salt.
His hospital was located only about a mile from the epicenter of the atomic bombing, and before long many of his patients were suffering from symptoms of radiation sickness.
A key passage in the book reads:
“I gave the cooks and staff strict orders that they should make unpolished whole-grain rice balls, adding some salt to them, prepare strong miso soup for each meal, and never use sugar. When they didn’t follow my orders, I scolded them without mercy, ‘Never take sugar. Sugar will destroy your blood!’ This dietary method made it possible for me to remain alive and go on working vigorously as a doctor… It was thanks to this food that all of us could work for people day after day, overcoming fatigue or symptoms of atomic disease and survive the disaster free from severe symptoms of radioactivity.”
All of Akitsuki’s patients survived even as others in all the surrounding neighborhoods were perishing.
The Roman Catholic Church and the residents of Nagasaki called it a miracle of the modern day.
Some scientists maintain that miso, in particular, guards the body against radiation.
Whether or not the “Dr. Akitsuki Treatment” is valid from a medical point of view is something that must be resolved by doctors and scientists, but the growing popularity of this man and his ideas in Fukushima is already clear.
Hiroyasu Sasai, a president of a private publishing company called “Malkosh” in Minami-Soma City, enthusiastically supports Dr. Akitsuki’s method. He has established a “Healthy Life Promotion” section in his monthly magazine that lists “foods that combat radiation.”
Sasai writes that, “As long as we stay in Japan, we cannot avoid internal radiation exposure, not to mention external exposure. In order to fight internal radiation exposure, I would like to introduce to the people foods that works against radioactive substances as discovered by Dr. Akitsuki.”
Aya Marumori, an executive member of the Fukushima Children’s Information Center and a resident of Fukushima City, notes that consuming miso and brown rice to ward off radiation is a widely accepted idea among her neighbors.
The staff at the Safety of Our Foods and Life Foundation, an NGO group which has been promoting consumption of miso and other traditional Japanese foods, is persuaded that “radioactive materials in the body can be reduced by the intake of minerals.”
She asserts, for instance, that “by taking lots of natural potassium from miso, it reduces radioactive potassium. So it is basically the same principal as taking iodine pills to stop the entry of radioactive iodine.”
For the people of Fukushima, remedies like that propounded by Dr. Akitsuki seem to be only the hope they have left to protect themselves and their families from both the fear and the reality of deadly radiation.
Makiko Segawa is a staff writer at the Shingetsu News Agency.