Naraha (Japan) (AFP)

For them, it is a "humiliation": evacuees from the Fukushima region are struggling to accept the government's will to make an emblematic site of the 2011 nuclear accident the high-profile starting point of the Olympic flame.

"Fukushima has other concerns than Tokyo," summed up a slogan during a demonstration of these "anti" near the J-Village.

It is precisely from there that the flame of the Tokyo Games must start on March 26. The J-Village is a luxurious football training center funded by Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco), and inaugurated in 1997 about twenty kilometers from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

It was a time when nuclear energy promised "a bright future", as once displayed on a portico at the entrance to the city of Futaba, close to the power plant.

The flame will also pass through this deserted commune, the authorities having recently lifted the evacuation order for a portion of the agglomeration.

- "Symbol of reconstruction" -

"In normal times, we would have been very happy if the Fukushima region was in the international spotlight thanks to the Olympic flame, but we are still suffering. And because of who? From Tepco", the company that operated the plant , continues Hiromu Murata, president of the association for aid to evacuees, Hidanren.

"Fukushima is not in a situation conducive to rejoicing at the Olympics," says Miyako Kumamoto, also an active member of a support group for evacuees struggling to relocate.

After the disaster of March 11, 2011 caused by a gigantic tsunami, the J-Village was transformed into a real headquarters for workers responsible for securing and cleaning up the site: they changed there, rested there, restored by the thousands each day, before and after working in the hell of the nuclear site.

The site resumed its activities as a sports center with fanfare in April 2019.

"J-Village has become what it used to be, it is a symbol for us, it is the starting point for reconstruction, an ongoing process. We hope to receive great support and energy thanks to the Olympic Games" , justified Masao Uchibori, the governor of the region.

Some 41,000 people have not yet returned to their homes, according to the latest official figures, which associations consider far below reality.

- Fear of being forgotten -

The gradual lifting of bans on living in areas of the region is not well seen either by some of the evacuees, who still fear radioactivity.

"Some of the people who lived in a locality once again declared habitable are reluctant to return, but the state and the prefecture cut their aid to find accommodation elsewhere. And those who left for fear of radiation without having been evacuated by order are sometimes in a worse situation, "says Ms. Kumamoto.

And to cite the case of some poor households to which the State provided free public housing for several years, then demanded rent, which he then doubled the amount, and now wants to evict them if they continue not to pay.

"There are only five households left in this situation: we are helping them to find accommodation, but it is difficult to get in touch with them," replied a prefecture official in charge of housing.

"We offer them slums by entrusting this mission to unscrupulous agencies," contested Ms. Kumamoto.

"Stop charging them rent they can't afford," she begs. "We will do it if the Ministry of Finance tells us that it wants to," replied the official.

In this dialogue of the deaf, Mrs. Kumamoto wonders: is the State, which spent more than 1,000 billion yen (nearly 9 billion euros) for the Olympic Games and which promises a recovery plan of 13,200 billion yen (about 108 billion euros) to boost the economy and help reconstruction needs the 20,000 yen (160 euros) monthly rent from the few households concerned?

Many people in the region fear especially that they will be forgotten after the spotlight on the Olympic Games.

© 2020 AFP