High schooler hopes the prefecture will shed its disaster zone image, and that the rest of Japan will start to see Fukushima as normal again.

If I say the word “Fukushima,” I’m betting the first three words that spring to your mind, in no particular order, are “earthquake,” “tsunami,” and “radiation,” and that’s honestly a pretty natural reaction. Fukushima was largely unknown in the international community, and even within Japan the prefecture always had a pretty low profile (despite scenic beauty such as the above-pictured Bandai-Asahi National Park).

That all changed with the March 11 Great East Japan earthquake and tsunami focused the attention of the entire world to Fukushima. It’s only been seven years since that tragic day, so it’s not surprising that many still feel a sense of sadness and dread when they think of Fukushima, and often Japan’s northeastern Tohoku region in general. But one could also argue that seven years is enough time for significant healing to have taken place, which is the stance taken by Fukushima high school student and Twitter user @MikanPen,who sent out a uniquely though-provoking tweet on March 11 this year (translation follows).

I am grateful that people remember that today is the date when the earthquake and tsunami happened. But if you can observe a moment of silence once a year, I’d also like you to eat Fukushima-grown food, even if it’s just once a week, or once a month.

I’m not trying to say “Just a moment of silence isn’t enough.” I’m not saying “Only buy Tohoku-grown produce” either.

My grandparents were farmers, but last year they shut down their farm. Even now, damaging rumors persist about crops from Fukushima. In my high school, we performed experiments, and found that Fukushima-grown produce doesn’t have significantly different levels of radiation compared to crops from anywhere else. But the fact is that this information hasn’t reached many people.

If you’re kind enough to be hoping for the disaster-stricken areas to recover, I think the best way to support them isn’t to make a donation, but to travel here and eat the local food. It’s a rural place and there aren’t any famous sightseeing spots, but if you’d like to, please, come visit.

Finally, I want to say that it’s only the mass media that treats today [March 11] like it’s a special day. In Fukushima, it’s just another ordinary day. The kid who lives next door, who was born after the earthquake and tsunami, is now in elementary school. Today he’s running around the neighborhood, and you can hear the energetic, happy voices of kids playing. My little sister is doing her homework. I’m about to go out and do some shopping.

It’s a normal weekend. That’s all it is.

@MikanPen went on to apologize for perhaps sounding like he was trying to speak for all of Fukushima, responding to a few comments calling his statement overly sweeping by saying that he is simply trying to express his personal thoughts and feeling on the subject. And while citing high school-level research probably isn’t going to dispel too many people’s fears, scientifically grounded or not, about Fukushima-grown produce, it’s definitely true that the largely agriculture-dependent communities that were damaged in the earthquake will need consumer support if they’re ever to fully recover, and increased tourism to the prefecture would definitely be one way of earning the trust of the rest of Japan, and the world.

Source: Twitter/@MikanPen via Jin
Top image: Wikipedia/Purplepumpkins