Masato Muto works for Tokyo Electric Power Co. in a rented one-story building in Fukushima Prefecture, where only a clock and a calendar hang on the office walls, and most days, only angry people come through the front door.
The nuclear evacuees who visit Tepco’s branch office in the mountainside town of Aizuwakamatsu are greeted two ways. First, by a letter from the utility’s president — taped to a whiteboard by the entrance — that apologizes for the “great inconvenience” and “anxiety” caused by “the accident.”
Next, by an employee such as Muto, one of the 1,700 Tepco workers dispatched to centers in Fukushima to help people collect payments for their lost jobs and homes — provided they first fill out the 60-page application form.
“The people who come here are furious — furious — about what happened,” Muto said. “They have a thorn stuck in their heart. A lot of people tell me: ‘I want to go home as soon as possible. I want my life back.’ What can I do? Well, the best way to help is to let them vent their anger.”
So Muto bows to the evacuees, dropping to his knees and apologizing. “This is the first step for us, to then have a conversation about compensation.”
“My longest session was four hours,” Muto said. “Whew — I was so tired afterward.”