With many Japanese afraid to travel to cities they believe to be “contaminated” with nuclear fallout, one Japanese scholar is reaching out to the San Francisco Bay Area with a plea: Please don’t forget about the people of Fukushima.

Takashi Oda, who from 2005 to 2008 was an advisor for community affairs to the Consulate General of Japan in San Francisco and then became a Fulbright scholar at UC Berkeley studying the Japanese-American community in the Bay Area, is calling on his “San Francisco Bay Area Family and Friends” to continue to reach out to the people of Fukushima.

He writes in an op-ed for San Francisco-based newspaper Nichi Bei Weekly that his hometown of Iwaki -- a city of more than 340,000 residents, located less than 25 miles from the nuclear plant -- is now being shunned by the rest of Japan.

“While I am very grateful that my family is safe, my family’s home was severely damaged. But more important than the physical damage is the damage done to us by people who shun us, fearing that all of Iwaki is ‘contaminated’ because of the radioactive leakage. It has gotten to a point where some residents were forced to leave the town because food or water is no longer transported, due to a fear of it being infected.”

Oda writes that his uncle, whom he describes as “a very proud and strong man,” told him, “‘We have been totally left to live in isolation.’”

“People who lost their homes, family and their whole life history now face another challenge of being treated as someone from the ‘polluted area,’” Oda notes, due to their proximity to the radiation.

With his hometown effectively a city under siege, Oda writes that the role the San Francisco Bay Area can play has become even more crucial.

“So friends, I have a favor,” Oda writes. “Please do not forget about us even after the news have stopped covering our lives and have moved on to other things. We need you to remember that our communities will require time, support and love to restart. While some Fukushima products are temporarily restricted, there are many other products that are very safe to purchase and consume. Please reach out to buy Fukushima’s safe products and welcome Fukushima people into your lives
to let them know you care. You have and continue to do that for me, and now, more than ever, I know what real friends are, no matter where they are located.”

Andrew Lam is author of East Eats West: Writing in Two Hemispheres