MATSUMOTO, Japan — The 12-year-old girl didn't want to leave her younger brother, and her grandparents didn't want her to go away. But a family living near the "no-go zone" surrounding Japan's destroyed nuclear plant has other things to consider.
Yukie Hashimoto and her husband sent their daughter 300 kilometers (200 miles) away to the picturesque ski town of Matsumoto, where the mayor offered to take in and educate young people living in the shadow of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant.
Research has not shown the children to be in clear danger from exposure to low-dose radiation, but mistrust of the authorities remains high. The Hashimoto family, and the parents of seven other children, accepted the offer.
"I didn't really believe things are as safe as the government is telling us," said Hashimoto, who lives in Koriyama, about 30 kilometers (20 miles) west of the 20-kilometer no-go zone. "We made our decision with her future, 10 years and 20 years later, in mind."
The eight students — seven in junior high school and one in elementary school — began their new lives this month, with the beginning of Japan's school year. They live in a rented house with bunk beds and live-in caretakers.
The project is the brainchild of Mayor Akira Sugenoya, a medical doctor who performed more than 100 thyroid-cancer surgeries in neighboring Belarus after the 1986 Chernobyl catastrophe.
For those outside the largely off-limits 20-kilometer zone, taking such a drastic step is relatively rare. The Hashimoto family went back and forth.
A wide range of views on the risks of radiation has divided both their family and entire communities. Hashimoto was nervous about speaking to a reporter, because raising questions can get one branded as a troublemaker. She requested that her daughter remain anonymous for fear of a backlash.