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(7) Third Hunger Strike – 30 days (April 2006)
In April 2006, I demanded a notebook. My brother’s wife and my sister rejected it, and we started a fierce argument again. I thought I would not be released until I did a longer hunger strike than before. I was determined to carry out an indefinite hunger strike.
Around two weeks after starting the hunger strike, it became difficult even to stand up. Even to read a book or to think became difficult. I spent most of the time lying down lifelessly, even during the day. At around the time of passing 21 days of a hunger strike, which I experienced twice in the past, I became debilitated more and more. I sensed that my life would be in danger if I continued the hunger strike. I told my family that I would end my fast on the 30th day. However, my family became furious against my resisting attitude. They didn’t serve rice gruel for one day, even after I declared an end to the hunger strike.
As I was in a starvation state, I protested by saying, “Are you starving me to death?” My family still didn’t feed me, saying, “What are you saying? You started the fasting and how can you demand food now? Are you stupid? Continue until you die.” I thought, “I might be killed,” and I was filled with tremendous fear.
As there was no other option, I had to prostrate myself and beg my family for food. On the following day, my family started to serve me thin rice gruel three times a day in a small bowl (7 cm in diameter and 5 cm in depth) and thinned sports drink (500cc) called Pocari Sweat twice a day. When my sister was in a bad mood, she delayed serving the drink for 20 or 30 minutes. Even if it was a delay for a short time, it was very hard for me. I became under the thumb of my family.
In the morning when thin rice gruel was served, I was sitting in the position where I couldn’t see the other people’s meals. My brother’s wife banged on the table and said to me, “Sit here.” I was forced to move to a place where I could see everyone’s meals. As I feared that they would stop serving rice gruel and I would receive more abuse, I had to take the order in spite of her autocratic demand. Thus my brother’s wife made me see their meals while I was in the starvation state, causing me psychological suffering. I will never forget this humiliation.
Such liquid diet lasted for 70 days, and solid food was not served during that time. To take only liquid food was equal to not eating anything. As a result, I was forced to continue fasting for another 70 days after my 30-day hunger strike. I became nothing but skin and bone, and I was on the verge of dying of starvation. I was confronted with the fear of death, and my physical state was its worst at that time.
While I shared a dinner table with my family for these 70 days, only one small bowl with thin rice gruel in it was served just in front of me at every meal. If I picked it up and drank it, it was finished within a few seconds. If I took sips little by little while I was watching my family eating their meals, it still didn’t take more than three minutes to finish.
I developed a sense of danger that I might die if this continued. I quietly opened the refrigerator door without their noticing and licked mayonnaise or seasonings. But when I opened the door one day, all the seasonings had been hidden.
Triggered by the fear of death from starvation, I stealthily picked up skins of carrots or apples from food scraps and ate them in hiding. When I bit the tiny bit of the apple attached to the skin, the sweetness of the apple spread in my mouth, and tears started to flow with joy. But after a short while, even food scraps were hidden.
I sometimes became delirious, and I started to hear beautiful music out of nowhere. It didn’t take long to find out that it was auditory hallucinations. I thought, “Someone may be here to welcome me from the spirit world, and this is a really critical moment.” This time I targeted the prepared rice that sat in a bowl with water before being cooked. I stole some raw rice from the bowl and ate it in hiding.
My family prepared the rice in the bowl with the correct amount of water; therefore, the amount of water became relatively more than the rice. The cooked rice became more watery, and it continued every day. My family said in a searching voice, “The rice is watery recently.” I tried to stay calm, but I was desperately praying to God in my mind, “God. Please help. Please don’t let it be discovered.” I was extremely concerned that further sanctions might be imposed if this were discovered.
The watery rice continued every day. My family said, “This rice cooker is broken” and bought a new one. They miraculously didn’t discover what I did. Somehow I survived the starvation crisis. It was really beyond my imagination that my family members did such things to me.
I read a newspaper column during the confinement about the young men (in their 20s) of the Irish Republican Army who died of starvation from 40-day or 70-day hunger strikes in the 1980s. I didn’t have enough food, except for liquids, after my 30-day hunger strike. I took rice to survive. I worried that I would face major challenges for my survival if the situation continued. I begged my family to resume giving me normal meals at the beginning of July 2006.
It seemed that my brother feared that he would be charged with murder if I died in this situation. He said to other members of the family, “Isn’t it the time to resume normal meals?” My brother’s wife unhappily replied in dismay, “Unbelievable!” When I heard the conversation among the family members, I found out that my brother’s wife intended to continue the nefarious food sanction until I abandoned my faith. I felt that my brother’s wife had an hysterical hatred toward me because I kept on refusing to abandon the faith. She disregarded my life. I got chills down my spine to know her cold-heartedness.
However, at first they served only thicker rice gruel. Then they made it thicker and thicker. It took four months to resume giving me normal meals. After the four months, they served a piece of bread and a drink for breakfast. A meager meal was served for lunch, such as a bowl of rice, a bowl of miso soup, four pieces of dried seaweed, pickles, small fish, etc. For dinner, a bowl of rice, a bowl of miso soup, pickles, small shrimps and natto (soy bean product) without many side dishes were served. These kinds of meals lasted until the end of my confinement, and I suffered terrible hardships physically and mentally. While my family was eating normal meals, I was seated at the same table eating meager meals from a small plate (10 cm in diameter). I desperately felt like eating things from their plates.
My brother’s wife said, “What an awesome meal you have!” pointing at my plate. After the meal, the family members ate eating dessert, fruits or snacks in the room near the front door. I was still hungry after the meal, and I became very sensitive to smell. It was an unbearable experience, and I collected apple skins from food scraps and ate them.
I couldn’t go to sleep at night because of hunger. Menus such as curry, pork cutlet on rice, gyoza, ramen, etc., which I wanted to eat but couldn’t, came to my mind at bedtime.
Around September 2006, when Mr. Abe formed a government in Japan, my sister attempted to take some videotapes when she was cleaning the room. When I tried to get them back, I got into a scuffle with my sister. My sister damaged the videotape. My brother’s wife joined the scuffle, and she took a TV antenna from the room. As my sister alone physically overpowered me, I didn’t even have the energy to take the antenna back from my sister-in-law. I couldn’t even watch TV from that day, and it caused further mental suffering. My sister started to treat me badly as the confinement in the room was protracted. My brother’s wife and my sister did not like me watching TV.
One day, my brother’s sister took books away from my room. I went to the room next to the front door to get the books back. My sister-in-law said in a strong tone, “Don’t come.” And I was banned from entering the room beyond the accordion curtain. I feared further food sanctions; I couldn’t help but comply with the order.
I remember that after the third hunger strike my family mentioned to me a few times that I could leave. Even when I heard such words, I couldn’t believe they were saying them seriously because of the violence that my family did to me or my experiences of abuses such as food sanctions. Rather, I could not help but understand that it was their intention to use their comments as excuses to avoid accusation of confinement in case of criminal charges filed by me in the future.
Some mechanics (to repair the air-conditioner, etc.) visited the room a few times. I couldn’t ask them for help for the following reasons:
First, my brother was always monitoring me. While my brother was staring at me, it was impossible to ask for help.
Second, a man had come to the room to fix the air-conditioner in the summer of 2000, and I learned the man was an acquaintance of Miyamura from the conversation between the man and my brother. I couldn’t ask such a person for help. As there was the possibility of other agents’ connection to Miyamura or my family, I couldn’t ask for help.
Third, I had received mental and physical abuse in the closed confinement room from Miyamura, former UC members and family members since being transferred to Flower Home #804. Such abuses were already mentioned in my statement. For example, the abuses include the defamation targeted at me, psychological suffering caused by their criticism, physical suffering by overpowering me during escape attempts, severe food sanctions after the hunger strikes. The fear of abuses increased because of my past treatment. Because of my fear of failure if I asked such mechanics/agents for help, I couldn’t ask them for help.