TOKYO, April 11 (Xinhua) -- A survey conducted by Japan's education ministry revealed Tuesday the number of children victimized by bullying after their families fled the nuclear crisis in Fukushima Prefecture in March 2011 was far higher than initially thought.
The ministry survey was conducted through regional education boards in March and showed that of 11,800 evacuees of school age surveyed, only a fraction reported incidents of bullying in stark contrast to other surveys and widely-reported anecdotal evidence.
In 204 cases of bullying documented by the education ministry since April 2011, one elementary school-aged evacuee was told to go back to Fukushima soon after joining the school. Some of the evacuees were told by their peers to go back to Fukushima or move somewhere else, the survey showed.
In a another case a junior high school pupil was told not to come to school because other pupils said they would be contaminated with radiation.
In fiscal 2016 alone there have been 129 cases of bullying, the education ministry's survey showed, although of the total, the ministry only attributed 13 cases directly to the nuclear crises in Fukushima.
Japanese Education Minister Hirokazu Matsuno conceded, however, that there was likely a huge dark figure of unreported cases or cases that were otherwise quashed.
"It is difficult to conduct a survey that covers them all. We will consider our response in light of the possibility that some bullying has not surfaced," said Matsuno on Tuesday, adding that further studies were necessary to reveal the true extent of the problem.
Highlighting the likely huge disparity in actual cases to those revealed by the ministry's survey, Japan's public broadcaster NHK said on Tuesday that in its own survey on the matter conducted recently, of 740 families surveyed, at least 54 children were bullied because they were "nuclear accident evacuees."
NHK also said a boy who was bullied in an elementary school by his classmates who wouldn't touch anything he touched and acted as if he was contaminated.
The boy, who once had to escape his classroom after being stabbed in the leg by a pencil during class time, said he couldn't ask his teacher for help as his teacher believed he was just "restless" and needed to see a doctor.
In a recent interview with Xinhua, mother-of-two Yasuko Endo said she made the decision to leave Fukushima for the safety of her children, but that her eldest boy was tormented by his peers at his new school in the Kanto region.
Endo said that soon after enrolling in the new junior high school other children were quick to single her son out as being the "new kid" but when they found out he was from Fukushima they started to harass him on an increasingly frequent basis.
Endo said they would call her son, now 14 years old, all sorts of names like "radiation boy" and "vermin," which quickly began to damage the boy's self-esteem.
She said the bullying would continue outside of school and involve her son being followed home from school and taunted with new "nicknames" related to the nuclear accident.
One time the boy's tormentors threw rotten fruit in his face, Endo said.
The situation reached a peak when a whole class refused to get into a pool with the boy during a physical education class, claiming that they would be "infected" with radiation if they shared water with the boy.
Endo said her son ended up in hospital as a result of the bullying.
Hosei University Professor Naoki Ogi said the onus of responsibility lies with the teachers of the bullied children for not taking the problem seriously enough.
Other informed sources have taken aim at the education ministry itself for taking so long to conduct a nationwide survey that has most likely produced inaccurate results.