IWAKI, Japan — Kiyoko Okoshi had a simple goal when she spent about $625 for a dosimeter: she missed her daughter and grandsons and wanted them to come home.
Local officials kept telling her that their remote village was safe, even though it was less than 20 miles from the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. But her daughter remained dubious, especially since no one from the government had taken radiation readings near their home.
So starting in April, Mrs. Okoshi began using her dosimeter to check nearby forest roads and rice paddies. What she found was startling. Near one sewage ditch, the meter beeped wildly, and the screen read 67 microsieverts per hour, a potentially harmful level. Mrs. Okoshi and a cousin who lives nearby worked up the courage to confront elected officials, who did not respond, confirming their worry that the government was not doing its job.
With her simple yet bold act, Mrs. Okoshi joined the small but growing number of Japanese who have decided to step in as the government fumbles its reaction to the widespread contamination, which leaders acknowledge is much worse than originally announced. Some mothers as far away as Tokyo, 150 miles to the south of the plant, have begun testing for radioactive materials. And when radiation specialists recently offered a seminar in Tokyo on using dosimeters, more than 250 people showed up, forcing organizers to turn some people away.