Fukushima : After the Nuclear Power Plant Accident
Fukushima Prefecture is famous for fresh fruits and the history of Aizu,which was one of the strongest governments in Edo period. However, after 2011, the Prefecture became worldwide famous as the area covered by radiation.
When the earthquake and tsunami attacked the Tohoku area including Fukushima on March 11th, 2011, Fukushima's first nuclear power plant got damaged and its radiations leaked to the area around the plant.
Even in the same Prefecture, the damage caused by the tsunami, the earthquake, and the nuclear plant accident depends on each area.
Takayu onsen is a famous hot spring in Fukushima city, which is relatively far from the sea and from the power plant. Attaka yu, a public bath of Takayu onsen, was left undamaged by the earthquake and it restarted three days after the nuclear accident. “Many local people came to this bath at that time because their houses didn't have water, gas and electricity”, the staff at Attaka yu says.
While Fukushima city did not get many damages, other cities near the sea or the power plant were strongly damaged. Minamisoma city in Fukushima Prefecture is one of the nearest cities to Fukushima No.1 nuclear power plant, and some areas in the city are within 20 km of the plant, where the Japanese government has not allowed people to live due to the danger of radiation.
The residents who were living within that 20 km on March 11th have evacuated in and out Fukushima prefecture and some of them have lived in prefabricated houses near their original town.
Taketsugu Kurosawa, a resident in a prefabricated house, was living in Odaka ward, less than 20 km from the power plant. Kurosawa said that he got chocolate on Valentine’s Day this year from a foreign volunteer from Sendai city and he was very happy. But after that, relief supplies finished in March and less people visited the area. “There are not many fun things to do here,” Kurosawa says, and added, “I wish many more volunteers come and hold some fun events.”
On the other hand, now many residents in prefabricated houses are moving to their new places. Some of them bought new lands and built new houses, and some of them are moving into public apartments.
Kurosawa also built a new house in Haramachi, which is a little further away from the power plant than Odaka ward. He decided to move to the new area when his daughter in Aomori Prefecture said she would come visit him with her baby if he lives in Haramachi, not in Odaka area, because of the radioactive impact to her baby.
The Japanese national government is planning to lift the evacuation order to Odaka ward in April 2016, since the radiation amount there is getting smaller. Yoshiki Konno, the town leader of Tsukahara town in Odaka ward, has built his new house and new public town hall in Tsukahara last year. He wishes many new and original residents come live in the area and could build a lively town again after the national government lifts the evacuation order.
Konno is trying to set up a plan to build a museum in Odaka ward, which tells about the damages caused by the earthquake, the tsunami and the nuclear power plant accident. He hopes many people visit the ward to learn about the disaster so that they will not forget it, and that the visitors will make the town livelier.
Around the town hall that Konno has built, there are fields covered by grass and houses with broken windows and walls just like if March 11th was a week ago. The splinters of windows are spread on the floor. Four years after the disaster, they are still there, while other areas further away from the power plant have been recovering better year by year.
It is sad to see the unrecovered area, but it is a rare occasion to understand the damages of a tsunami, an earthquake and a human made plant accident. “目に焼き付ける (meni yakitsukeru) ” : the Japanese expression means to print the scene in one's eyes.
According to the Reconstruct Agency of Japan, 200,000 people have been evacuating throughout Japan as of July 16, 2015. While the largest number of evacuees (63,988 people) still live in Fukushima Prefecture, the number of the evacuees (45,241 people) from Fukushima who move to other Prefectures is quite large too.
Data on evacuees at Reconstruction Agency website:
Fukushima prefecture tourism website: