Fukushima Exclusion Zone

265 images Created 9 May 2012

The March 11th 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami caused hydrogen explosions, meltdowns and radiation leaks at the Fukushima Daichi nuclear power station. A twenty kilometre exclusion zone was put in place shortly after that encompassed the most heavily contaminated areas. But large parts of the Fukushima countryside were affected and high radioactive readings can be found outside the exclusion zone in certain hot-spots like the villages of Iitate (Iidate) and Tsushima which were quickly evacuated after the disaster.
Fukushima is largely a rural prefecture with a large farming community many of whom have found their livelihoods ruined since the accidents at the powerstation. Though radioactive contamination of foods grown here may be low enough in most areas to be deemed safe by Japanese government standards the Japanese consumer is not convinced and many farmers are finding it difficult to sell their produce. Farmers markets that were once popular tourist destinations now find their only customers are stubborn locals or refugees from inside the zone that have no choice. Some even test their own products independently before putting them on sale.
Large scale decontamination efforts are underway in some of the areas inside the exclusion zone. indeed some of the zone was opened up to locals in the spring of 2013 and the Japanese government plans to rebuild and resettle most of the areas that were evacuated after the disaster. Certain areas like the village of Tsushima remain too radioactive for residents to return and have been permanently sealed. How attractive a return might be for residents whose towns and villages have been declared "safe" remains to be seen.
The agricultural community in Fukushima is ageing and had problems before the events of March 11th however. The young were drawn from the area to Tokyo and other big cities in Japan. A strong pride in the resilience of Fukushima people has seen some young people begin to make a difference, rather than escape the difficult situation that now exists in towns like Iwaki. Near this town a volunteer farm called 'Arigato Farm' has been set up to produce food for local consumption and to educate the people on the continued viability of farming in the areas. Other young entrepreneurs are redeveloping rundown areas of the town to allow farmers to invest and take part in new businesses that importantly show the rest of the Japan the area is still vibrant and able to enjoy itself despite the current difficulties.
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