Clear plastic taped over the upholstered seats crinkled when we sat down on the tour bus. All our backpacks and all but one camera were locked in a room, guarded by Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) officials. We left the town of Tomioka, where evacuation orders had just lifted two months ago, and drove into the no-go zone...
Written by Jana Wiegand
Written by Tate Samata
The nuclear meltdown next door
Scraping Fukushima clean
In the quiet countryside near Tomioka town, the sound of an excavator tore the solitude, its operator scraping the earth away. The man at the controls put retirement on hold to help restore this area, damaged by radiation after the destruction of the Fukushima-Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.
Video by Jack Ginsburg and Katy Spence
Chopsticks of hope
Masayuki Takahashi didn’t hear the rumbling over the bladed machinery severing cedar logs into thin slices. He was used to the shaking; but when his three-ton saw jolted a foot to the left, he knew there were other forces at play. As wood blocks flew off shelves of his woodshop, he darted outside. The electric line above him twirled like a jump rope; the earth tremored forcefully beneath his feet...
Written by Tate Samata
The heart in darkness
A story of radiation, karaoke and destiny as a group of strangers struggles with the future of a forgotten village
Looking for all the world like he just wandered off the set of “Miami Vice,” Show Takahashi strolled the aisles of a Tomioka grocery store, shopping for food for the first foreign visitors to his Airbnb. Wearing a white jacket, white cargo pants and a pink button-up shirt with the collar up, he had a shopping basket of assorted meats in a basket over his arm...
Fishing in a sea of stigma
3.11 rumors drag Fukushima fishermen down
On a sunny day off the coast of Fukushima, four fishermen pulled a net full of tiny, translucent sardines onto their boat. Laughing and smoking, they pounded the net with their fists to release excess water. It was a good catch.
“Delicious,” one fisherman said, but these sardines were not caught to be eaten. The entire day’s catch would be handed over to the Japanese government and tested for traces of nuclear radiation...
Villagers can gather, but not eat, wild plants
Someone was stealing mushrooms from Hideo Watanabe’s secret spot.
The gatherers of Kawauchi Village in Fukushima, Japan, jealously guard places where treasured wild edible plants and mushrooms grow. So when Watanabe discovered that someone had been stealing from his spot, he was outraged.
“It was my spot,” he said, emphasizing the words. “Do it yourself!”
The next time he went foraging, Watanabe picked everything he found, so no one else could.
But Watanabe doesn’t eat the wild plants and mushrooms he gathers. Since Kawauchi’s forests were contaminated with radioactive cesium in March 2011, residents are no longer permitted to eat what they gather...