We got to see the challenges like empty villages and areas full of bags with contaminated soil, as well as positive developments like
solar energy fields and new villages with houses built by Tepco and restaurants attracting even young people.
2011: a combination of disasters
My boyfriend and I live in the Netherlands and decided that in our four-week-holiday to Japan Fukushima had to be on our schedule. I work for the Dutch government and in a former project in 2011 I used to be active in the nuclear field. An earthquake with a magnitude of 9, a tsunami that rises up to 10 meters, and 3 meltdowns in nuclear plants is not something you can image. The electricity of the nuclear power plant was meant for Tokyo and when the helicopters were not able to get close enough to the site, a group of 50 firemen from Tokyo came to the area to help.
Monitoring by yourself
Before entering the evacuation zone we got a map of the area and a tool to measure the amount of microsieverts. On this day we would get the same amount of radiation as half as one dentist x-ray. (Our flight from Amsterdam to Japan even causes a higher radiation dose
than this tour). In the area there are lots of places being monitored and you can find various signs showing the radiation level as well. Since 2 years some areas have been cleared from radiation and people are moving back now indeed.
I didn’t realize that the contaminated soil from the evacuation zone would be visible in the landscape like it did. Forest areas are not cleaned up, but farmer areas have to. Quite an operation! There is even a designated 30-year-storage area where the bags will be collected. A lot of space offers opportunities like the nice solar energy fields that are connected on the still existing infrastructure. We visited the ranch of hope. A great name invented by a farmer with a big heart for his cows. The farmer feeds his meat cows (cheap) pineapple and hopes his cows will be fit after about 200 days more. Another farmer decided to shift from growing rice to growing flowers in his greenhouses. His flowers looked really lovely and the president even went to our “flower country” to do business.
Ghost towns and new villages arising
It is quite sad to see empty and destroyed houses and streets. You can tell people left in a rush and left everything behind to save their lives. Sometimes even nature is taking over houses and cars right now. People that left 7 years ago with families will not easily return, mostly older people return to the areas where the ban gets lifted. TEPCO (with 5000 employees) however has built new apartments in the Ookuma area and this attracts also younger people that will visit the restaurant, supermarket etcetera.
We really advise everyone to do the tour and don’t forget to bring your passport because there is still some security in the area.
Ellen Bouwhuis and Roel Schenk