Around the same time last year, Aizu-Wakamatsu in Fukushima was the highlight of my Japan trip so I thought that for my trip this year, I should return again to Fukushima. The Real Fukushima website popped up during my travel research and the next thing I know is that I scored myself a private tour of Fukushima’s coastal area where the nuclear disaster occurred. On the day of the tour, I took a train from Sendai to Haranomachi Station to meet up with Karin, a local guide. She handed me a map of the area and a pocket dosimeter that detects radiation. Being a medical radiation worker, I was already familiar with the gadget and numbers so anything to do with radiation didn’t bother me at all. We began the tour with a visit to the port to get a first-hand look of what was left after the tsunami before visiting the new graveyard built uphill where a memorial monument was installed with the names of those who lost their lives back then. We also stopped by Karin’s lovely AirBnb for a short break before lunchtime.
We went to Urashima Sushi Restaurant in Odaka Town for lunch and as a huge fan of Japanese sushi, I dare say that I had the best sushi during my 3-week trip around Japan there! The restaurant is currently the only sushi restaurant in that town and is managed by a father-son duo with the father being the most chatty among the two. The restaurant feels new, probably recently renovated or rebuilt with a homely atmosphere. Since the menu is in Japanese, Karin helped me order their “super excellent set” and I was not disappointed at all. Their “otoro” and “chutoro” melted in my mouth that I thought I was in sushi heaven for a bit. I couldn’t have enough of it. I almost forgot that my tour is not over yet as Mr Sasaki, a local government officer, was going to drive me to the restricted zone.
After that awesome lunch, Mr Sasaki drove me around to visit some local homes. We tried to look for the famous bike cat but they were not home, probably out biking somewhere I guess. I was especially amused by the story of the owner of a cow farm there too. We probably drove through a lot of the evacuation zones and visited a number of abandoned places like an elderly community centre, a hospital and Okutama Town itself. The places that were abandoned felt like a scene from a zombie apocalypse video game and I saw a few wild boars run across the road but they were gone before I could snap a picture.
The tour lasted longer than I expected but it was a very unique and rewarding experience. I believe that it’s natural to fear the unknown so I’m sure more radiation awareness and education can go a long way in rebuilding the town. The Real Fukushima website is already a huge step in the right direction. I’m forever grateful to both Karin and Mr Sasaki for taking the time to show me around and I can only wish the best for them.
Probably my only regret during the tour was that I didn’t ask to go back to that sushi restaurant for dinner that evening just before I left for Sendai.