After the Japanese govt re-opened some areas in Fukushima prefecture for evacuated residents to return, Heather Croshaw traveled to Japan with an international team. Here are her observations that we are re-posting from her personal blog. The Onigoe Temporary Housing for the residents of Hirono Town is located in Iwaki City, along with several other temporary housing communities. For the most part, the evacuated towns were relocated to the same temporary housing complex. The Fukushima temporary housing program will end for voluntary evacuees in March 2017.

IMG_2060

Displaced Hirono Town residents live in a single-story, steel housing, with a kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, and living room and even a small front porch. The temporary housing is clean and comfortable with modern amenities such as air conditioning and a gas stove.

temporary housing FukushimaNaraha Fukushima 2

On the Road through Naraha to Tomioka

We took a field trip to visit Hirono Town and surrounding areas to witness the tsunami and earthquake damage as well as the decontamination efforts. The coastal parts of Hirono Town are under construction, including the construction of an improved seawall. We headed to the Town Hall for an introduction to Hirono Town and the International Forum.

On the road north, I could see from the bus many fields containing thousands of black bags holding the contaminated soil. These decontamination bags are in a “temporary” location until the Japanese government can find a permanent location for them. Acres and acres of land are filled with thousands of these contamination bags.
Naraha Fukushima 3Naraha Fukushima 4

We also drove through Naraha Town, whose evacuation order was recently lifted by the Japanese government. As of December 2014, approximately 7,000 residents were registered with the town but the actual population is much lower. The entire town was located within the 20 km exclusion zone from the nuclear disaster. Beginning in 2012, people were able to visit the town during the day but had to leave at night. In March 2014, the decontamination work had been completed; however radiation levels remained high in certain areas of the town. In April 2015, residents can stay overnight. Naraha houses J-Village, a state-of-the-arts sports facility, which currently provides a base for TEPCO workers for their commute to Fukushima-Daiichi NPS.

Tomioka Town: Frozen in Time

Then, we stopped in Tomioka Town to see first hand the extent of the tsunami and earthquake damage. We toured the eastern part of Tomioka that was severely impacted by the tsunami and many buildings were completely destroyed.

Evacuation zone FukushimaEvacuation zone Fukushima 2

Because of the high radiation levels, the area remains frozen in time, with buildings untouched from March 11, 2011. There has been no reconstruction or rebuilding. Many of the buildings remain untouched from the initial earthquake. Vines, grass, and weeds crawl over signs and grow in the cracks of parking lots.

Evacuation zone Fukushima 3Fukushima radiation meter

Residents can visit during the day but must leave at night. One man continues to inhabit Tomioka town full-time despite the exposure to radiation to maintain his family farm. Tomioka Town has a long road ahead towards rebuilding. It was sobering to witness the extent of the tsunami damage and the lack of reconstruction due to the radiation contamination.

Evacuation zone Fukushima 4Evacuation zone Fukushima 5

Tomioka Town has a long road ahead towards rebuilding. It was sobering to witness the extent of the tsunami damage and the lack of reconstruction due to the radiation contamination.

Evacuation zone Fukushima 6Evacuation zone Fukushima 7