A Singaporean’s visit to Fukushima Daini Nuclear Plant 2 years after the tsunami

2014 Oct Note: An easier read version is now available at https://medium.com/@witono/fukushima-daini-nuclear-plant-2-years-after-the-tsunami-e511bb8ebb40

On March 21, 2011, a 9-meter-high tsunami struck the town of Naraha and Tomioka in the Futaba District of Fukushima Prefecture, Japan. This tsunami was triggered by the Tōhoku earthquake on the same day, which is the most powerful earthquake ever recorded to hit Japan.

By March 15, all four reactors of the Fukushima Daini Nuclear Plant located in the town were shut down. The damage done was severe, although it escaped the fate of sister nuclear power plant Fukushima Daiichi. Unlike their sister plant, off-site power was available and workers were able to tap into electricity to power a water injection system, that helped cool the reactors as they shut down.

Two years later, I made the trip down to fulfill a promise made to a friend to document and tell the stories in the place.

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To reach the place, one has to take a nearly empty train and alight at the Hirono station, 14km away. The quarantine no-go zone is supposed to be lifted by now according to WHO. There are people who stayed in the area after the tsunami, and I see workers doing restoration work on train tracks and houses. Trucks are modified to move along the train track.

 

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There are many luxurious looking houses — but most of them are empty. A lot of workers are also building new houses, part of city planning I guess.

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A big ratio of their work involves removing the contaminated soil and vegetation that are wrapped up in black trash bags. I see tens, hundreds, and even thousands of such bags lying on the field and along the tracks waiting to be transport away.

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The little black thing that sticks out are all bags of contaminated soil and vegetation to be transport away.

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Bags containing contaminated soil and vegetation spreading across the field.

Top: Piano, kitchen, doll, pictures of pet cat, and the house.

Half destroyed house.
Half destroyed house.

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A neatly arranged house.
A neatly arranged house.
Honda CB motorcycle
Honda CB motorcycle
Asking for direction
Asking for direction

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Graveyard
Graveyard

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are empty playground, stadium, resorts — now living areas for the workers. A tennis court is now the temporary storage space for the black trash bags I saw earlier. There are however not enough beds for everyone, so there are temporary containers meant to house the workers.

The empty playground next to the resort. The nuclear plant is about 5km away behind the trees.
The empty playground next to the resort. The nuclear plant is about 5km away behind the trees.

The nearest convenient store (closed) next to the Fukushima Daini Nuclear Plant.

The nearest convenient store (closed) next to the Fukushima Daini Nuclear Plant.

The chimney of the Fukushima Daini Nuclear Plant. This is the furthest I could go, as there are security stopping me from advancing any further.
The chimney of the Fukushima Daini Nuclear Plant. This is the furthest I could go, as there are security stopping me from advancing any further.

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As night falls, I decide to hitch a ride from the workers. I meet a man who says he is in his fifties. He is divorced and has a son about my age, choosing to remain to help in restoration. He kindly drove me back to Hirono station whilst his colleague even offered me hot tea from vending machine. These are the unsung heroes.

 

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When I went back to the station, there’s a dog lives next to a shop. When I approached it, it started crying, and hugged my leg the moment I got close enough for some comfort. I give it a piece of chashu I bought from a udon restaurant by the side.

Even though the quarantine areas are lifted, this tremor in the memories remains. The scale of work and restoration is something hard to imagine till you are physically there to witness. It’s not easy to manage such scale as a project and I sincerely wish that the people can live on from the disaster.
Even though the quarantine areas are lifted, this tremor in the memories remains. The scale of work and restoration is something hard to imagine till you are physically there to witness. It’s not easy to manage such scale as a project and I sincerely wish that the people can live on from the disaster.

Please leave your comments and feedback, or visit my photography page at www.facebook.com/the.freestyle.photographer

Special thanks to Xiangyun for editing. Check out her baking and photography at http://tweedlebakes.com/

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4 thoughts on “A Singaporean’s visit to Fukushima Daini Nuclear Plant 2 years after the tsunami

    1. That I wonder too. Just to clarify, it has an owner actually, but it was kept outside, 8 degree Celsius when I visited on 5 Dec 2013 with metal wires (now should be colder). It’s just lonely, not that it’s abandoned or something.

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