Thursday, November 3, 2011

Ten Hours in Fukushima

A journalist advised me not to go. Two peace activists told me I would be fine, although one of them didn’t want me to eat the local foods. An author suggested a simple lunch probably wouldn’t do much damage.

So I went. And ate lunch. The place in question is Fukushima, the site of what is considered the worst nuclear disaster in history. I didn't go to the vicinity of the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant, of course, but for a few minutes I was about 25 miles away, which is close enough. 

I wrote about the experience for my website, JapanCulture•NYC, and you can read all about it in the story "Fukushima City: Six Months Later."

A view of Fukushima from the bullet train

As I looked out the window as the bullet train approached Fukushima Station, I was surprised by how pastoral the area seemed. 

Mountains of Fukushima

The views from a rest area in the mountains are stunning. Fukushima, despite its beleaguered state and struggles with the nuclear crisis, is quite beautiful.

Beautiful late-summer day in Fukushima

Still, the beauty doesn't hide the fact that there are serious radiation concerns, especially in areas such as Iitate, a village that is considered in the "red zone." The "red zone" isn't as bad as a mandatory evacuation zone, but the radiation levels are high enough to warrant the government's suggested evacuation.

Houses near Iitate, Fukushima

My host that day in Fukushima, Professor Takayuki Takahashi of Fukushima University, informed me that drawn curtains in homes likely means the residents have relocated to safer areas.

Fukushima University

So many people, like Professor Takahashi and the other scientists I met that day, are working incredibly hard to solve the nuclear crisis. The sign on a building on the campus of Fukushima University says, "Mitsuke you anata no mirai," which means, "Find your future." It will take decades, but I hope Fukushima finds its future to be healthy.

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