Fukushima Disaster Area Tour


Witness with Your Own Eyes: 9 Years after the Fukushima Daiichi Accident

The world was flooded with images of towns inundated by swirling waters after one of the most powerful earthquakes and tsunami ever recorded hit Japan on March 11, 2011. As the extent of the destruction revealed itself on news channels all over the world, it became clear how many thousands of people were missing—including more than half of a locality’s population in some cases. To add to the devastation, anxiety related to the nuclear reactor meltdown and radiation contamination pervaded global media seemingly without end.

2011年3月11日にこれまでに記録された最も強力な地震と津波の1つが日本を襲った後、世界のメディアは渦巻く水によって浸水された町の画像であふれました。 何千もの人々が行方不明になり、中にはそれが地域全体の人口の半分をも上回る場所さえありました。 荒廃に加えて、原子炉のメルトダウンと放射能汚染に関連する終わりのない不安を、グローバルメディアが配信しました。

Catastrophic Earthquake… Powerful Tsunami… Nuclear Reactor Meltdown… Radiation Contamination… Fukushima… Another Chernobyl Disaster in Japan?

The above key phrases made international headlines, and were on the tips of everyone’s tongues.

What comes to your mind when you think about the Fukushima Daiichi Disaster?




Fukushima Disaster Area Tour

Almost 9 years have passed since the disaster and ensuing months of panic, and the world has gone quiet on news of Fukushima and the 3/11 mega-disaster. The second worst nuclear accident in history faded in memory as the rest of the world continued with their lives. For victims in Fukushima, however, the story has not yet ended. As of 2020, most of the evacuation orders (excluding difficult-to-return zones) have been gradually lifted and returnees have been trickling back to live in their old homes. Misinformation about the nuclear crisis and radiation fallout still cloud Fukushima to this day.

震災から数カ月のパニックが発生してから9年が経過し、世界では福島と3/11の巨大災害のニュースが静かになりました。 歴史上2番目の最悪の原発事故は、今では私達が日常生活を続けていく中で、被災者のことを記憶から消えていっています。 しかし、福島の被災者にとって、話はまだ終わっていません。 2020年1月現在、避難指示のほとんどが解除され、帰還者は元の家に住んでいます。 核危機と放射性降下物に関する誤報は、今日まで福島を原爆雲のように曇らせています。

To understand the magnitude of loss that the disaster area has faced, I joined the Fukushima Disaster Area Tour operated by Japan Wonder Travel. I hope to explore the truth behind what is happening now after years of recovery, and how the locals are rebuilding their hometowns.

Japan Wonder Travelが運営する福島被災地訪問ツアーに参加しました。 長年をかけて回復した後、現在何が起こっているのか、そして地元住民が将来のために故郷をどのように再建しているかの背後にある真実を探求したいと思います。

<Fukushima Disaster Area DAY TOUR from Tokyo>
<Fukushima Disaster Area TWO-DAY TOUR from Tokyo>

Quick Facts on the Fukushima Daiichi Disaster

Following a major earthquake, a 15-metre tsunami disabled the power supply and cooling of three Fukushima Daiichi reactors, causing a nuclear accident on 11 March 2011. All three cores largely melted in the first three days.The accident was rated 7 on the INES scale, due to high radioactive releases over days 4 to 6, putting it on the same scale of nuclear danger as the 1986 Chernobyl accident. 

After two weeks, the three reactors (units 1-3) were stable with water addition and by July they were being cooled with recycled water from the new treatment plant. Official ‘cold shutdown condition’ was announced in mid-December. Apart from cooling, the basic ongoing task was to prevent release of radioactive materials, particularly in contaminated water leaked from the three units.

Three Tepco employees at the Daiichi and Daini plants were killed directly by the earthquake and tsunami, but there have been no fatalities from the nuclear accident. There have been no deaths or cases of radiation sickness from the nuclear accident, but over 100,000 people were evacuated from their homes to ensure this. With over 18,000 people dead or missing in the tsunami and thousands relocated, 3/11 – as it is commonly called by people in Japan – remains a deeply traumatic moment eight years later.

Source: World Nuclear Association

Day Trip to Fukushima Disaster Area

At 7:50AM, I meet my guide outside Tokyo Station.

The drive to our destination, the disaster area in Fukushima, would take about 3 hours.

During the drive to Fukushima, the tour guide explained the schedule of the day as well as dispelled some of our misperceptions about Fukushima. We would drive through Difficult-to-Return Zones and visit towns affected by the disaster, getting off the van only in inhabitable areas where the evacuation order has been lifted.


Misperception #1: Not all of “Fukushima” is the Disaster Area


The area affected by the accident is mainly the coastal area of Fukushima Prefecture within a 20km radius from the Daiichi nuclear plant, and NOT the city of Fukushima which is 60km from the coast and has always been safe.

Unfortunately, many people mistakenly associate the entire Fukushima Prefecture with the Daiichi Disaster, and presume that the whole area is exposed to radioactive contamination.



The important point to understand is that Fukushima Prefecture is the third largest prefecture in Japan (13,783km2, behind Hokkaido and Iwate Prefectures), and is home to vast farmlands and delicious fresh produce as well as beautiful coastlines that were far removed and unaffected by the Daiichi accident. Many areas in the prefecture including Fukushima City, Aizu-Wakamatsu, Iwaki and Koriyama have always been accessible.

重要な点は、福島県は日本で3番目に大きい県(13,783km2、北海道と岩手県に続く)であり、広大な農地とおいしい新鮮な農産物、そして遠く離れて影響を受けなかった美しい海岸線があることです。 福島市、会津若松市、いわき市、郡山市など、県内の多くの地域は常にアクセス可能です。

In fact, as of 2019, the evacuation designated zones affected by the nuclear disaster declined to only 2.5% of the entire prefecture!


Sadly, discriminatory treatment of Fukushima products persists and prices of foodstuffs from the region have not recovered to levels prior to 2011. Many countries and regions still continue to restrict imports of Japanese foodstuffs after 3/11, maintaining strict regulations, such as continued import bans on products from parts of Japan, including Fukushima.


Interviewed with a local Fukushima newspaper after my first visit to the Fukushima Agricultural Technology Center. 

This is contrary to what is really happening on the ground. From my visit to the Fukushima Agricultural Technology Center in 2018, I learned that Fukushima products are shipped only after they clear tough screening against radioactive contamination, set at a more stringent level than official international guidelines. No Fukushima-grown rice, which is subject to blanket radiation screening, has exhibited levels of radioactivity that exceeded the government-set standard since 2015. Since 2013, no locally grown vegetables or fruit, which go through mandatory sample testing, have registered cesium levels above the official standard since 2013. Local fishermen operate in specified areas off the coast of Fukushima and catch a limited number of species. Arguably, products from Fukushima have less chance of radioactive contamination than from other parts of the world that do not conduct constant screening! The lack of public awareness about these safety levels need to be addressed by repeated efforts to share accurate information.

これは実際に地上で起こっていることとは違います。 2018年の福島県農業技術センターへの訪問から、福島県の製品は、公式の国際ガイドラインよりも厳しいレベルに設定された放射能汚染に対する厳重なスクリーニングをクリアした後にのみ出荷されることを知りました。包括的放射線スクリーニングの対象となる福島県産米は、2015年以降、政府が設定した基準を超える放射線レベルを示していません。地元の漁師は福島県沖の指定された地域で操業し、限られた数の魚を漁獲しています。おそらく、福島県の製品は、絶えずスクリーニングを実施していない世界の他の地域よりも放射能汚染の可能性が低いです!これらの安全レベルに関する一般の認識の欠如は、正確な情報を共有するためのたゆまぬ努力によって対処される必要があります。

Easily reached from Tokyo, Fukushima has everything Japan is famous for, including relaxing onsen, nature and powder snow. Fostering unique traditions of food and culture, the fertile lands of Fukushima produce some of Japan’s best farm produce and sake. Read my other blog articles on harvesting fresh vegetables at the Yoshinoya Farm Fukushima, a tour of the Asahi Brewery Fukushima with pure water and fragrant hops, as well as making my own tofu with an expert from Fukushima’s Kanouya Tofu to discover many other lesser-known attractions in the region!

東京から簡単にアクセスできる福島には、リラックスできる温泉、自然、パウダースノーで覆われた山など、日本で有名な色々な魅力的なものがあります。福島の肥沃な土地は、美味しい食事と歴史深い文化の伝統を育み、日本一の農産物と酒を生産しています。 吉野家ファーム福島での新鮮な野菜の収穫や、純粋な水と香ばしいホップを使ったアサヒビール福島のツアーや、福島の「叶屋豆腐」で自分で豆腐を作り等、たくさんのあまり知られていないものを発見する地域のアトラクションについては、前のブログ記事をぜひご覧ください!

Harvesting Napa Cabbages at the Yoshinoya Farm Fukushima! 

Misperception #2: Radiation Levels and Health Risk


At the beginning of the tour, each participant is handed a Geiger counter to monitor radiation levels throughout the day. In Tokyo, my Geiger counter showed average radiation levels measure 0.15~0.2 uSV/h (microsieverts/hour), which is about the world average for natural background radiation according to the World Nuclear Association

私のガイガーカウンターによると、東京では、平均放射線レベルは0.15〜0.2 uSV / h(マイクロシーベルト/時)です。

As you will see later on, except in some hotspots in “difficult-to-return zones,” radiation levels in Fukushima near the Disaster Area — and the associated risk of health damage — are not much different than elsewhere.

For reference, the amount of radiation every person on board a flight from Tokyo to New York is 100x more than the total amount we were exposed to during the tour. In other words, I would have to go on the tour for 100 times to have the same radiation exposure as a round trip flight from Tokyo to New York.



Map of evacuation-designated zones as of Sept 5, 2015.

The restricted areas in Fukushima after the disaster are divided into three zones: Difficult-to-Return Zone, Restricted Habitation Zone and Preparatory Zone for lifting of Evacuation Order. The colored zones on the map fans out to the northwest in the direction of the wind on that day of the nuclear reactor meltdown.


Map of evacuation-designated zones as of April 1, 2017. 
Evacuation orders for additional areas are expected to be lifted in March 2020.


In some areas, schools have reopened and residents have been authorized to return to live in their old homes.
During the tour, we will witness the current status of revitalization of these areas.


On the Road: Approaching the Disaster Area


As we approach the disaster area in Fukushima, I have to admit I feel pretty nervous getting closer to the Fukushima Daiichi plant. 
I am constantly checking my Geiger counter.


We are able to spot cranes over where the Daiichi nuclear plant is located.

Black storage bags containing contaminated soil in the distance.

As we approach our destination, I spot many black storage bags piled up in various fields in the surrounding area. These bags are filled with contaminated soil and are waiting to be transferred to the Interim Storage Facility. This facility is necessary to safely and intensively manage and store the soil and waste until the final disposal. However, where and how they will be safely disposed is still subject to ongoing debate.

目的地に近づくと、周辺地域の色々な場所に積み上げられた多くの黒い収納袋を見ることができます。 これらの袋には汚染された土壌が入っており、適切な保管場所に移されるのを待っています。 それらがどこでどのように安全に処分されるかはまだ議論中です。

Thousands of black bags are yet to be transferred to the Interim Storage Facility.

Occasionally, there would be a few seconds of heightened anxiety when the alarms on our Geiger counters went off as we drove through Route 6 in Difficult-to-Return Zones. However, the highest reading I recorded was just over 3.0 uSV (=0.003m㏜), which is still much lower than any dental X-ray, and only lasted a few seconds.

時折、国道6号線を通り抜けたときにガイガーカウンターのアラームが鳴ったときに、数秒間の不安が高まりました。 しかし、この時私が記録した最高の測定値は3.0 uSV(=0.003m㏜)をわずかに上回りました。これはどの歯科用X線よりもずっと低く、数秒間しか続きませんでした。

Even when driving through most Difficult-to-Return Zones and contaminated hotspots, we were exposed to much less radiation than if we had conducted a basic dental x-ray!


Namie: “Ghost Town” Brought Back to Life


Our first stop was Namie town.

Although Namie Station is open to the public and functioning, it is mostly deserted.

The guide explains that the station has effectively served as a terminus since the disaster, as trains are only permitted to arrive from and depart northwards, towards Sendai. The stretch that connects Namie to Tomioka town in the South is still inoperable as the tracks cross Difficult-to-Return Zones.

ガイドさんは、列車は仙台に向けて北からのみ発着することを許可されているため、駅は災害以来効果的に終点として機能したことを説明しています。 浪江駅と富岡駅を結ぶ区間は、帰還困難区域内を走るためまだ開通していません。

However, there is much to look forward to with the reopening of the train lines connecting Namie to towns in the south! The government recently decided for the tracks to be open again before the Tokyo Olympics 2020. 


With the trains back in operation, we may expect more people to visit Namie Station and the surrounding towns!

A radiation monitoring post set up by the government in front of Namie Station indicates levels of ~0.2 uSV/h (similar to levels in Tokyo, and lower than the USA average of ~0.34 uSV/h according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission).

浪江駅前に政府が設置した放射線モニタリングポストは、〜0.2 uSV / hのレベルを示しています
(東京のレベルに近く、米国の原子力規制委員会によると、米国の平均〜0.34 uSV / hよりも低い)。 

Walking through the town, I felt like I had stepped into a real-life version of a post-apocalyptic landscape often featured in so many Japanese movies and anime. Aside from the occasional police car or fire truck run by a squadron of community volunteers to make sure their town stays safe, it sometimes seemed like I was the only person around for miles.


Not a Person in Sight: Walking along the deserted main streets through Namie town.

Broken Window to the Past: Peering into a restaurant abandoned in disarray, the harshness of the setting forces me to think about the pandemonium that erupted after the natural disaster and ensuing nuclear danger. 

It was an eerie experience to walk through a town as if it were suspended in time. Many buildings remain derelict and untouched after the disaster.

時が止まってしまった町を時間内に歩くのは不気味な経験でした。 多くの家、学校、およびレストランは、災害後も遺棄されたままです。

I could still see the destructive impact of the disaster at restaurants around Namie that were evacuated just as they were preparing to open for business. Empty tables and chairs gather years of dust, and debris litters the floor inside. They serve as a constant reminder of what happened that terrible day…

震災当時の影響は、開業の準備をしていた浪江周辺のさまざまなレストランやバーで、今でも見られます。 空のテーブルと椅子は何年ものほこりを集め、内部の床にはゴミが散らばっています。それらはその当日に何が起こったのかを常に思い出させるものとして残っています…

In front of a deserted izakaya (japanese pub, top) and yakiniku (grilled meat, bottom) restaurant.

The haunting sight of children’s’ shoes at the entrance to their school, left untouched in lockers for over 8 years since the disaster. (In Japan, students change to “indoor” shoes upon entering the school. For these children, they never had the chance to change their shoes to head home before the disaster hit.)

My heart fills heavy thinking about how these kids had to bear the crushing weight of the possibility that they may be the last surviving members of their family during the evacuation.


Nevertheless, hope for rebirth is evident in this town, and residents are slowly rebuilding their lives. All of Namie’s former residents were scattered across Japan after the evacuation, but we are beginning to see the results of government efforts to urge people to return to their hometown.

それにもかかわらず、この町には再生の希望があり、住民はゆっくりと生活を立て直しています。 浪江の住民は全員、避難後に日本中に散らばりましたが、人々が故郷に戻るよう促す政府の努力の結果を見始めています。

Since the evacuation order was lifted in 2017, Namie residents have gradually begun to move back into and rebuild their former homes.

Of the 21,000 former Namie residents, only about 1200 now (as of Dec 2019) live there since they have been allowed to return, including decontamination workers who work on sites nearby. Most of the returnees are elderly.

One of the main issues preventing families with children from moving into Namie is the lack of education. All schools in Namie had been shut down after the 3/11 disaster. Although a gleaming new elementary school has been opened by the Fukushima Prefectural Board of Education in 2018, young families are hesitant to uproot their lives again and return.

21,000人の元浪江住民のうち、近くの現場で働く除染作業者を含め、帰還が許可されて以来、2019年12月時点約1200人だけがそこに住んでいます。 帰還者のほとんどは高齢者です。

子どものいる家族が浪江に引っ越すことを妨げる主な問題の1つは、学校の問題です。 3/11の災害の後、浪江のすべての学校は閉鎖されました。 2018年に福島県教育委員会によってキラキラと光る新しい小学校が開設されましたが、若い家族は生活を再び最初から始めることにためらっています。

The Namie Post Office is open for residents to send and receive mail.

We were fortunate enough for our tour visit to coincide with a local community day!

Blue skies welcome us as we arrive at the Machi-Nami-Marche, a neighborhood market next to the City Hall where Namie residents can gather with family and friends to enjoy local food, fresh produce, and shopping.


A Namie resident hands me a limited edition blanket with the well wishes for everyone to stay warm this winter.

Interacting with some of the locals, I was moved by how brightly their confidence in and affection for their hometown shines through. They are unafraid, and are determined to work tirelessly towards the revival of Namie.

地元の人々と交流することで、彼らの故郷に対する自信と愛情がどれほど明るく輝いているかに感動しました。 彼らは恐れることなく、浪江の復活に向けてたゆまぬ努力をする決意です。

For lunch, I tried some Namie Yakisoba from a local food stall! 

Namie Yakisoba, different from the usual yakisoba that you might find in Tokyo, is renowned for its thick noodles, sprouts, and pork slices, stir-fried in dark, thick sauce full of umami!

Ranch of Hope

The stop on the tour that left the strongest impression on me was the visit to the Yoshizawa Ranch owned by cattle farmer Masami Yoshizawa, which he has renamed the “Ranch of Hope” (Kibou no Bokujyou) after the disaster.


At the Yoshizawa Ranch office.

Yoshizawa-san shared with us his despair when he realized cattle were starving to death after farms were evacuated.

When Yoshizawa-san decided to move back to his ranch in Namie as part of a one-man protest, he renamed it the “Ranch of Hope.” Disregarding state instructions to kill his cattle, Yoshizawa-san has been singlehandedly caring for about 260 cows at his 80-acre ranch.


A carefully arranged pile of cattle skulls serves as a memorial to the cows that have died in the aftermath of 3/11.

The cattle on the “Ranchof Hope” have been exposed to radiation and are banned from being sold for meat. Although Yoshizawa’s job as a cattle farmer before the disaster involved raising cattle for slaughter, he now vows to protect the cows. His mission and purpose is vividly amplified with an imposing “Cow Gozilla” installation at the entrance of the farm.


“Cow Gozilla is Coming!”: Yoshizawa-san protests that the government should take responsibility for the daunting reality that human recklessness has subjected cattle to a radioactive existence, and cannot simply erase it by killing them.


According to Yoshizawa-san, the Cow Gozilla installation aptly represents the plight of cows suffering from the nuclear disaster. The story of Godzilla is perhaps one of the most widely recognized metaphors for the nuclear age, representing the technological hubris of man provoking the anger of nature by attempting, but failing, to harness the power of radiation.

吉沢さんによると、カウ・ゴジラのインスタレーションは核災害に苦しんでいる牛の現実をうまく表しているということです。 ゴジラの物語は、核時代の最も広く認識されているものの一つであり、放射線の力を利用しようとするが失敗することによって自然の怒りを引き起こす人間の技術的自信過剰を表しています。

Yoshizawa-san accuses the government of wanting to kill the cows to erase the inconvenient reality of the nuclear crisis. Refusing to simply let the state rewrite the repercussions of the disaster, he has committed his life to raising awareness about what happened in Namie.

吉沢さんは、政府が核危機の不合理な現実を消すために牛を殺したいのだと非難しています。 単純に国家に災害の影響を書き直させることを拒否して、彼は浪江で何が起こったかについての意識を高めることに人生を捧げました。

In Yoshizawa-san’s eyes, the forgotten cows also suffer alongside the thousands of families that were forced to abandon their homes. As victims, these cattle deserve protection, not extermination.


The Geiger reading on the Farm of Hope is similar to levels in habitable areas of Namie town.

In addition to having free range across vast pastures, the cows are fed plenty of cabbages, bananas, and even pineapple skins! To feed almost 300 cows is no small task (they eat over 3 tons of food a day!), and Yoshizawa-san receives generous donations of cow feed from organizations empathetic to his cause. More importantly, nothing can replace the fact that these cows live a happy and stress free life, knowing that they are taken care of and will not be sent to slaughter.


Yoshizawa-san is a self-proclaimed custodian of cattle on his Farm of Hope:
“It is not about the difference between cows or humans. It is an issue about life.”

「それは牛と人間の違いについてではありません。 それは人生に関する問題です。」と話してくれました。

After spending some time on the farm, visitors will recognize that each and every cow is a living being with a unique name, personality, and life experience. Yoshizawa-san regards all of his cows as “good friends.” Perhaps then it is not so radical for him to want to protect them until they die naturally in the same way parents protect their own children.

農場でしばらく過ごした後、訪問者は、すべての牛が個人の名前、性格、人生経験を持つ生き物であることを認識するでしょう。 吉沢さんは自分の牛を「良い仲間」と考えています。おそらく、親が自分の子供を守るのと同じように自然に死ぬまで、牛を守りたいと思うのは彼にとってそれほど過激なことではないでしょう。

Ukedo Coastline: Aftermath of the Tsunami


The Ukedo coastal area in Namie town was one of the hardest hit places ripped apart by the tsunami on March 11, 2011.


Since the disaster, a new seawall has been built.

You can enjoy beautiful views from the top of the seawall!


In the distance, you can spot construction cranes looming over TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

Despite being so close to the infamous nuclear plant, the reading on the Geiger counter was actually lower than measured in Tokyo this morning!

The government has already effectively decontaminated this area, but returnees are slow to trickle back. Looking around, one can hardly blame them: abandoned rice paddies, a few dilapidated houses, and the Ukedo Elementary School are all that remain in the wake of the 15-m high tsunami. Houses are no longer allowed to be built near the coast in Ukedo.

政府はすでにこの地域の汚染を効果的に除染していますが、帰還者は戻ってくるのが遅いです。周囲を見渡せば、彼らを非難することはほとんどできません:放棄された水田、いくつかの老朽化した家屋、請戸小学校は、すべて高さ15 mの津波の影響を受けたままです。請戸の海岸近くに家を建てることは今では許可されなくなりました。

Driving through the area, we passed by several barricaded areas where where the debris caused by tsunami and caused by demolishing the buildings are stored. 

Behind the new Ukedo sea wall, Fukushima Prefecture plans to construct a memorial park and a large archive center to boost the area’s rebuilding.


Ukedo Elementary School is located only 300 meters away from the beach. 

When the earthquake struck, there were around 80 pupils at the school. 

Teachers had 8 minutes to make one of the most important decisions for the lives of their students.
To stay, or to evacuate?

As schools in Japan are designated disaster evacuation centers, the official guidelines instructed keeping the children inside. Fortunately, the teachers ignored this, and led all students to the nearby hill, Ohirayama, about 1.5km away.




幸いなことに、教師はすべての生徒を約1.5 km離れた大平山の近くの丘に誘導しました。

The school clock is forever stopped at 3:38pm in the afternoon – the time that the tsunami hit and electricity was cut.

The waterline near the roof of the building marks how far up the tsunami reached.
If they had stayed in the school, everyone would have been in danger.


View from the top of Ohirayama.

Plaque commemorating the names of those who were lost to the tsunami at Ohirayama.

Many of the children lost their families in the tsunami, but fortunately,
not one child or staff member from the school died in the disaster.


I cannot even begin to imagine what those schoolchildren must have gone through after watching their homes destroyed by one of the worst tsunamis in history.
The following day, the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant exploded and Namie town began its evacuation.


Listening to this story whilst standing in front of the now-empty school and retracing their steps to Ohirayama is difficult and saddening, yet warms my heart with relief knowing that no lives were lost. There were other places along the east coast where the story ended far more tragically. Nonetheless, what remains of the Ukedo Elementary School serves as an important testimonial to the courage of the staff and students on that day to think and act independently.

空になった学校の前に立って大平山への道をたどりながらこの話を聞くことは辛く悲しくもありますが、命が失われなかったことを知って安心してホッとしました。 東海岸には、さらに悲劇的に物語が終わった場所が他にもありました。 それにもかかわらず、請戸小学校に残っているものは、その日、スタッフと生徒が独立して考え、行動する勇気を示す重要な証です。

Tomioka Town:
Cherish the Transient Cherry Blossoms


In April 2017, the evacuation order for 85% of Tomioka town was lifted and life is slowly starting again as people return to the area.


The government has built new houses in Tomioka for families to move into.

We met with Nakayama-san who tells us her story of life, resilience and recovery in her hometown. She shared that one of her most depressing memories after the disaster was having to obtain a special permit and wear a full protective suit to enter her own home.


In the chaotic aftermath of the disaster, abandoned houses became prime targets for thieves.

Identifying the Thief: Houses with windows shattered below waist-level were broken into by wild boar. Anything damaged above waist-level was broken by human robbers.


Before the disaster, Tomioka was known for the sakura (cherry blossoms) that bloom along the town’s main boulevard. Unfortunately, most of this street is still cordoned off in the Difficult-to-Return zone due to higher radioactivity levels. Only residents and workers can get special permits to enter the area for short periods of time.


Looking through the barricade, I imagine it must be beautiful when the cherry trees burst in full bloom and fill the street with pink petals.

This year, the Sakura Festival will be held again just like before the disaster.
Nakayama-san beseeches all visitors to think of Tomioka town whenever they think of cherry blossoms. It is hoped that this festival will become the trigger to bring back the town’s vitality little by little, moving Tomioka steadily forward toward reconstruction and new urban development.


Last Reflections

During my time in Japan so far, this eye-opening tour has been one of the most meaningful experiences.

Passing through grim and mysterious forgotten towns, contemplating the world before all the destruction and suffering was unleashed, really gives you a different life perspective as you explore their survival and determined recovery. This tour not only allows you to uncover stories about the disaster, but also provides you a personal, profound look into the bravery, resiliency, hope, love and compassion in the face of disaster.



It is important to highlight that at the end of the day, the total radiation to which we were subjected to was only 0.001mSv, 100x less than a round trip flight from Tokyo to New York (which would measure a total of 0.1 mSV)!

1日の終わりに被曝した総放射線量はわずか0.001 mSvであり、東京からニューヨークへの往復飛行(合計0.1 mSVと測定される)の100分の一です!

After the tour, I have developed a newfound respect for all survivors of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Accident. The decision of many to devote their lives to the recovery of their hometowns in the face of countless hardships and unknown threats is not a foolhardy one. In my mind, each and every one is a hero in his or her own right. They are selflessly focusing on the future, without being intimated by the past, working tirelessly to improve the situation. Unfortunately, prejudice against people in and from Fukushima, as well as the exaggerated perception of the impact of radiation exposure, persist.

ツアーの後、私は福島第一原発事故の生存者全員に新たに敬意を表しました。数え切れない程の困難と未知の脅威に直面して、故郷の復興に人生を捧げるという多くの決定は、無謀なものではありません。 私の考えでは、一人ひとりが英雄です。彼らは、過去を惜しむことなく、状況を改善するためにたゆまぬ努力をして、無私無欲になって未来に焦点を合わせています。 残念ながら、福島県の人々に対する偏見と、放射線被ばくの影響に対する誇張された認識が続いています。

The more we care for and support others, the more joy and light will come into our own lives.
It really seems like the beginning of a new future awaits the Fukushima Disaster Area in the years to come…


About the Tour || ツアーについて 

<Fukushima Disaster Area DAY TOUR from Tokyo>

<Fukushima Disaster Area TWO-DAY TOUR from Tokyo>

About Rachel

Rachel Leng is COO and Co-Founder of SeiRogai, Inc., a Tokyo-based business consultancy & media production company. Previously, she was Leader of Business Development on the Investment Management team at a Japanese private equity fund, as well as Policy Analyst at a top think tank in Seoul, South Korea.

As an East Asia specialist and former Miss Singapore titleholder, Rachel is passionate about the potential of media to educate and raise awareness about history, culture, art, business, and societal issues to enhance mutual understanding.

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