Wildlife is flourishing around Fukushima, Japan, but not all are equal. The area includes a large swath of farmland, but it also includes one of the cleanest areas in Japan, dotted with low density neighborhoods, and filled with people of all ages and abilities. It’s a place where children go to school, where people work in the fields or in factories, and where residents live a harmonious life in harmony with nature.
The same can’t be said of the areas surrounding the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant. On my first day in Fukushima, I traveled about 12 miles to the northeast to visit an area populated by many elderly people, many of whom were struggling to maintain their homes. The area was once surrounded by farmland that has now been filled with radioactive soil from the plant. It’s also surrounded by heavily populated areas, as well as a large swath of land with no clear borders. The government has designated the area as a “zone for monitoring and investigation of the radiation impact on the human body.”
The residents of these areas have been living in such a stressful situation that it’s impossible for them to think about anything but their problems. But this is the exact setting I needed to see—the environment in which I was being exposed to a very low level of radiation, a level that my body was able to repair in a very short period of time.
I visited the zones for the same reason every year—to see this place, and to see how it has changed.
“Welcome to Fukushima, where I once worked.” This was the welcome message that I received when I walked through the doors of the office of the local newspaper and saw the photo of the newspaper that used to be around the front of the building. It was the paper that had covered my every waking minute since I was 12 years old.
In a small office, I sat down with the author of that article. He was someone I’d never met before. He is still the same man, but now he writes this article for a newspaper that no longer exists. I remember sitting with him many times, as he described the story of what happened to us in Fukushima. He told me how he watched their newspaper disappear from the building, how