Divided town

That street was named “Yonomori,” meaning “Night Forest” in English. When I heard the name, how beautiful name it is, I felt. My friend from Yonomori says, you can see full bloom of cherry blossom in Spring. Now, after the disaster, you can’t live there.

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As Yumeko summarized our learning during the program on her page, radiation exposure level of people in Fukushima is much lower than those involved in the Chernobyl accident, and those who are living in Fukushima now, , while taking care of radiation exposure, have gone back to their “daily” life. But Still, there are several areas, including Yonomori, where they cannot live because of high radiation level or distance to the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant(F1).

Tomioka-machi, a town which includes Yonomori, is placed within 20km of F1. Those who lived there were forced to evacuate and live in other areas. So far now they only can go back to their home for temporary business but cannot stay. I visited there for three time in June. First, one of my friends took me at night. Second, a senior person who originally lived in Tomioka guided me his hometown. Third, during Nishimiya Fellow program, we participants and doctors from Fukushima Medical University visited by bus. Here I show you several photo and tell what I saw and felt.

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From here, we enter the area within 20km of F1. Only limited business such as gas station, temporary return home of original residents, public projects such as decontamination are allowed.

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While driving, I saw temporary sites where contaminated soil, bush, woods, and rubbles are gathered and isolated. The black packs you can see on the photo above are them. Radioactive matters never gone until they randomly decay according to time. So they cannot be burned, and are just temporarily put there. We never know when and where they go.

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Part of the within-20km towns are at seashore, and were damaged by the tsunami.It reminded me seashore areas in Ishinomaki, where I lived in for a year before coming to Columbia and NY and were similarly devastated by the tsunami. Mr. Fujita, a senior person who guided me there said to me, “You may already be bored with such scenery.” I was not “bored”, but actually, I felt and found myself gradually “accustomed” with such tsunami-devastated scenery covered with weeds and derelict rubbles and buildings. But it’s just because I don’t know how each area was before the tsunami. For original residents, each town, each street, each field has memory and story, and they never forget even after the tsunami wiped out materials.

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Here is the Tomioka-Machi Station. Obviously, it isn’t used now. You can look over the sea from the station. Mr. Fujita said, “Before the tsunami wiped out buildings, here you didn’t have such a wide view.”

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Although there are devastated areas by the tsunami such above, most of the areas of Tomioka-machi weren’t damaged by the tsunami directly. The reason why they cannot live there is an administrative regulation because of radiation level or distance from F1. Thus, buildings and streets appear to be in safe and not so different from “normal” town, except that there is no people. The town was not destroyed at a single blow of tsunami and earthquake, but is gradually decaying by wind and rain.

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You cannot enter within 10km of F1 now. The line of 10km crosses Tomioka-machi. Before the disaster, both people within and out of 10km line were in the same town, same community. Zoning policy mechanically divides people and town in Tomioka-machi. On this photo, you can see the barricade at the right of the street which you cannot get over.

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Here I stopped. Over the barricade, there is a Yonomori Park, where a cherry blossom festival was held every spring. I don’t know when I would visit there and enjoy cherry blossom at Yonomori with my friend.

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