Last week, we visited Fukushima exclusion zone.
We have been to the disaster area such as Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima which affected by Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami in 2011.
However, it was our first time to visit the area where Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster happened.
Visiting the place like that is not something fun or entertaining but it’s definitely worth a visit. It’s important to see the actual situation with your own eyes and understand what has happened and what we can do today for the future.
- Where is Fukushima exclusion zone?
- What is in Fukushima exclusion zone
- How to get to Fukushima exclusion zone from Tokyo
Where is Fukushima exclusion zone?
In 2011, The Great East Japan Earthquake occurred and Tohoku received a huge damage from earthquake, Tsunami and nuclear disasters.
Many people now know “Fukushima” as the nuclear disaster area but this “Fukushima” is not the same as Fukushima prefecture or Fukushima city.
As you can see the picture above, the nuclear exclusion zone is located only in the middle east of Fukushima prefecture. The magnitude 9.0-9.1 earthquake hit really hard and affected widely around the area.
One of our staff’s grand father’s home which is located in Miyagi prefecture was not broken and kept safe. Even in Tokyo, we felt a strong quake and saw the furniture moving. There were some houses broken from the earthquake also.
It was such a shocking image to see the Tunami swallowing the area of Tohoku. It was surely a nightmare. Many people lost their lives. So many houses were gone. We could see only a barren field after that.
7 years has passed when we visited the area and could see the progress around the coast area since the locals put many efforts for the recovery.
Except the nuclear disaster area.
The problem from the nuclear disaster hasn’t completely solved yet.
There is still the exclusion zone around the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant even after 7 years.
In brief, there are three levels of restriction zone.
- Difficult-to-return Zone (帰宅困難区域)
- Annual integrated doses are over 50mSv.
- Entry is prohibited with some exceptions.
- Lodging is prohibited
- Restricted residence Zone (住居制限区域)
- Annual integrated doses are between 20mSv and 50mSv.
- Entry is permitted, and business operation is partially permitted.
- Lodging is prohibited with some exceptions.
- Evacuation order cancellation preparation Zone (避難指示解除準備区域)
- Annual integrated doses are below 20mSv.
- Entry is permitted, and business operation is permitted.
- Lodging is prohibited with some exceptions.
Source: Fukushima pref. website
On 1st April. 2017, many areas where evacuation orders have been lifted.
Source: Fukushima pref. website
Now only 2.7% occupation (371km2) of the entire area of Fukushima Prefecture is the evacuation designated areas.
What is in Fukushima exclusion zone
We visited Fukushima exclusion zone which is about 3 hours drive from Tokyo.
Of course recovery efforts is progressing around nuclear disaster area and many people work for recovery in exclusion area.
J village which used to be a national football training center is one of the base camp of construction companies now.
As for the difficult-to-return zone, we basically couldn’t enter this area.
But its width is about 30km, so we could drive through the main road.
There are many houses along this road with a barricade.
This means this area hasn’t affected by Tsunami disaster.
Japan government decided to make it the difficult-to-return zone but they hasn’t done enough nuclear decontamination on this area.
So radiation dose is much higher than other area.
We measured the radiation dose with Geiger counter and it’s less than 50mSv on that date.
Evacuation order cancellation preparation zone
We entered Evacuation order cancellation preparation zone which is located in Futaba town.
Japan government did nuclear decontamination in this area.
So the radiation dose is nearly equal as Tokyo. It was really surprised for us because t’s just 4-5km away from Fukushima daiichi nuclear power plant!
We found some broken houses which were hit by Tsunami.
Those houses are not yet demolished.
Areas where evacuation orders have been lifted on 1st April 2017
In areas where evacuation orders have been lifted on 1st April 2017,
we witnessed the threat of Tsunami, but at the same time we found rays of hope.
Namie town (lifted from evacuation order cancellation preparation zone)
Here was the evacuation order cancellation preparation zone.
There is nothing. Almost all the houses and buildings were demolished.
This is the threat of Tsunami.
But one building was still there. This was an elementary school.
The clock has stopped around 3:40 when Tsunami hit this school.
Fortunately students are safe, they took refuge to a safe place which is 2km away.
This is Geiger counter and radiation dose is nearly equal as Tokyo here, too.
There is a station in this town.
This station restarted from 1st April 2017.
See the map of JR line.
Left side of the arrow is not connected.
It’s under difficult-to-return zone and not yet recovered.
Namie town (lifted from restricted residence zone)
In the west side of Namie town, the residence zone has been restricted until 1st of April 2017. But some people especially farmers decided to stay in the area because they couldn’t forsake their cows.
Articles about Namie town
After March 11th, they couldn’t ship these cows to market due to radiation dose, but they still breed them.
They love their cattle and they have been raising their voices for Japan government and TEPCO.
Tomioka town (lifted from evacuation order cancellation preparation zone)
Namie town is located north to Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.
There is Tomioka town located in the south of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant which was also evacuation order cancellation preparation zone until 1st of April 2017.
We could see some good signs in the area.
A supermarket already opened (opened on 30th March 2017), just before the evacuation orders have been lifted.
The recovery from disaster is in a chicken or egg situation.
If people come back to the place, many shops and facilities will open again.
If many shops and facilities open again, people will come back to the area.
It’s important to invest first. This supermarket did a great job as a first step to this area!
And there are some houses around this supermarket.
People are getting to return little by little.
We bought some foods in this supermarket to express our gratitude for their investment.
“FUKUSHIMA” area is still in the process of recovering from the nuclear disaster.
We hope many people who want to live there can go back to their home in the near future.
How to get to Fukushima exclusion zone from Tokyo
1. Public transportation (JR line/bus)
There is not enough public transportation to Fukushima exclusion zone.
But you can go to Tomioka town by train and there is a bus from Tomioka to Namie.
To Tomioka station from Ueno station (3hours/6,930JPY)
-Take JR Joban line “Hitachi” from Ueno to Iwaki
-Take JR Joban line from Iwaki to Tomioka
To Namie station from Tomioka station (30minutes/410JPY)
-Take JR bus from Tomioka to Namie
* Be careful that there are 6 buses in a day from Tomioka to Namie and 5 from Namie to Tomioka
2. Car rental
There are lots of rent-a-car shop in Japan.
If you rent a car, you can enter Restricted residence Zone and main road of Difficult-to-return Zone.
Some companies and people (including us) offer a tour to exclusion zone.
Taking a tour is the best way to understand Fukushima exclusion zone.
We have a privilege to visit Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.
In this 2 days tour, you can visit four main places such as the area affected by Tsunami, the restricted area, the area where people try to rebuild their community and Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.
Also, we have an online tour where you can learn about Fukushima before you come to Japan! The situation is changing day by day, if you want to know what it looks like and what is happening right now, check this tour first.