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Photos: Inside the Fukushima Nuclear Exclusion Zone

 

FUKUSHIMA, Japan—What would you do if your house was physically spared from a nuclear disaster, and yet you still had to leave it all behind? What would you bring? What would you leave?

For hundreds of thousands of residents within a 12-mile (19-kilometer) radius of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, this was their reality.

While radiation levels have fallen in the five years since the massive earthquake and tsunami damaged the plant, it may be impossible for the residents of Fukushima’s ghost towns to ever return. (See “Five Years After Fukushima Nuclear Disaster, Survivors Share Their Stories.”)

Living in the prefecture as a Fulbright National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellow has given me a new perspective on the Fukushima way of life, but while I learn about what happened here, I often feel limited in my ability to understand the full impact of the devastation. Koriyama, the city I’ve called home for the past five months, is over 40 miles (64 kilometers) away from the crippled nuclear reactor.

Last week, I got the chance to visit evacuated cities with the nonprofit group Nomado, which offers educational trips into the exclusion zone to study the effects of the disaster. After listening to stories for months, I wanted to see for myself what had been taken away from these nuclear refugees. Here is what I saw.

Ari M. Beser  is the grandson of Lt. Jacob Beser, the only U.S. serviceman aboard both bomb-carrying B-29s. He is traveling through Japan with the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship to report on the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the fifth anniversary of the Great East Japan earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdowns in Fukushima.  Beser will give voice to people directly affected by nuclear technology today, as well as work with Japanese and Americans to encourage a message of reconciliation and nuclear disarmament. His new book, “The Nuclear Family,” focuses on the American and Japanese perspectives of the atomic bombings.