After the great earthquake and tsunami that came with the calamities of March 11 2011, many residents to the Kanto region of Japan experienced turmoil on an unprecedented scale. If natural disaster wasn’t enough, there was also the explosion at the Fukushima nuclear plant, spreading radioactive contamination even as far as Tokyo. Now after two years, Fukushima’s 20-kilometer radioactive exclusion zone still remains in place.
While most families fled the contaminated areas in the early stages following the explosion, one brave man remained undeterred by it all, staying put in his hometown. Naoto Matsura (53) is believed to be the sole inhabitant within the 20-kilometer red zone.
Matsumura’s determination to remain rooted in the same place and see through the nuclear catastrophe has caught the attention of many, with his accounts even being adapted into a documentary. The documentary tells of the events after the great earthquake and Mutsumura’s reasons for remaining at his home despite all those around him fleeing, never to return. Perhaps even more interestingly, it gives some rather candid accounts of this man’s feelings towards Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), the company that operated the stricken Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.
Although the dialog is in Japanese, an explanation of the most pertinent and moving moments from the footage, along with the video itself, is included below. The footage of deserted towns and the way in which the wildlife has taken over the now uninhabited areas of Fukushima alone, however, make compelling viewing.
Immediately after the nuclear accident, Matsumura asked his close friend who somewhat ironically worked for TEPCO, if the situation was serious and whether there was cause for genuine concern. This so-called friend, despite having already rushed his own family far way from the site, replied, “No need to worry. I can see it all breezing over in a couple of days.” When Matsumura recalls this episode, it is difficult not to feel a pang of sadness for him as he adds, “Such heartlessness. In spite of all that happened, to continue the cold lies…”
Brief explanation of the documentary (footage below):
In the beginning of the documentary, Mr. Matsumura, who lives in Tomioka in Fukushima, recalls the emotional trauma of being left alone after all the other residents had fled the area:
“The feeling of loneliness was so overbearing that it even numbed my sense of what it is to be lonely. Admittedly, acclimatizing to this new environment took me some time.”
He then recounts the reason for continuing to live in the hazard zone, commenting:
“I originally fled south, after the fourth reactor at Daichi exploded. Hoping to stay at my father’s house, I was bitterly disappointed after being turned away due to fears of radioactive contamination.”
As a final alternative, he Matsumura turned to the closest evacuation center, but was denied entry due to the overwhelming number of citizens seeking refuge. He reached the point where finding a safe place to stay had become all too bothersome, and besides, Matsumura felt responsible to the livestock and pets waiting for him back home. With this, he once again returned to his hometown.
Later in the video he reflects of his fears of developing leukemia five or 10 years down the line, however bravely shrugs this off by commenting:
“If this were to happen it’s something I’ll deal with at the time.”
In the closing moments of the footage, we see the starling images of some of Matsumura’s livestock that eventually died of starvation. He reflects on how Tomioka was once a place abundant in life and happiness. Ultimately, Tomioka is where he was born and raised, and “it’s a place where I’ll die”, he says.