Towns in Fukushima Exclusion Zone

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  • Namie viewFukushima prefecture (state) is home to some of the most scenic natural areas and villages in Japan. It is a large region, with the Pacific coast as the eastern border and mountains to the west. Four Fukushima Dai-ichi reactors were built on the coast in Futuba and Okuma. In addition to power, the economy was dominated by tourism and agriculture: rice, fruit orchards, mushrooms, cattle and horse farms, and many organic farms. Skiing, hiking, Taiko drumming, music and drama festivals and parades were popular past times.

    In 2013, we compared the towns in Fukushima affected by the nuclear meltdowns to towns around Vermont Yankee by distance from the reactors. Citizens in our region “adopted” a town, educated themselves, and held public events. Those actions are linked here.



    5 miles north –  Brattleboro adopted Namie in 2013

    “Perhaps the most heartbreaking thing about the town of Namie is that at first glance nothing seems amiss. The blue-green meadows look lush. The gently flowing Takase and field hill viewUkedo Rivers glitter in the sun. The barbershop, train station, and fried-pork restaurant seem ready for business, a universe apart from the havoc and wholesale destruction visited on towns farther up the coast.  [Source: Lucille Craft, National Geographic, December 2011]

   (from before 3/11) video of Namie as a ghost town

     Fukushima evacuee collects memories of those who will never return

    Namie protests Tokyo Olympics 2020 decision

    Namie has a 7-Eleven and world-class energy plant but still needs people (2020)

    Fukushima ghost town struggles (The Guardian)

    Namie cattle rancher, defying government, saves Fukushima’s radioactive cows.


    Tomioka borders the Dai’ichi reactors and extends six miles south.

    “I don’t know where my family is”.  Mr. Hayashi said he and others might have been lured into a false sense of security. “We prepared and prepared and talked about safety measures for a long time. But I honestly never thought something like this would happen,” he said…. evacuated to a shelter, then evacuated to a school gym – as the plume moved – then evacuated from “thousands crowded into the school gym in Kawauchi” after the hydrogen explosion sent radiation to Kawauchi.

    Before the disaster: “Tomioka would not be complete without Iwaido Hot Springs where many people come to relax…Tomioka River flows through the city straight to the Pacific Ocean.The western most part of Tomioka is located in the Takigawa Valley at the base of Abukuma Mountain. The highest mountain in Tomioka is Mt.Okura, which is very scenic with its large forest. The main attraction for which Tomioka is famous is its wealth of cherry blossoms. The main street is lined with trees that form a floral arch through which many people enjoy driving and walking. At night the trees are lit with lights, creating an aweinspiring sight. The cherry trees are filmed many times each year by visiting.”

    2015 UPDATE: The Fourth Winter of Fukushima

    motorcycle in Hirono Hironoadopted by Wendall – 15 miles south of ‘Vernon’ – 5,600 residents. Photos from a motorcycle trip in 2009. In these gorgeous nature photos from before the disaster, it looks like  the Pioneer Valley

    Although the evacuation order was lifted September 2012,  the town government returned March 2012. By November 2012 70% of businesses returned but only 600 residents. The businesses are serving the decommissioning workers for the reactors, who use the town as a base.


    15 miles southwest. Adopted by Greenfield. After two months, residents were allowed to return for one hour. A year later, the school re-opened and they could return, although most have not. Here is a video about the “lost generation” of Kawauchi. Many young people did not return.

    UPDATE: Kawauchi

    Sister city to Greenfield, and home of Chikako Nishiyama who visited in fall of 2013 — has been chosen to house contaminated waste. 43 million tons of plastic garbage bags full of dirt and vegetation cover Kawauchi.

    Chiho Kaneko photo for leslie 1Futuba & Okuma: reactor host towns

    Okuma and/or Futuba are now dumping group s for radioactive soil and water being collected from the radiated regions.

    Futuba mayor, on his resignation, wrote a long and excellent essay:

    UPDATE: TEPCO plans to incinerate contaminated waste in Futuba and Okuma.

    Iitate Village adopted  by Putney, Vt in 2013

    Iitate is one of Japan’s “100 Most Beautiful Villages.” Like Putney, it is outside the official evacuation zone. But the radiaiton plume went northwest and settled over Iitate. It is inland so was not affected by the tsunami – so its looks perfectly normal and beautiful, the deadly radiation invisible. 

    “Residents of Iitate, nestled in mountains about 25 miles (40 kilometers) from the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant, originally were told it was safe for them to stay. Then they were advised to stay indoors. In late April they were told to leave, but unlike people who lived closer to the plant, they can’t be forced to go.”

    “Nuclear Refugees: the people of Iitate Village”

    UPDATE: A nurse from Namie took photos of Iitate villagers for six months before the disaster. It is now a photo exhibit so people realize how much has been lost.

    2021 Update: Nuclear trained Buddhist priest elected mayor of Iitate

    town hills view Naraha

    10 miles south of the reactors. There were once 8,000 people in Naraha. There were 4 at last count.

    “Of course I am worried about my health but I haven’t found an alternative option because I need a place, if I am going to move, where I can take all these animals and that has this much nature. I’ve put everything in this so I can’t just leave.”