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Shinsuke Tobita continues to photograph Fukushima after the nuclear accident.

Shinsuke Tobita, holding a dosimeter, walks in front of JR Ono Station, where demolition work continues, in Okuma Town, Fukushima Prefect

December 29, 2022
It has been more than a decade since photographer Shinshu Tobita, 75, of Miharu-cho, Fukushima Prefecture, began taking photographs in earnest of the areas affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake and the TEPCO Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant accident. While many residents of the prefecture have given up on returning to their homes and continue to live in evacuation centers, the government announced in August a policy of rebuilding and extending the operation of the nuclear power plant. The government has been asking itself, “Are we going to pretend that the accident at Fukushima never happened? We accompanied Mr. Tobita, who is still photographing the disaster-stricken area, while feeling anger. (Hiromi Nagakubo)
 It’s this way, this way,” he said in mid-October. In mid-October, in front of JR Koriyama Station in Koriyama City, Fukushima Prefecture. Mr. Tobita was waving to us at the rotary in front of the station. It has been almost two years since we last saw each other. He seemed to be in good health.
 The location of the photo shoot that day was in the eastern part of the prefecture. Okuma Town and Futaba Town facing the Pacific Ocean. We immediately spoke with him in the car on the way to the destination.
 First of all, why does he continue to photograph the disaster-stricken areas? Mr. Tobita gripped the steering wheel and began with a stern expression on his face.
 I give lectures across the country, showing my photos, and after the lectures, people in the audience say to me, ‘I thought the nuclear accident in Fukushima was over, but it is not. Eleven and a half years have passed since the accident, and I feel that many people have forgotten that there are many people in the prefecture who have given up on returning to their homes and are living outside the prefecture. That is why we are documenting it.”

Mr. Tobita holding up his camera in Futaba Town

Our car arrived in front of Ono Station on the JR Joban Line. The shopping district at the west exit of the station had high radiation levels since the accident, and was off limits to visitors without permission. Looking around the area, we saw that the shopping area had been cleared and some of the remaining buildings were being demolished.
 The radiation levels near the station have gone down, but there are still some areas where radiation levels are high,” Tobita said. By the way, some prefectural residents are not pleased with Mr. Tobita’s activities.
 Some people say that it will damage the image of reconstruction. Some people say that it damages the image of reconstruction and is a source of harmful rumors. The reality is as we saw today: a shiny new town hall building has been built in front of JR Futaba Station, and residents have begun to live in the west exit of the station. However, in the shopping district in front of the station, you can see houses with roofs about to collapse and vacant lots, and walking around are workers and police officers. This is the current situation.
 What do the locals think? A self-employed man, 46, whose former home was near the station and who now returns from his home in Ibaraki Prefecture from time to time to check on things, said, “This is the situation because the residents have died or the landlord did not decide to demolish the house. It is pitch black at night and there are foxes. It will take a long time before we can live normally,” he said.
◆Next year will be the 13th 3/11 “I want to interview the people who are coming back.

Photographs taken in Miharu-cho will be edited and printed on a computer at home.

 On the other hand, the coastal area in the eastern part of Futaba Town was so clean and well maintained that it was hard to believe that it had been hit by the tsunami. Modern factories and even fashionable business hotels have been built. I asked Mr. Tobita while looking at the raised embankment in the distance.
 By the way, does aging affect your photography?
 Mr. Tobita takes pictures with a digital SLR camera and organizes and saves them on his computer. He has already taken more than 10,000 pictures. Although he was not familiar with computers, “I receive requests over the phone from the organizers of photo exhibitions, and we communicate with them via e-mail,” he said. He edits and prints the images himself at home.
 I try not to drive at night, but I’m getting by, both shooting and driving,” he laughs. When asked what he would like to do next year, he replied, “I would like to cover residents who have made the decision to return to their hometowns with a variety of thoughts and feelings.
 Next year, Fukushima Prefecture will mark the 13th anniversary of the nuclear accident, “3.11.

Born in 1947 in Miharu-cho, Fukushima Prefecture, Hida is a professional photographer. His main subjects are Japanese craftsmen, and since around 1996 he has held solo exhibitions with the town of Miharu as his theme. After the Great East Japan Earthquake and the accident at TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, he has continued to photograph the disaster-stricken areas in Fukushima Prefecture, and has held 360 photo exhibitions and lectures in Japan and abroad.

<On August 30 of this year, the evacuation order was lifted for a part of the difficult-to-return zone in Futaba Town, where reactors No. 5 and 6 of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant are located and where the entire population had been evacuated due to radioactive contamination caused by the nuclear accident. For the first time in 11 years and 5 months since the accident, people are now able to live in the town. However, in a survey of residents’ intentions last year, 60.5% of the respondents answered that they had decided not to return. The reasons given included “purchased or built a home in the evacuation area.

January 20, 2023 - Posted by | Fuk 2023 | ,

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