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Our contaminated future

In Fukushima, communities are adapting to life in a time of permanent pollution: a glimpse of what’s to come for us all

As a farmer, Atsuo Tanizaki did not care much for the state’s maps of radioactive contamination. Colour-coded zoning restrictions might make sense for government workers, he told me, but ‘real’ people did not experience their environment through shades of red, orange and green. Instead, they navigated the landscape one field, one tree, one measurement at a time. ‘Case by case,’ he said, grimly, as he guided me along the narrow paths that separated his rice fields, on the outskirts of a small village in Japan’s Fukushima prefecture.

The author examines maps of radioactive contamination in Fukushima.

It was spring in 2016 when I first visited Tanizaki’s farm. The air was warm. The nearby mountains were thick with emerald forests of Japanese cedar, konara oak and hinoki cypress. A troop of wild red-faced monkeys stopped foraging to watch us as we walked by. And woven through it all – air, water, land, plants, and living bodies – were unseen radioactive pollutants. Almost everything now carried invisible traces of the 2011 meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

Tanizaki began taking measurements. With his Geiger counter, he showed me how radioactive elements were indifferent to the cartographic logic of the state. In some places, the radiation level dropped low, becoming almost insignificant. But here and there, beside a ditch or near a pond, the level was elevated dangerously high. Tanizaki called these areas ‘hot spots’ and they were scattered across the landscape, even within supposedly ‘safe’ zones on government maps. Contamination in Fukushima, he believed, was structured in a way that no state was prepared to solve.

A decade after the 2011 meltdown, the region remains contaminated by industrial pollution. Though attempts at removing pollutants continue, a new realisation has taken hold among many of Fukushima’s farmers: there’s no going back to an uncontaminated way of life.

Watching Tanizaki measuring industrial pollution in a toxic landscape neglected by the state, I began to wonder: is this a future that awaits us all?

As an anthropologist interested in contamination, Fukushima throws into sharp relief the question of what it means to live in a permanently polluted world. That is why I began coming to Japan, and spending time with farmers such as Tanizaki. I wanted to understand the social dynamics of this new world: to understand how radioactivity is governed after a nuclear disaster, and how different groups clash and collaborate as they attempt to navigate the road to recovery.

I expected to find social bonds pushed to breaking point. Stories of post-disaster collapse circulate in our collective consciousness – tales of mistrust, fear and isolation, accompanied by images of abandoned homes and towns reclaimed by plants and wildlife. And I found plenty of that. A sense of unravelling has indeed taken hold in rural Fukushima. Residents remain uncertain about the adverse health effects of living in the region. Village life has been transformed by forced evacuations and ongoing relocations. And state-sponsored attempts at revitalisation have been ineffective, or complete failures. Many communities remain fragmented. Some villages are still abandoned.

Farmers took matters into their own hands, embracing novel practices for living with toxic pollution

In Fukushima, I found a society collapsing under the weight of industrial pollution. But that’s only part of the story. I also found toxic solidarity.

Rather than giving up, Tanizaki and other farmers have taken matters into their own hands, embracing novel practices for living alongside toxic pollution. These practices go far beyond traditional ‘farming’. They involve weaving relationships with scientists, starting independent decontamination experiments, piloting projects to create food security, and developing new ways to monitor a changing environment. Among rice fields, orchards and flower beds, novel modes of social organisation are emerging – new ways of living from a future we will one day all reckon with.

But the story of toxic solidarity in Fukushima doesn’t begin among rice fields and farms. It begins under the Pacific Ocean, at 2:46pm on 11 March 2011. At that moment, a magnitude 9.0-9.1 earthquake off the coast of northeastern Japan caused a devastating tsunami that set in motion a chain of events leading to the meltdown of three reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Soon, Fukushima would find its place alongside Three Mile Island and Chernobyl as an icon of nuclear disaster – and an emblem of the Anthropocene, the period when human activity has become the dominant influence on environmental change. As the reactors began to meltdown, pressure mounted in the power station’s facilities, leading to explosions that released dangerous radionuclides into the air, including caesium-134, caesium-137, strontium-90 and iodine-131. These isotopes, with lifespans ranging from days to centuries, blew across Fukushima and northeastern Japan. And as they accumulated, health risks increased – risks of cancers and ailments affecting the immune system. To protect the population, the Japanese state forced tens of thousands of citizens living near the reactors to evacuate.

Furekonbaggu, bags of contaminated soil, piled neatly in the Fukushima countryside.

At first, Tanizaki believed he had escaped the worst of the radiation because his village was not in the mandatory evacuation area. But when the wind carried radionuclides – invisible, tasteless, odourless – far beyond the government models, his village became one of the most contaminated areas in Fukushima. He learned he had been exposed to harmful radiation only when the government forced him to leave.

Tanizaki and other evacuated villagers were relocated to ‘temporary’ housing. As the months became years, Tanizaki longed to return to his life as a farmer. But what would he farm? His land had been irradiated, and no one wanted to eat food grown in radioactive topsoil. To help Fukushima’s rural citizens retrieve their farms, the Japanese government launched an official politics of revitalisation in Fukushima, investing trillions of yen to clean and decontaminate the region before repatriating evacuees. Part of the cleanup involved storing tainted topsoil in large black plastic bags known as furekonbaggu (literally ‘flexible container bags’), which were then stacked in piles throughout the countryside. To keep residents safe, the government also promised to track contamination through a monitoring system. At the time, the possibility of a pristine Fukushima seemed within reach.

In June 2015, after four years of forced evacuation, Tanizaki was finally allowed to return to his farm. But the decontamination efforts had failed. He and many others felt they had been returned to a region abandoned by the government. The landscape was now covered in millions of bags of radioactive topsoil – black pyramids of the Anthropocene – while the government waited for a permanent disposal site. Also, the plastic in some furekonbaggu had already broken down, spilling radioactive soil over freshly decontaminated land. The state’s monitoring efforts were equally inadequate. In Tanizaki’s village, the monitoring of airborne radiation produced measurements that were rarely precise enough to give a complete picture of shifting contamination. Villagers lived with constant uncertainty: is the garden contaminated? Are the trees behind the house safe? Are mushrooms in the forest still edible?

I saw dead sunflowers rooted in irradiated fields – withered emblems of dreams to retrieve Fukushima

For some, the uncertainty was too much. Tens of thousands relocated to other parts of Japan rather than returning. In 2010, the region registered 82,000 people whose main income came from farming. But by 2020, that number had fallen to around 50,000. Abandoned greenhouses and fields can still be found dotted across the landscape.

Withered sunflowers in irradiated fields.

Knowing that government efforts weren’t going to help, some returnees began to decontaminate their own villages and farms. There was hope that the region could be returned to its former uncontaminated glory. One proposed method involved planting sunflowers, which were believed to absorb radiation as they grew. Yellow flowers bloomed across the farmlands of Fukushima. However, the results were unsatisfactory. Even during my time in Japan, years after the disaster, I saw dead sunflowers still rooted in irradiated fields – withered emblems of early dreams to retrieve a pre-disaster Fukushima. I also witnessed decontamination experiments in rice paddies: farmers would flood their fields, and then use tools to mix the water with the irradiated topsoil below, stirring up and dislodging radioactive pollutants such as caesium. The muddy water was then pushed out of the field using large stiff-bristled brushes. This project also failed. Some paddy fields are still so contaminated they can’t grow rice that’s safe for human consumption.

These failures significantly affected the morale of Fukushima’s farmers, especially considering the importance of the region as a rice-growing capital. Once easy decontamination efforts failed, returnees were forced to ask themselves difficult questions about their homes, livelihoods and identities: what will happen if farming is impossible? What does it mean to be a rice farmer when you can’t grow rice? What if life has been irrevocably altered?

Even the mushrooms tasted different. One farmer, Takeshi Mito, told me he had learned to grow shiitake mushrooms on artificial tree trunks, since real trees were too contaminated to produce edible fungi. ‘Now the taste of the shiitake has changed,’ he mumbled, a strange sadness filling his voice. The ‘real’ trees had given the mushrooms a special flavour, just like ageing a whisky in a sherry cask. ‘Yeah,’ he said, pausing to remember. ‘They were good.’

A new reality was emerging. Farmers were learning to accept that life in Fukushima would never be the same. Small details are constant reminders of that transformation, like the taste of mushrooms, or the library in Tanizaki’s home, which is now filled with books on Chernobyl, nuclear power, radioactive contamination, and food safety. This is new terrain, in which everyone carries a monitoring device, and in which everyone must learn to live with contamination. A former way of life may be impossible to retrieve, and attempts at decontamination may have failed, but farmers such as Tanizaki are learning to form new relationships to their irradiated environment. They’re forging new communities, reshaping notions of recovery, and reimagining their shared identities and values. Contamination may appear to have divided Fukushima’s farmers, but it has also united them in strange and unexpected ways.

By the time the evacuees were allowed to return to their homes, government mistrust had become widespread. Official promises were made to Fukushima residents that a nuclear disaster was impossible. These promises were spectacularly broken when radiation spread across the region. A lack of information from state sources made things only worse, leading to a growing sense that the government was unable to provide any real solutions. Not trusting state scientists, but still wanting to know more about the invisible harm in their villages, farmers reached out to academics, nongovernmental organisations and independent scientists in the hope of better understanding radioactivity.

These new relationships quickly changed social life in rural communities, and brought an influx of radiation monitoring devices. Rather than asking for additional state resources (or waiting endlessly for official responses to questions), farmers worked with their new networks to track radiation, measuring roads, houses, crop fields, forest areas and wildlife. Everyone learned to use radiation monitoring devices, which quickly became essential bodily extensions to navigate a changed Fukushima. Many rural communities even began to use them to develop their own maps. I remember the walls of Tanizaki’s home being covered in printed images showing the topography of the local landscape, with up-to-date information about radiation often provided by farmers. Local knowledge of the environment, combined with the technical savoir faire of independent scientists, produced far more accurate representations of contamination than the state maps made by government experts.

Sharing the work of living with contamination provided a feeling of communal life that returnees had so missed

Thanks to these maps, Tanizaki now knew that radiation doses were higher at the bottom of a slope or in ditches (where radionuclides could accumulate, forming ‘hot spots’). He also knew that the trees outside someone’s home increased the radiation levels inside. Through this mapping work, many farmers developed a kind of tacit knowledge of radiation, intuitively understanding how it moved through the landscape. In some cases, it moved far beyond the colour-coded zones around the reactors, or even the boundaries of Fukushima itself. A major culprit of this spread has been inoshishi (wild boar), who eat contaminated mushrooms before migrating outside irradiated areas, where their highly contaminated flesh can be eaten by unsuspecting hunters. To address this problem, monitoring programmes were developed based on the knowledge of farmers, who were familiar with the feeding and migration patterns of wild boar. Once a delicacy, inoshishi have become what the anthropologist Joseph Masco calls ‘environmental sentinels’: a new way to visualise and track an invisible harm.

But monitoring is more than a pragmatic tool for avoiding harm. In many instances, it also became a means of forging new communities. After returning, farmers began to share their knowledge and data with scientists, gathering to talk about areas that need to be avoided, or holding workshops on radiation remediation. Ironically, sharing the work of living with contamination provided a feeling of communal life that returnees had so missed. Ionising radiation can ‘cut’ the chemical bonds of a cell. Based on the experiences of Tanizaki and other farmers, it can also create novel connections.

Many farmers told me of their amazement at the sheer diversity of people who had come to support the revitalisation efforts. And it wasn’t only former evacuees who were drawn into these new communities. It was also the volunteers who came to help from other parts of Japan. One scientist I spoke with, who specialised in radiation monitoring, ended up permanently moving to a village in Fukushima, which he now considers his hometown. There are many similar cases, and they’re especially welcome in the aftermath of a disaster that has deeply fragmented Fukushima’s rural community. Some farmers told me there were times when they would go weeks without speaking to anyone. Life in a polluted, post-disaster landscape can be lonely.

Monitoring might have helped residents avoid harmful radiation, but it didn’t necessarily help with farming. Often, the new maps revealed that crops grown in certain areas would fall beyond the official permissible thresholds for radiation in food. And so, farmers who could no longer farm were forced to develop alternatives. In collaboration with university scientists, some former rice farmers began growing silver grass as a potential source of biofuel that would provide energy for their region. ‘If we can’t grow food, we can at least make energy!’ one scientist told me.

Other farmers now use their irradiated fields to grow ornamental flowers. In the solarium of an elderly man named Noriko Atsumi, I saw rows of beautiful Alstroemeria flowers that are native to South America. When I visited in 2017, Atsumi was happy to talk about his flowers with me, and eager to show his solarium. ‘At the beginning,’ he told me, ‘it was really hard to try to grow flowers all alone, especially in these horrible conditions, but now I’m happy I did.’ Another elderly Fukushima farmer, Masao Tanaka, who lives alone on his farm, also dreamt of having a personal flower garden. I saw hundreds of narcissus flower bulbs he’d planted in a small field once used to grow commercial crops.

The flower gardens of Fukushima are an attempt to forge new relationships

For farmers such as Atsumi and Tanaka, growing flowers has become a new hobby. But ‘hobby’ is the key word here: Japan remains anxious about radiation in Fukushima produce, so most flowers are simply given away rather than sold. Though these ornamental flowers are not commodities like rice, they fall within an aesthetic of revitalisation. They’re little sprouts of precarious hope – the dream of a Fukushima that a new generation of farmers might one day call home. One village official explained this hope (and its complexities) to me like this:

I don’t know what kind of impression you have of our village. It used to be one of the top 10 prettiest villages in Japan. Now, there are 1.5 millionfurekonbaggu across it. They are left right next to paddy fields. Citizens are seeing these bags every day and asking themselves: ‘Can we really go back?’ They are being told that everything is safe, but when they see those bags, how can they be sure?

In a landscape of black bags, the flower gardens of Fukushima are an attempt to forge new relationships – an attempt to bring colours back to a post-disaster landscape and to the lives of those who live in it. Flowers represent a communal attempt to reshape the narrative of village life, which has been shadowed by tragedy. Flowers have allowed communities to make their villages beautiful again, and allowed farmers to take some pride in their decision to return to what many believed was a ‘ruined’ agricultural region.

On one trip to Fukushima, I visited a long plastic greenhouse where fire-red strawberries were being cultivated by a group of farmers and scientists. Inside, I saw rows of strawberries growing on the ground, fed by filtered water from a system of tubes. This watering system ran in and out of soil that was thick with pebbles, which a scientist told me were ‘volcanic gravels from Kagoshima’ on the other side of Japan, hundreds of kilometres away. They were using these gravels, he said, because the soil in Fukushima was ‘too contaminated to harvest safe products’. In fact, almost everything that the strawberries needed to grow, from the plastic greenhouse to the filtered water, had come from elsewhere. I couldn’t help asking: ‘Can you really say these strawberries came from Fukushima?’

One scientist working in the greenhouse seemed offended by my question. ‘We are using the safest technology in the world!’ he said. ‘It cannot be safer than that. The bad part is that people don’t write about this. All they write about are the plastic bags that you see everywhere!’

I was confused. I’d asked a question about provenance but was given an answer about safety. In the post-disaster landscape, safety had paradoxically become an integrated component of the products of Fukushima. The new agricultural products of Fukushima have become known not merely by the environment they grew in, but by the technologies that have allowed them to resist that environment. The scientist’s response showed some of the ways that Fukushima is embodying new values after the disaster. New products, like little red strawberries grown with imported soil, are becoming symbols of resilience, adaptation and recovery – part of the fabric of solidarity in a new Fukushima.

Toxic solidarity has been encouraged by the same organisations responsible for the disaster

But not everyone can share the embrace of toxic solidarity. In Tanizaki’s village, many young people have permanently left, wary of the health risks of residual radiation. These risks are especially concerning to new parents. During my fieldwork, I heard mothers complain about strange ailments their children experienced right after the disaster: chronic diarrhoea, tiredness, and recurrent nosebleeds that were ‘a very dark and unusual colour’. Concerns are not only anecdotal. After the disaster, thyroid cancers among children increased in Fukushima, which some believe was caused by exposure to iodine-131 from the meltdown. For some parents, leaving has been the only way to protect themselves and their children.

Complicating the binary between those working with or against contamination, toxic solidarity has been encouraged by the same organisations responsible for the disaster. For example, Japanese state ministries and nuclear-related organisations have increasingly encouraged returnees such as Tanizaki to become responsible for keeping their dose of radiation exposure as low as possible. In this way, safe living conditions become the responsibility of citizens themselves, as tropes of resilience are conveniently deployed by the state, and financial supports for disaster victims are gradually cut off. Those who refuse to participate in these projects have been labelled hikokumin (unpatriotic citizens), who hamper the revitalisation of Japan. What we find in this co-option is an unreflexive celebration of farmers’ resilience – a celebration that serves the status quo and the vested interests of state agencies, corporate polluters and nuclear lobbies. Through this logic, disaster can be mitigated, free of charge, by the victims themselves.

These blind celebrations of toxic solidarity only legitimise further polluting practices and further delegations by polluters. In a way, it is no different to the strategies of tobacco lobbies in the mid-20th century, who tried to market smoking as a form of group bonding, a personal choice or an act of freedom (represented by those many Marlboro Men who would eventually die from smoking-related diseases). While toxic solidarity can be applauded as a grassroots act of survival and creativity, it is also the direct result of broader structural patterns: the fact that polluting industries are often installed in peripheral, poor and depopulated regions; the repeated claims of government that toxic disasters can never happen; and the over-reliance on technological fixes that rarely solve social problems. When all else fails, it is always up to the ‘small’ people to pick up the pieces as best they can.

Contamination isn’t going away. Radiation will continue to travel through the landscape, pooling in rice paddies, accumulating in mushrooms and forests, and travelling in the bodies of migrating boar. Some areas remain so irradiated that they’re still bright red on the government maps. These are the prohibited ‘exclusion zones’, known in Japanese as kikan konnan kuiki (literally, ‘difficult-to-return zones’). They may not be reopened in our lifetimes.

One afternoon, someone from Tanizaki’s village took me to see the entrance to the nearby exclusion zone, which is blocked by a wide three-metre-long metal gate, barricades, and a guard. By the gate, in a small wooden cabin, a lonely policeman acted as a watchman. The gate, painted bright green, is supposed to separate people from an environment that is considered dangerous, but almost anybody can easily cross into the forbidden zone. Some farmers even have official access to the kikan konnan kuiki, so that they can check on the condition of their homes in the red zone. Cars and small pickup trucks go in and out, without any form of decontamination.

As I took a picture of the gate, the guard looked over and a farmer, perhaps worried I would get in trouble, came to explain: ‘He’s a foreigner you know, he just wants to see.’ It was forbidden for a non-Japanese person like me to enter the area. The same interdiction did not apply to locals. One Japanese citizen who had come with us was critical of this double standard: ‘The people of Fukushima are no longer normal people.’

In the post-disaster landscape, we can begin to see novel forms of community, resistance, agency and innovation

In the years since that day at the edge of the red zone, I have pondered this phrase many times. In the Anthropocene, when Earth has become permanently polluted – with microplastics, ‘forever chemicals’ and other traces of toxicity accumulating in our bodies – are any of us still ‘normal people’? The problems of Tanizaki and other Fukushima farmers will soon become everybody’s concern, if they haven’t already. How might we respond to this new reality?

The current mode of governing life in an age of contamination is built on a promise that we can isolate ourselves from pollution. This is a false promise. So-called decontamination measures in Fukushima are a crystal-clear example that this doesn’t work. There’s no simple way to ‘decontaminate’ our world from ubiquitous pollution: from mercury in sea life, endocrine disruptors in furniture, pesticide in breast milk, heavy metals in clothing, alongside an almost neverending list of other toxicants.

The experiences of Fukushima’s farmers show us how to navigate the uncharted, polluted seas of our age. Their stories show how new communities might express agency and creativity, even in toxic conditions. They also show how that agency and creativity can be co-opted and exploited by dubious actors. In the post-disaster landscape of rural Fukushima, we can begin to see the outlines of novel forms of community, resistance, agency and innovation that might shape our own future – a future that will hopefully be better, in which economic prosperity is not pitched against environmental wellbeing. In the end, these stories allow us to think about the kinds of toxic solidarity that we can nurture, as opposed to those that have historically been imposed on the wretched.

Someday, when we acknowledge we are no longer ‘normal’, Tanizaki’s story is one we must all learn to tell.

Maxime Polleri is an assistant professor in the department of anthropology at Université Laval, in Quebec City, Canada. He is working on a book about the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, ‘Radioactive Governance: The Politics of Revitalization after Fukushima’.

Edited byCameron Allan McKean


January 20, 2023 Posted by | Fuk 2023 | , , | Leave a comment

Radiation dose and gene expression analysis of wild boar 10 years after the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant accident


The Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant accident led to contamination with radioactive cesium in an extensive environment in Japan in 2011. We evaluated the concentration of radioactive cesium in the skeletal muscles of 22 wild boars and the expression of IFN-γ, TLR3, and CyclinG1 in the small intestine and compared them with those of wild boar samples collected from Hyogo prefecture. The average 137Cs radioactivity concentration in wild boars in the ex-evacuation zone was 470 Bq/kg. Most of samples still showed radioactivity concentration that exceeded the regulatory limit for foods, but the dose remarkably decreased compared with samples just after the accident. IFN-γ expression was significantly higher in wild boars in the ex-evacuation zone than in samples from Hyogo prefecture. TLR3 expression was also upregulated. CyclinG1 expression also tended to be high. Hence, wild boars might have received some effects of low-dose radiation, and immune cells were activated to some extent. However, pathological examination revealed no inflammatory cell infiltration or pathological damage in the small intestine of wild boars in the ex-evacuation area. Long-term monitoring would be necessary, but we consider that the living body responds appropriately to a stimulus from a contaminated environment.


On March 11, 2011, the Great East Japan Earthquake was one of the most significant disasters caused by earthquakes and tsunamis. Moreover, the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant resulted in widespread contamination of radioactive materials. After the accident, more than 165,000 people were evacuated, but wild and livestock animals were left behind in the evacuation zone at that time. We had earlier investigated the effect of radiation on those animals, and the results were published in several research papers1,2,3,4,5,6 and a book chapter7. However, because the half-life of 137Cesium is approximately 30 years, a long-term environmental survey in the ex-evacuation area is necessary to understand the impact of chronic low-dose radiation on wildlife physiology.

Ten years have elapsed since the earthquake, much of the area where people lived has been decontaminated already, and humans are returning now. Although several people are evacuating, the remaining wild animals are free to live contaminated with radioactive materials. Recent research has revealed that numerous wildlife species are now abundant throughout the ex-evacuation zone8. Hunters in Fukushima have exterminated numerous wild animals, but they are not used for human consumption due to the contamination. Even after the Chernobyl accident, wildlife surveys have reported high radioactive contamination rates in wild boars even after several years9. In a previous research that examined 213 wild boar muscles in Tomioka town, Fukushima Prefecture, in 2019, it was observed that 98.6% of the samples had radioactivity concentration that exceeded the standard value (100 Bq/kg)10 as a general food. Therefore, the meats of those wild boars are not edible and are discarded. However, these wild boars are considered to be affected by low doses of radiation, and analyzing them is important considering the effects on humans.

The physiological functions and immune systems of pigs are extremely similar to those of humans11,12,13. Therefore, we intended to understand the responses in abandoned pigs to radioactive contamination, which can be helpful in understanding the radiation effects and responses in humans. Our previous report demonstrated that there were alterations in gene expression in the small intestine of animals in the ex-evacuation zone after radiation4. The genes involved in inflammation showed significantly higher expression in pigs in the ex-evacuation zone than in control pigs. Therefore, exposed pigs could have an inflammatory response due to oxidative stress with the indirect action of radiation. This is caused by breaking the O–H bonds of water molecules in the body and generating reactive oxygen species14,15. As superoxide and hydroxyl radicals of reactive oxygen species have unpaired electrons, they oxidize DNA, proteins, and lipids16,17,18. Consequently, the biomolecules would be damaged. However, the body has a mechanism to eliminate reactive oxygen species. Nevertheless, if numerous reactive oxygen species are generated by radiation, the elimination will be insufficient, leading to oxidative stress. Chronic inflammation due to oxidative stress is known to induce cancer, lifestyle-related diseases, and immune-related diseases. Therefore, we performed a follow-up investigation using wild boars, which are biologically the same species as pigs, in this study. Muscles and small intestines were collected from the wild boars that were exterminated by the Hunting Association. These samples were evaluated for the amount of radioactive cesium, and the changes in the expression of genes responsible for immunological or physiological functions were analyzed (Fig. 1).


Radioactivity concentration in skeletal muscles and total exposure dose rates of wild boars

Figure 2 shows relationship between the total exposure dose rates and the radioactivity concentration in the skeletal muscles of wild boars. The total exposure dose rates are summation of internal and external dose rates of whole body. Average 137Cs radioactivity concentration and total dose rates in 22 wild boars in the ex-evacuation zone were 470 Bq/kg and 7.2 µGy/d, respectively. The lowest and highest values were 124 and 1667 Bq/kg, respectively. And the medians were 289 Bq/kg and 6.8 µGy/d. In contrast, the average 137Cs radioactivity concentration and total dose rates of the three wild boars in Hyogo prefecture were 1.5 Bq/kg and 0.0 µGy. The lowest and highest values were 0.6 and 2.7 Bq/kg, respectively, and the median was 1.2 Bq/kg.

Gene expressions in the small intestine

In our previous study conducted in 2012, microarray analysis revealed that several genes in the small intestine exhibited significant expression differences after radiation in abandoned pigs. More detailed experiments using real-time PCR confirmed that IFN-γ and TLR3 expressions were significantly increased after radiation in abandoned pigs. Furthermore, our subsequent study of wild boars in the ex-evacuation zone in 2015 showed that CyclinG1 expression was significantly higher than that in the control group4. Therefore, we focused on the expression of IFN-γ, TLR3, and CyclinG1 in the present study as a follow-up survey. We found that IFN-γ and TLR3 expressions were significantly higher in Fukushima wild boars than in Hyogo wild boars. The expression of CyclinG1 also tended to be higher (Fig. 3).

Pathological and morphological changes in the small intestine

In the pathological analysis, tissues were fixed and cut for HE staining to examine whether intestinal tissues were damaged or showed inflammation because of radiation exposure. No morphological changes and infiltration of inflammatory cells were observed (Fig. 4).


Although 10 years have elapsed since the earthquake, the reconstruction of the disaster area is in progress. In Fukushima, there are still areas where it is difficult to return home. However, decontamination of urban regions and agricultural land is progressing, and residents are rebuilding their lives. Moreover, agricultural products are sold after being thoroughly inspected for radiation dose and confirmed to be safe. It is the increase in the number of wild animals that threatens the livelihoods of the returning people. From 2016 to 2017, Lyons et al.8 surveyed the ecology of wild animals using network cameras. They found that wildlife preferred the environment without humans and increased in number in the ex-evacuation zone, despite chronic radiation exposure. The wild boar was the most abundant species in the ex-evacuation zone. Even before the Fukushima Daiichi accident, wild boars were targeted for extermination, and the Hunting Association was hunting, but at that time, the meat was also edible in this area. However, it is now just discarded after hunting. The wild boars present in the mountains have not been decontaminated but eat contaminated food and water. Several studies on the Chernobyl accident demonstrated that the pollution of mushrooms in the mountain range continued for a long time19,20.

The intestine can be significantly affected by radiation through internal exposure after oral intake of contaminated food. It is also one of the essential organs of the immune system. Therefore, we evaluated whether the expression of genes responsible for the immune system and cell cycles in the small intestine of wild boars in the ex-evacuation area is altered compared to that in animals in the noncontaminated area.

Our results demonstrated that IFN-γ and TLR3 were significantly upregulated in Fukushima wild boars compared to those in Hyogo wild boars. Moreover, CyclinG1 expression tended to increase. As mentioned earlier, these genes were selected from the microarray analysis in our previous research4. IFN-γ is one of the crucial cytokines for acquired immunity and inflammation. Recently, Zha et al. described that IFN-γ is a master regulator for several cytokines involved in numerous biological processes21. It functions as a master switch to operate cell activation or inhibition. In comparison, the major portion of innate immune cell activation is mediated by TLRs. TLR3 is involved in dsRNA recognition and is associated with antiviral responses. Furthermore, TLR3 is an important molecule for radiation susceptibility. Takemura et al. reported that TLR3-deficient mice exhibited substantial resistance to gastrointestinal syndrome (GIS)22. TLR3 is bound to cellular RNA leaking from damaged cells and induces inflammation. CyclinG1 is one of the target genes of the transcription factor p53 and is induced in response to DNA damage. It also plays a role in G2/M arrest in response to DNA damage recovery and growth promotion after cell stress23. Therefore, the changes in the expressions of the genes encoding these proteins suggested that the immune system and cell cycles in wild boars in the ex-evacuation zone were affected by low-dose radiation. These results are consistent with our previous investigation conducted in 2012. A state of high IFN-γ expression suggests an activated state of immune cells. Despite the low-dose, radiation-induced oxidative stress may result in elevated expression of inflammatory cytokines. However, no correlation was observed between IFN-γ expression and radiation levels in the skeletal muscle of wild boars in this study (data not shown). This could be due to the lower doses of 137Cs observed in the present study rather than those in the previous investigation. Furthermore, pathological examination revealed no infiltration of immune cells in the submucosa of small intestines of wild boars in the ex-evacuation area.

Therefore, the elevated expression of these genes can be considered as a consequence of the living body’s ability to appropriately process the effects of low-dose radiation. The highest radiation concentration in the skeletal muscle was 1667 Bq/kg, which was much lower than that in abandoned pigs investigated in 2012, at > 15,000 Bq/kg on average. Cui et al. investigated 213 wild boars and reported a median 137Cs value of 420 Bq/kg in 201910. Most samples collected from the wild boars in the ex-evacuation zone still showed radioactivity concentration that exceeded the regulatory radiocesium limit for foods in the present study, but the dose is steadily decreasing. Cunningham et al. investigated DNA damage and concluded that there was no evidence of significant harmful impacts to wild boars exposed to low-dose radiation24.

Furthermore, Pederson et al. investigated whether chronic low-dose radiation affects cataract prevalence in wild boars but reported no significantly higher risk in the animals in the exclusion zone25. Finally, we also report the results of this study as a record of 10 years after the accident. Although an increase in the expression of IFN-γ, TLR3, and CyclinG1 was detected, there were no pathological abnormalities in wild boars in the ex-evacuation zone. However, it is difficult to conclude the effects of radiation only ten years after the accident. We intend to continue conducting wild boar surveys regularly to elucidate the effects of long-term low-dose radiation exposure.

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November 7, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , , , | Leave a comment

The Fukushima Area Has Seen Better Days as Nobuhiko Ito Shows

October 30, 2022

“The level of the contamination is too high to be inhabitable,” says photographer Nobuhiko Ito about the ever-present danger around the vicinity of the former Fukushima nuclear plant. A decade-old event that Japan is still recovering from, the impact of the accident there and resulting economic fallout was felt around the world for quite some time. As with all nuclear plant incidents, questions remain over whether life will ever return to normal in the surrounding areas.

Dominating the news for many weeks that year, the Fukushima Daiichi Accident, as it’s officially known, occurred at the city’s nuclear plant following a tsunami caused by a major earthquake in March, 2011. Almost 14-meter-high waves lashed the plant, flooding and severe damaging its reactors. It was classified as the most severe nuclear accident since Chernobyl, and over 150,000 people were evacuated from the city. Radiation-contaminated water seep into the Pacific Ocean for many days after the incident, even as late as 2013. It was estimated then that decontamination efforts could last up to 40 years. Almost a decade from later, Japanese photographer Nobuhiko Ito has begun a project to safely photograph the areas surrounding Fukushima. Large parts of it are still off-limits to the public.

The Phoblographer: Hi Nobuhiko. Please tell us about yourself and how you got into photography.

Nobuhiko Ito: I was born in 1970 in Kanagawa prefecture, Japan. I started taking pictures when I was 15 years old and have been involved in photography ever since. In 1998, I studied under photographer Hiromi Tsuchida. I became an independent photographer in 2003, and since then, I have been an active freelancer. Although I was not aware of it when I was young, the fact that seeing things through a camera is an objective and critical act is the most important reason why I continue to express myself through photography.

Photography is basically a solo activity, and I think I have been able to continue to do it because I am suited to this kind of work.

The Phoblographer: Where were you when the Fukushima Daiichi Accident occured? What was the general feeling for the next few days in your vicinity?

Nobuhiko Ito: The earthquake occurred at 14:46 on March 11, 2011, and approximately one hour later, the nuclear reactor meltdown caused by the loss of power due to tsunami damage was a direct cause of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident. This was followed by three hydrogen explosions on March 12, 14, and 15, resulting in a serious situation in which a wide area of more than 30 km radius was contaminated by radioactive materials. I was in Tokyo when the earthquake hit, and I was scheduled to have a work meeting with a client at 3:00 p.m. I felt kind of silly because I was still meeting at the client’s office as scheduled, even with the numerous aftershocks that hit afterward. I drove myself home to my house in Yokohama, about 30 kilometers away, at around 5:00 p.m. All public transportation was stopped, the roads were jammed badly, and the sidewalks were full of people walking home, which was an unusual situation. It took me about 8 hours to get home, where it usually takes me about 45 minutes. It took me twice as long as it would have taken me to walk home.

I was in a car stuck in traffic, checking with relatives on my cell phone to make sure they were safe and listening to the news bulletins that came in one after another, but I was already worried about the meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant at that point. I spent the next week or so at home. I heard that some people were buying up water, food, and stockpiles, but I did not act rashly and stayed put.

The Phoblographer: How long have you been working on your book, A Decade of Fukushima? Typically how many images do you photograph of the surrounding areas of the nuclear plant site each year?

Nobuhiko Ito: I started taking pictures in April 2020, so as of now it has only been 2 years and 6 months. When I started filming, it had been 9 years since the Great East Japan Earthquake and the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant accident and the people of this country were beginning to have fading memories of it. I may be one of them, but one thing that sets me apart from the rest of the survivors is that I have been visiting companies based around the hard-to-return zone in Fukushima Prefecture several times a year for commercial photography assignments since 2009, before the accident.

During those nine years, I watched the transition of the area from a moving car window. Buildings destroyed by the tsunami and left abandoned, cars washed away and rusting in the middle of fields, natural scenery where the topsoil is being gouged away by the large-scale decontamination work started by the government sometime after the accident… As a person involved in photography, I felt frustrated that I could do nothing in the face of this serious problem.

What prompted me to start taking photos of the hard-to-return zones in Fukushima was the fact that the 2020 Olympics would be held in Tokyo, the capital of this country. The government had billed it as a “reconstruction Olympics,” but this was not accompanied by any substance. The Olympics were postponed for a year due to the coronavirus, but I decided to document the hard-to-return areas of Fukushima, which have been neglected as time passed. The number of photos I take in a year is between 1,000 and 2,000, but in my case, I combine three shots into one, so the actual number would be one-third of that number. As you can see, the number of locations I photograph from a fixed point has been increasing, and the more times I go to Fukushima to take photographs, the more I move from searching for shooting locations to aiming for locations where I have already taken photographs one after another.

The Phoblographer: With so much happening in the world, people tend to forget the recent past. Is this like a documentation project so that the memory of the Fukushima Daiichi Accident doesn’t fade too soon?

Nobuhiko Ito: Yes, it is.

The Phoblographer: What were some of the challenges you faced in order to gain access to the surrounding areas? What safety measures did you take while doing this project?

Nobuhiko Ito: In my case, I do not go into areas that are forbidden to enter, and most of the time, I stay within their boundaries. However, the difficult-to-return zone does not mean that the entire area is sealed off. The roads that pass through the zone have gradually been open to anyone without permission since about the third year after the accident, and the area continues to expand. However, perhaps due to concerns about radiation exposure, in many cases, passage by car is permitted, but passage by foot or motorcycle is prohibited. Therefore, it is common to be questioned by police officers when you get out of your car and take pictures, as I did.

The Phoblographer: When visiting an area like this, which has been fenced off so much, how do you get images that are visually distinct from each other?

Nobuhiko Ito: Fences essentially restrict vehicular access, so it is easily possible to enter on foot. Some of the fences are such that the meaning of their installation is not clear. It may have been necessary to draw a line somewhere due to high or low radiation levels. However, considering what happened before the accident, we must be well aware of what this unusual view that is now spreading before our eyes means.

The Phoblographer: You’ve added the radiation level (μsv/h) alongside each photograph. Were there any sites where you noticed a dangerous level of radiation after arriving there?

Nobuhiko Ito: I try to record them at the same time because, unlike photographs, radiation levels are invisible. Most of the photo sites are on paved roads, and the measurements were taken at 1 meter above the ground.

Although there are regional differences, the mountains, forests, and former farmland on either side of the road have been left undisturbed since the accident and have not been decontaminated, so if you go into the area and take measurements, the radiation levels jump. The level of contamination is too high to be inhabitable.

The Phoblographer: why was panorama format chosen for this project?

Nobuhiko Ito: It is obvious, but we felt that the usual one shot was not enough to show the left and right sides of the area. When shooting with a fence in the center, it was necessary to capture a wide area in order to grasp the landscape at that point.

The Phoblographer: How long do you think it will take for life to return to normal in these areas (if ever)?

Nobuhiko Ito: Although it may not be well known internationally, government-led efforts are underway to intensively decontaminate parts of the hard-to-return zones to improve living infrastructure and promote re-housing there, and some people have returned this year. However, that is really a very small number.

Most of the areas within the zone are mountain forests, and it is practically impossible to remove the radioactive materials that have fallen on them to a complete level, let alone to make them safe, and it is meaningless to decontaminate only the areas with villages surrounded by these forests. Although it is very unfortunate, we have to assume that it is impossible for people to be able to live a normal life in these areas.

All images by Nobuhiko Ito. Used with permission. Visit his website as well as his Instagram and Facebook pages to stay up to date on this project. Want to be featured? Click here to find out how.


October 31, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , , , | Leave a comment

Radioactive releases from the nuclear power sector and implications for child health

  1. Cindy Folkers,
  2. Linda Pentz Gunter
  3. Correspondence to Ms Cindy Folkers;



Radioactive releases from the nuclear power sector and implications for child health

  1. Folkers,
  2. Linda Pentz Gunter
  3. Correspondence to Ms Cindy Folkers;


Although radioactivity is released routinely at every stage of nuclear power generation, the regulation of these releases has never taken into account those potentially most sensitive—women, especially when pregnant, and children. From uranium mining and milling, to fuel manufacture, electricity generation and radioactive waste management, children in frontline and Indigenous communities can be disproportionately harmed due to often increased sensitivity of developing systems to toxic exposures, the lack of resources and racial and class discrimination. The reasons for the greater susceptibility of women and children to harm from radiation exposure is not fully understood. Regulatory practices, particularly in the establishment of protective exposure standards, have failed to take this difference into account. Anecdotal evidence within communities around nuclear facilities suggests an association between radiation exposure and increases in birth defects, miscarriages and childhood cancers. A significant number of academic studies tend to ascribe causality to other factors related to diet and lifestyle and dismiss these health indicators as statistically insignificant. In the case of a major release of radiation due to a serious nuclear accident, children are again on the frontlines, with a noted susceptibility to thyroid cancer, which has been found in significant numbers among children exposed both by the 1986 Chornobyl nuclear accident in Ukraine and the 2011 Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear disaster in Japan. The response among authorities in Japan is to blame increased testing or to reduce testing. More independent studies are needed focused on children, especially those in vulnerable frontline and Indigenous communities. In conducting such studies, greater consideration must be applied to culturally significant traditions and habits in these communities.

This is an open access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited, appropriate credit is given, any changes made indicated, and the use is non-commercial. See:

October 26, 2022 Posted by | Nuclear | , | Leave a comment

Hong Kong to follow mainland China on regulations on Japanese imports if water from Fukushima nuclear disaster released into Pacific

Japan plans to release over 1.25 million tonnes of treated waste water contaminated by wrecked Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant into Pacific

Since nuclear disaster, Hong Kong has prohibited imports of vegetables, fruits, milk, milk-based beverages and milk powder from Fukushima prefecture

Fruit from Japan photographed at the Citysuper supermarket in Causeway Bay.

11 Oct, 2022

If mainland China steps up regulations on food products imported from Japan when it releases treated water from Fukushima into the Pacific next year, Hong Kong will follow suit, the city’s environmental minister has said.

The remark made by Secretary of Environment and Ecology Tse Chin-wan on Tuesday referred to Tokyo’s plans, which were revealed last year, to release over 1.25 million tonnes of treated waste water contaminated by the wrecked Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant into the Pacific in 2023.

Tse said at a Legislative Council panel meeting that, because marine pollution involved international relations, the administration had expressed its concerns to the foreign ministry’s Hong Kong office.

Secretary for Environment and Ecology Tse Chin-wan.

“We will carry out closer ties and communication with the mainland and see what the mainland will do politically in the future. In this regard, Hong Kong will definitely be politically consistent with the mainland,” he told lawmakers.

Tse said the Centre for Food Safety tested more than 760,000 food samples imported from Japan from March 2011 to December 2021. None exceeded the radiation guideline levels suggested by the Codex Alimentarius under the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation.

After the Japanese authorities announced the radioactive waste water discharge plan, the Hong Kong government requested more information and specific information from the country and paid close attention to the International Atomic Energy Agency’s assessment, he added.

Hong Kong prohibited the imports of all vegetables, fruit, milk, milk-based beverages and milk powder from the Fukushima prefecture after the 2011 nuclear disaster.

Food from four nearby prefectures – Ibaraki, Tochigi, Chiba and Gunma – is only given entry after obtaining a radiation certificate and an exporter’s certificate issued by the Japanese authorities.

The Centre for Food Safety has published a monthly report, which includes radiation surveillance data on products from Japan.

Government statistics have shown that food imports from Japan amounted to about 1.5 per cent of the total food supply in Hong Kong last year. Aquatic products and poultry eggs had the highest import volume, accounting for about 6.3 per cent and 9.7 per cent of the city’s total food imports respectively.

Tse said at the panel meeting that authorities would continue to communicate with local food importers to ensure the industry understood the plan and made preparations as soon as possible.

Tokyo announced in April last year that it intended to discharge the water used to cool the nuclear reactors at Fukushima nuclear power plant into the ocean after treatment in 2023, causing concern among neighbouring countries, including China and South Korea.

Environmental groups and fishery operators have also warned that the waste water discharge would compromise the region’s marine ecosystem, the food chain and food safety.

In Beijing, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has raised grave concerns and strong opposition to the plan, urging Japanese authorities to consult stakeholders and relevant international organisations.

The Consulate-General of Japan in Hong Kong said it “strongly” hoped city authorities could lift the import restriction on food products from the country since all the samples sent for inspection had proved safe for consumption.

“Japan has been taking measures strictly abiding by relevant international law and working closely with [the International Atomic Energy Agency] to give due consideration to international practice, and will continue to do so,” a spokesman said.

“Food safety for Japanese food lovers in Hong Kong is as important to the Japanese government as food safety for the Japanese people … We will also continue to explain to Hong Kong, based on a scientific manner, that the safety of Japanese food products is ensured.”

October 16, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima beach in former evacuation zone reopens after 11 years

Located 25 kilometers from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant… Madness!

Children swim at the reopened Iwasawa beach in Naraha, Fukushima Prefecture, on Saturday.

July 16, 2022

Naraha, Fukushima Pref. – The Iwasawa swimming beach in the town of Naraha, Fukushima Prefecture, reopened Saturday for the first time since it was shut down after the March 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster.

The beach became the first swimming beach to reopen in areas once covered by evacuation orders issued after the triple meltdown at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s disaster-stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

The beach is located about 25 kilometers from the nuclear plant.

Before the disaster, the beach was popular among local surfers, attracting some 30,000 visitors every year.

Due to the tsunami, most of the beach’s facilities, such as a watch tower and revetment blocks, were destroyed.

As an evacuation order was issued for the whole of Naraha following the nuclear disaster, the beach had been left untouched.

After the evacuation ordered was lifted for Naraha in 2015, the town started fixing the damaged facilities in 2019 and completed the reconstruction work in March this year.

The town decided to reopen the beach after no problems were found in monitoring surveys of water quality and radioactive materials.

“We had to rebuild almost everything from scratch,” a town official said. “While preserving the atmosphere from before the disaster, we rebuilt beach facilities that are easier to use.”

Naraha Mayor Yukiei Matsumoto said, “We want the beach to once again become a popular tourist spot.”

July 22, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima Beach in Former Evacuation Zone Reopens

Too close, way too close. The effluent from the plant is still pouring into the ocean j_ust up the coast…

July 16, 2022

The Iwasawa swimming beach in the town of Naraha in Fukushima Prefecture, northeastern Japan, reopened on Saturday for the first time since it was shut down after a major earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accident hit the region in March 2011.
The beach became the first bathing resort to reopen in areas once covered by evacuation orders issued after the triple meltdown at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s disaster-stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
The beach is located some 25 kilometers from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.
Before the disaster, the beach was popular among local surfers, attracting some 30,000 visitors every year.
Due to the tsunami, most of the beach’s facilities, such as a watch tower and revetment blocks, were destroyed.

July 22, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , , , , | Leave a comment

Young people bring new energy to revive fortunes of town devastated by Fukushima disaster

Bruce Brinkman: “It’s not a good use of time, money, or energy to encourage people to enter a radiologically contaminated area, any more than it would be wise to encourage visits to an area contaminated with chemicals like mercury or an area contaminated with biohazards. Living here should be discouraged and the area set aside as a long-term National Park for the Study of Environmental Radiation. With 90% of the country losing population, why not save other uncontaminated communities? Property owners in the “Difficult” zone should be compensated with comparable properties purchased in other underpopulated communities in Japan.”

Tatsuhiro Yamane, right, details the events of March 2011 to participants of a walking tour in Futaba, Fukushima Prefecture, on May 8, 2022.

FUKUSHIMA, Japan (Kyodo) — In the more than a decade since reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant exploded, the nearby town of Futaba has tried to pick up the pieces of a community shattered by the disaster.

Now, young people from other parts of Japan and elsewhere are playing a part in resurrecting a community to which they have few links.

Since last year, Tohoku University undergraduate student Masayuki Kobayashi has teamed up with his Indian schoolmates and a Futaba-based association to rehabilitate the Fukushima Prefecture town’s tarnished image.

They are expanding their network to involve people of various nationalities, ages and skills, many young and without any direct links to the disaster-hit area in Japan’s northeast. They aspire to attract tourists and develop sustainable homegrown businesses.

Soon, Futaba may again be inhabited, with an evacuation order for the reconstruction and revitalization base in the town expected to be lifted possibly as soon as July. But challenges abound.

“The town was said to be impossible to recover but if we can achieve that goal we can say to the world that nothing is impossible,” said 22-year-old Kobayashi, whose involvement in Futaba started from a local walking tour he joined last year.

Joining Kobayashi in the cause are Trishit Banerjee, 24, and Swastika Harsh Jajoo, 25, who are PhD students at the same university in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture. All three are interns for the Futaba County Regional Tourism Research Association.

With Futaba seeing an exodus of its residents, estimated at around 7,000 before the March 11, 2011, earthquake-tsunami and nuclear disasters, Kobayashi is determined to change perceptions of the town.

“If we can make more fun activities, then a more diverse range of people will visit,” said Kobayashi whose brainchild, the PaletteCamp, is tailored toward that goal.

The idea of the camp is to have people interact with the local community through visits centered on Futaba and nearby areas, using fun activities like yoga to learn about the local culture and history, in a shift from the disaster-centric tours.

The PaletteCamp has been held three times since October last year, the most recent in May.

Ainun Jariyah, a 21-year-old Indonesian making her first trip to Futaba, was among around 15 participants in the latest program that included a bingo quest game in Namie, next to Futaba, to introduce the town’s local culture and history, and a walking tour in English and Japanese in Futaba.

The group was struck by the contrast seen on the streets of Futaba with decrepit houses and empty lots juxtaposed by walls bearing refreshingly uplifting art.

“I learned that art could be used for peacebuilding and reconciliation and empower people,” Jariyah said.

Jajoo, who provided English translation to Jariyah and a few others, could not be happier to hear such feedback. She wants camp participants to enjoy the fun elements “without imposing” the educational aspect.

Tatsuhiro Yamane, head of the association that supports the three in their project and guided Kobayashi on his walking tour, said, if the social infrastructure is in place, we can encourage more people to return or live in the area.

Yamane, 36, also stressed the importance of having thriving small businesses that are deeply rooted in the community while seeing the potential of tourism in a town that has long relied on the nuclear power plant for sustenance.

Yamane, a former Tokyo resident who eventually became deeply involved in Futaba after his post-reconstruction role there, is now a town assemblyman. He said progress in both hard and soft infrastructure is crucial.

“We must be able to build many things at the same time. It won’t do to just construct a building,” he said. “The key is to create a community that can make use of that structure.”

Jariyah and her fellow participants may have wrapped up their PaletteCamp tour, which ended with a brainstorming session on how to develop Futaba, but their connection to Futaba did not end there.

They kept in touch online and are now exploring a project to make cookies with the Futaba “daruma” (Japanese doll) design, which is the town’s symbol, eventually to sell them as a souvenir. The group has also been publishing newsletters, both in Japanese and English and in print and online, to introduce stories of day-to-day life in Futaba.

Banerjee believes their work to help in rebuilding Futaba is something “which most towns in the world do not get an opportunity to do.”

“We are able to create a story that here is a town and here is something you can do against the impossible and we can do it together,” he said.

While the three students visit Futaba from time to time from Sendai, former resident and musician Yoshiaki Okawa keeps alive the memory of his hometown through his performances across the country.

Okawa, 26, was fresh out of his junior high graduation ceremony when disaster struck in 2011. His family had to evacuate and they settled in Saitama Prefecture north of Tokyo, where he attended senior high and fell in love with the “koto,” a traditional Japanese string instrument akin to a zither.

“Back then, I didn’t want people to know that I had evacuated from Fukushima. I was still in pain and I did not want to talk about what I felt. I wanted to lay low.”

During his performances, he often talks about his love for Futaba and its idyllic setting and how the place has inspired his music. Some of his compositions are a tribute to those impacted by the 2011 catastrophe.

Okawa hopes his music will encourage people who are still in pain and struggling from 2011 “to move forward.”

His home in Futaba was torn down after their family decided not to return. Even so, he said, through his music, “I would like to help in mending the hearts of people. I feel I can do that even if I am not there.”

July 16, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , , , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima farm products still dealing with negative image

Toshio Watanabe, seen here in Nihonmatsu, Fukushima Prefecture, on March 8, grows rice on an approximately 20-hectare farm.

April 24, 2022

NIHONMATSU, Fukushima Prefecture–Rice farmer Toshio Watanabe felt strongly embarrassed when he saw the estimate for the selling price of rice to be harvested in 2022.

Farm products of Fukushima Prefecture faced consumer pullback and canceled orders following the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant disaster of 2011.

“People drive a hard bargain against rice from Fukushima Prefecture, which they buy only at lower prices than products of other prefectures, even for the same quality and taste,” said Watanabe, who farms in Nihonmatsu, Fukushima Prefecture.

“We could have put up a good fight if only it had not been for the nuclear disaster. As things stand now, however, we have ended up as the sole loser.”

More than 11 years on, farmers like Watanabe and the public sector in this northeastern prefecture still continue to struggle with lingering reverberations of the effects of negative publicity due to radiation fears.


A document distributed by a local farming association in late February said this year’s rice crop is likely to sell at only 9,500 yen ($77) per 60 kilograms, falling below the 10,000-yen mark for the second straight year.

A rice farmer risks posting a deficit when the take-home selling price is less than 10,000 yen per 60 kg, considering the current production cost of nearly 9,000 yen per 60 kg.

Farmers will likely have to endure difficulties this year like they did in 2021, when rice prices dropped sharply due to a general oversupply and weak demand in the restaurant industry.

Rice harvested in Fukushima Prefecture disappeared from many supermarket shelves following the nuclear disaster, as consumers avoided Fukushima labels due to radiation fears.

More than 11 years on, rice grown in the prefecture has seen its market ratings always stuck in the lower reaches, with trading prices hovering below the national average.

Rice of the Koshihikari variety from the Nakadori (central strip) area of Fukushima Prefecture, which contains Nihonmatsu, was being traded at 11,047 yen per 60 kg, down 17 percent year on year, according to a preliminary report on the “direct trading prices” of rice harvested in 2021, which the farm ministry released in February.

The average price of all brands from all areas of Japan stood at 12,944 yen per 60 kg, down only 11 percent from the previous year. That means the gap has only spread.


Apart from rice, peaches, grapes and other farm products, which face harsh competition from rivals grown in other prefectures, have also seen, over the past several years, their market trading prices remain stuck nearly 10 percent below the national average.

“Dealers from other prefectures sometimes decline to take products of Fukushima Prefecture when there is too much of products from a good harvest,” said the president of a wholesaler based in the prefectural capital of Fukushima that has dealt in fruits and vegetables from the prefecture for more than 50 years.

“Negative publicity effects remain deep-rooted overseas,” said Koji Furuyama, a 46-year-old farmer who grows peaches and apples in the prefectural capital.

Furuyama has aggressively been venturing into overseas markets. In 2017, for example, he exported peaches to a department store in Thailand.

Following the nuclear disaster, however, food products from Fukushima Prefecture came under embargoes and other import restrictions by 55 nations and regions of the world, 14 of which continue to impose restrictions of some kind or another. 

The central government and Tokyo Electric Power Co., operator of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, have decided to release treated contaminated water from the plant into the ocean.

The water release, which will start as early as spring next year, could cause additional negative publicity effects, Furuyama said.

By comparison, effects of the negative public image are seldom perceptible these days in food items for which product differentiation is feasible, such as by supplying the items in large amounts when there are few shipments of rival products from other prefectures.

Figures of the Tokyo Metropolitan Central Wholesale Market show that vegetables from Fukushima Prefecture, such as tomatoes and cucumbers, have been priced above the national average over the past several years.

Consumers are coming to show more understanding toward the prefecture’s food products.

In a survey conducted by the Consumer Affairs Agency in February 2022, only 6.5 percent of the respondents said they hesitate to buy food products from Fukushima Prefecture for fear of radiation. The percentage is the lowest ever and is below the 10-percent mark for the second straight year.


The government of Fukushima Prefecture has so far allocated large chunks of post-disaster rebuilding budgets for campaigns against negative publicity and for sales promotion.

A centerpiece of the latest years, among other things, is a program for promoting sales on major online marketplaces operated by Inc., Rakuten Group Inc. and Yahoo Japan Corp. Dentsu East Japan Inc., an ad agency, has been commissioned to operate the project.

In fiscal 2020, the program earned proceeds of about 3.4 billion yen, a record since the project started in fiscal 2017, although more than 500 million yen was spent on subsidizing the initial costs for sellers on the marketplaces and issuing discount coupons worth 10 to 30 percent.

In fiscal 2021, the prefectural government project earned sales of more than 2.6 billion yen on a consignment budget of only 360 million yen.

That is not bad in terms of cost-effectiveness. However, that is tempered by the fact that marketing efforts that rely on coupons do not necessarily help empower the production areas, and no information is provided to sellers that would allow them to analyze what kind of customers purchased which products.

“This program is premised on the availability of the post-disaster rebuilding budgets,” said an official in charge of the project. “It is certainly not sustainable.”

“Fukushima Prefecture’s products stuck in low price ranges would need to venture into new markets other than the existing ones, but such a venture can seldom be achieved through public relation efforts of the public sector and an ad agency alone,” said Ryota Koyama, a professor of agricultural economics with Fukushima University.

He added: “More money should be spent on production areas to support efforts for improving breeds and the equipment.”

May 1, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima farmers’ efforts serve to undo TEPCO’s damage

Mobilization of Fukushima farmers. Credit: Fukushima Farmers Federation

April 19, 2022
About Fukushima farmers’ compensation, here is the Tweet thread posted by Mako Oshidori (see note at bottom) translated by us :

“The financial compensation given to farmers after the nuclear accident is designed so that the difference between sales before and after the accident is paid to them as compensation for ‘image damage.

Farmers are developing their own varieties, developing their own sales networks, and conducting experiments to limit the transfer of cesium from the soil to the vegetables.
As a result of all these efforts, when sales returned to pre-accident levels, the compensation became zero.
“Thus, our efforts serve to cancel the damage caused by TEPCO!”

2) Cesium in the soil is still present, so “this is not just an image problem, but real damage.”
Members of the Fukushima Farmers Federation continue to renew their demands for “radiation protection policy for farmers.”

It is TEPCO that benefits from the effects of the slogan “Eating Fukushima products for solidarity” which leads to reducing the amount of compensation received by farmers.
Moreover, if a farmer does not continue to operate in Fukushima, there will be no compensation.

3) Farmers in Fukushima have been trying to find a way to prevent the transfer of cesium from the soil to the crops.
In the years immediately following the accident, vegetables from neighboring counties have been found to have higher levels of cesium than those from Fukushima.

There are still agricultural lands with surface contamination above the standard of the radiation control zone defined by the Ordinance on the Prevention of Radiation Risks.
Negotiations for the establishment of the radiation protection policy for farmers are continuing this year.

The couple Mako and Ken OSHIDORI are known in Japan as manzaishi (comedy duo in the style of folk storytellers). As soon as the Fukushima nuclear accident began in March 2011, Mako decided to attend TEPCO press conferences in order to access information that was dramatically missing from the media. With the help of Ken, her husband and work partner, she became a freelance journalist, one of the most knowledgeable on the Fukushima issue, and feared as such by TEPCO.

April 23, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , , , , | Leave a comment

46% of school lunches use ingredients from Fukushima Prefecture, the highest rate since 2010

February 10, 2022

The percentage of prefectural food ingredients used in school lunches in Fukushima Prefecture this year was 46.0% (up 1.8 points from the previous year), the highest since 2010, before the Great East Japan Earthquake. The prefecture’s Board of Education has been supporting the prefecture’s dietary education. The prefectural board of education attributes the increase to efforts to increase opportunities to use the prefecture’s food, including the provision of the “Fukushima Health Support Menu” designed by a company that supports dietary education. The prefectural board of education announced the results on September 9.

 The graph below shows the rate of utilization. In fiscal 2012, the year following the earthquake and the nuclear accident, the percentage dropped to 18.3% due to concerns about radioactive materials, but it has been on a recovery trend since then.

 The utilization rate by region is as shown in the table below. The utilization rate by region is as shown in [Table]. Minamiaizu has the highest rate at 59.1%, which is due to the direct provision of foodstuffs in cooperation with farmers. The prefectural board of education hopes to expand the good practice to the entire prefecture.

 In terms of food items, beans were the most popular at 66.5%, due to the fact that they can be easily incorporated into side dishes and soups as tofu and natto. Rice and other grains accounted for 63.9%, followed by fruits at 54.2%.

 The survey was conducted at a total of 280 facilities, including public schools, municipal community kitchens, and prefectural schools that provide complete school lunches, and looked at the percentage of prefectural food ingredients in the food items used in a daily school lunch over a total of 10 days from June 14 to 18 and November 15 to 19 last year.

February 23, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima’s forestry industry still haunted by nuclear meltdown

Yoshihisa Kanagawa, a senior member of the Higashishirakawa forestry cooperative in Fukushima Prefecture, visits a forest in the area.

Feb 21, 2022

Almost 11 years since the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant meltdown, the forestry industry in Fukushima Prefecture is still suffering serious difficulties, with mountains and forests once contaminated by radioactive fallout left untouched.

In addition to declining demand for lumber, lingering worries over the effect of the radiation from the plant hit by the March 2011 quake and tsunami have seen the local forestry industry face acute labor shortages.

Yoshihisa Kanagawa, 65, of the forestry cooperative in the county of Higashishirakawa, still remembers a comment made by a local resident a few years ago.

“Don’t drop anything with radiation,” the resident told him, pointing to bark that had fallen to the ground from a truck loaded with logs Kanagawa was transporting from nearby mountains.

Kanagawa said he felt the deep-rooted mistrust among residents about the effect of the nuclear disaster. “(I was shocked to know) some people were still thinking that way,” he recalled.

Airborne radiation levels in the prefecture’s forests rose immediately after the nuclear disaster at the Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. plant but have declined over time. The average radiation level at 362 sites in the prefecture was 0.18 microsieverts per hour in the year beginning April 2020, down by 80% from the level in the year through March 2012, according to a prefectural survey.

Under the prefecture’s standards, trees can be felled and transported from a forest if the radiation level in the air at the felling site is at 0.50 microsieverts or less per hour.

The bark that fell from Kanagawa’s truck was from logs in forests with radiation levels within prefectural limits.

There was a time when reducing the exposure of forestry workers to radiation was cited as an issue in the local forestry industry.

“Although few people talk about it, some people are (still) concerned about (any potential health effect of) the radiation,” he said. “It would be a shame if this has had something to do with the drop in forestry workers.”

Manahata Ringyo, a forestry firm based in the town of Hanawa, mainly deals with state-owned forests in the area. The town was the biggest lumber producer in the prefecture in 2018.

While more than 90% of the company’s sales are to businesses in the prefecture, the company attaches the results of radiation tests on waste from the logs when dealing with customers outside of the prefecture, as such tests are requested by some of them.

The practice continues even now, after almost 11 years.

The reasons behind the labor shortage in the forestry industry are said to be the hard nature of the work and a decline in demand for lumber.

Masato Kikuchi, 61, president of Manahata Ringyo, believes that the nuclear accident may have exacerbated the situation. “I want (the central government) to do more to secure human resources for the forestry industry in Fukushima Prefecture,” he said.

The number of people newly employed in the forestry industry in the prefecture has decreased by two-thirds in the 10 years since the Fukushima No. 1 disaster. The number of new workers was 242 in 2010, but it began to decline in 2011 and dropped to 78 in 2020, or only 32.2% of the number a decade earlier.

Alarmed by the situation, the prefecture will open a new training facility inside the prefecture’s Forestry Research Center in Koriyama in April to train people in field work and forest management.

The training facility, Forestry Academy Fukushima, will offer a long-term training course of one year for high school graduates who wish to work in the forestry industry and short-term training for municipal employees and forestry workers.

In the one-year program, trainees will cover forestry-related knowledge and skills, as well as acquire practical skills at a training field in a mountain forest. The facility will be equipped with a simulation room for forestry machines, in addition to classrooms and a building for practical training.

Fifteen applicants who have been accepted into the program will begin their one-year training in April.

At the end of the training period, the prefecture will encourage the trainees to find employment at forestry cooperatives and other forestry-related businesses in Fukushima.

“We will try to develop human resources who will be engaged in the forestry industry over the long term,” an official from the forestry promotion division of the prefecture said.

February 23, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , , | Leave a comment

TEPCO sprays rainwater before confirming its safety, calls for prevention of recurrence METI Minister Hagiuda

December 7, 2021

Over the decommissioning of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) announced on December 29th that it sprayed rainwater that had accumulated in tanks at the plant before confirming the safety of the water. Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Hagiuda said at a press conference after the cabinet meeting on November 7, “This kind of mistake must not happen,” and demanded that the company take measures to prevent a recurrence.

On November 29, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) announced that it had confirmed that workers had sprayed rainwater from tanks on the premises of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant without analyzing the water for radioactive materials, which should have been done to ensure safety.

The All Japan Federation of Fishermen’s Cooperative Associations (Zenryoren) has protested the incident, calling it “extremely regrettable.

However, TEPCO needs to gain the understanding and trust of fishermen and other concerned parties in order to decommission the plant, and this kind of mistake should not happen.

In addition, he urged TEPCO to conduct a thorough investigation of the cause of the accident and take drastic measures to prevent recurrence.

On the other hand, regarding the IAEA’s decision to postpone until next month or later the dispatch of a survey team to verify the safety of discharging the increasing amount of treated water from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant into the sea, he said, “I don’t think this will have an immediate impact on the schedule for future releases, but we will steadily work on what we can do.

December 7, 2021 Posted by | Fukushima 2021 | , , | Leave a comment

Lake Close to Fukushima Nuclear Disaster Could Stay Radioactive For Another 20 Years

The cleanup from the Fukushima nuclear accident in 2011 would cost hundreds of billions of dollars, but the environmental cost might be far greater, according to a research, with neighboring lakes polluted for another 20 years.

Nov 06, 2021

Lake Onuma’s Radioactivity Concentration

Lake Onuma on Mount Akagi might be polluted with radioactive cesium-137 (137CS) for up to 30 years after the unfortunate incident, according to a group of researchers led by those from the University of Tsukuba.

The fractional diffusional approach was utilized by the researchers to establish that radioactive concentration would occur for up to 10,000 days after the event.

The radiation concentration dropped very fast after the nuclear disaster, but the decline slowed dramatically in the months and years that followed.

Since Lake Onuma is a closed lake, it receives just a little quantity of inflow and runoff water. Professor Yuko Hatano, one of the study’s co-authors, said in a statement that previous research had utilized the two-component decay function model, which is the sum of two exponential functions, to match the detected 137Cs radioactive concentration.

Health Issues Caused by Exposure to Radioactive Isotope 

Cesium-137 has a half-life of roughly 30 years, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Exposure to the radioactive isotope may result in burns, radiation illness, and death, as well as boosting cancer risk.

The specialists utilized a fractional diffusion model to forecast the 137Cs content in both the lake water and the pond smelt, a common species of fish that dwells in the lake, over the long term.

The quantity of 137Cs in lake water and pond smelt was tested for 5.4 years after the event, according to the researchers. Experts anticipate that radioactive concentration will occur for up to 10,000 days after the catastrophe, based on the formula.

Researchers will be able to better comprehend the radioactive contamination of surrounding lakes that have been closed, as well as provide citizens a clearer sense of living conditions around the lakes, thanks to the formula.

Effects of Radioactive Contamination on the Ecosystem

A different set of researchers discovered last month that species in the region, particularly wild boar and rat snakes, are flourishing and have seen no substantial health consequences.

This is most likely due to the fact that cesium-134, one of the principal radioactive elements released during the accident, saw its levels in the region drop by about 90%, owing to its short half-life of just over two years.

Another study published in January 2020 revealed that more than 20 species, involving wild boar, macaques, and a raccoon dog, were flourishing in the ‘exclusion zone’ surrounding the Fukushima Daichii nuclear plant, which had been shut down.

Researchers found in July that the accident had resulted in a boar-pig hybrid, since both species in the vicinity had mated. The Fukushima tragedy ravaged Japan, irreversibly shifting huge portions of Honshu, the country’s main island, many feet to the east.

It triggered 130-foot-high tsunami waves that destroyed 450,000 people’s houses and melted six nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. Thousands of people were forced to abandon their houses as a constant stream of deadly, radioactive pollutants were released into the atmosphere.

November 6, 2021 Posted by | Fukushima 2021 | , | Leave a comment

RADIATION lies – theme for OCTOBER 2021

As the world prepares for the Glasgow  Climate Summit , the nuclear lobby aims to get its status approved there as clean, green and the solution to climate change.

New nuclear reactors do NOT solve the radioactive trash problem, despite the nuclear lobby’s pretense on this.

banana-spinThe nuclear lobby is intensifying its lies about ionising radiation, with the cruel lie that it is harmless, even beneficial. The nuclear liars claim that radioactive isotopes like Cesium 137 and Strontium 90 are the same as the harmless Potassium 40 in bananas. They espouse the quack science of “radiation homesis”  – i.e. a little more ionising radiation is good for you.

Ionising radiation is the most proven cause of cancer. The nuclear industry from uranium mining through nuclear power, nuclear weapons, nuclear waste, is the planet’s recent new source of ionising radiation.  Even medical radiation has its cancer risk. Radioactive minerals left in the ground are a minor source.


September 25, 2021 Posted by | Christina's themes | , , , , , , | 5 Comments