Five Years After the Fukushima Disaster, Residents Adapt to New Normal

Photos by Ari Beser Koriyama City and the Ou Mountain range viewed from atop “Big I”, the city’s tallest building.

Koriyama, Fukushima – On March 11, 2011 the world all but ended for the people who live on the Tohoku coast. The North Eastern Japanese region was rocked by a 9.0 earthquake which generated a tsunami that inundated the entire shoreline, with up to 30 meters of water in some towns. The tsunami waves destroyed hundreds of thousands of homes, inflicted billions of dollars in damage, and unleashed a nuclear crisis the likes of which has not been seen since the Chernobyl disaster in 1986.

But life, however dark the circumstances, always finds a way. In admiration of the spirit of ganbate, or “fight on” in Japanese, the world poured in support for the survivors of the calamity. Slowly but steadily, Tohoku’s residents persevered on the long road toward recovery.

Neither a nuclear scientist nor a marine biologist, I cannot address the issue of radiation levels in the ocean. Like the majority of the population of Fukushima Prefecture, I am an ordinary person with personal anxieties and concerns, but I have the opportunity to share the experience of those people who still can’t go home. I haven’t come here with an agenda or a preconceived notion. I’m not here to prove to the world that Fukushima is safe, or cry foul that we’re being misled about dangers that might persist. I’ve come here to share the agenda of those who live here, and to seek out people who wish to share their story, and to remind the world that five years on, there are still some who can’t go home because of “the disaster,” as its commonly called here.

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