High-Tech Bike Share to Monitor Radiation in Fukushima

Jun Yamadera, CEO of Eyes, Japan Co. Ltd, hopes to launch Fukushima Wheel this spring. Photos by Ari Beser.

AIZU-WAKAMATSU, Fukushima—Irish writer Oscar Wilde once said, “Where there is sorrow, there is holy ground.” Jun Yamadera, a Japanese entrepreneur, says that is the reason he’s committed to keeping his tech company Eyes, Japan Co. Ltd, in Fukushima. We discussed his feelings in a Swiss-style café in his hometown of Aizu Wakamatsu, which is about 75 miles (121 kilometers) from the site of the deadly 2011 nuclear accident.

“The problems in Fukushima are very difficult, but I love to tackle a challenge that nobody has solved,” Yamadera says over a cup of hand-roasted coffee.

Aizu Wakamatsu, famous for its castle, samurai history, and proximity to world-class ski resorts, relies heavily on the tourism industry. However, after the nuclear disaster, the city’s tourism waned drastically. Five years on, and the town is still struggling to attract new visitors.

The Town of Aizu Wakamatsu, a mountain town in Fukushima prefecture, has seen its tourism rates plummet since the disaster.

“It was like a ghost town,” recalled Yamadera, whose company was focused primarily on Computer generated graphics, webpage design and cyber security at the time. “At first, I couldn’t think of what to do [to bring tourists back], but then I got the idea. Bicycles. What if we distributed free bicycles across the city, in a kind of rideshare program, but ones that use the open source technology developed by Safecast, a network of volunteer scientists committed to more accountable reporting of global radiation levels. The free bicycles could measure radiation and other environmental conditions around them.”

A graphic shows how Fukushima Wheel can be integrated with your phone via sensors attached to the bicycle and —> Read More