20 Photos - Aug 4, 2011
Photo: May 6, 2011. Somewhere between Haramachi and Odaka, Fukushima JAPAN. Nearly two months after 3/11, I illegally entered the 20 kilometer evacuation zone which surrounds the disabled Daiichi nuclear reactor.  Entering from the North, I carried my road bike across some farmland from Haramachi. A few kilometers in, I came across some protective clothing on the side of the road. Likely discarded out of fears of radiation contamination.Photo: May 6, 2011. Odaka, Fukushima, Japan. Unlike many other towns where rapid recovery is taking place, the town of Odaka is like a time-capsule where the immediate after effects of 3/11 have been preserved. Having been quickly evacuated after the radiation leaks, many earthquake devastated buildings and roads remain in a state of disrepair.Photo: May 7, 2011. Odaka, Fukushima, Japan. Inside the Evacuation Zone. A dog scavenges for food. Countless cats, dogs and livestock were abandoned by their owners.Photo: May 6, 2011. Odaka, Fukushima, Japan. Inside the Evacuation Zone. Near the ocean lie the remains of residential homes bashed to bits by the tsunami.   The abandoned cats seem to fall back on their feral nature and fair better than many of the dogs.Photo: May 7, 2011. Odaka, Fukushima, Japan. While tracking a dog inside the evacuation zone, about 15.6km from the Daiichi reactor, a strange man appeared out of no where.Photo: May 7, 2011. Odaka, Fukushima, Japan. Shoji Kobayashi has been living in the exclusion zone since the nuclear disaster began. He went to high school just 4km from the Daiichi reactor, when construction began 40 years ago."Photo: May 6, 2011. Odaka, Fukushima, Japan. Kobayashi believes the town of Odaka is not dangerous and the evacuation unnecessary. His arguments are supported by official radiation measurements that show Odaka to be only lightly affected. The factory where he was working has been closed, so one of his new hobbies includes gardening. He prepared several dishes for me with vegetables from his garden.   His wife evacuated to Minami-Soma, but he meets her or a friend at an unmanned barricade once a week to pick up food, cigarettes, alcohol and other necessities.   Freed from the responsibilities of work, he admits to smoking and drinking more than usual. Despite being the only person known living in the town, he maintains an active social life on the phone with his many friends, and sometimes drives to pick-up visiting friends at a secret rendezvous point near the barricade.Photo: May 7, 2011. Odaka, Fukushima, Japan. Kobayashi invites me to stay in his home. His brother, shown here on the left, works for the Minami-soma government, and stops by each morning to perform a radiation reading of the property. His dosimeter is shown hanging from his neck.Photo: May 7, 2011. Odaka, Fukushima, Japan. On our way to the ocean one day we come across some members of Japan's Self-Defense Forces engaged in recovery work. The photo albums will be delivered to shelter outside the exclusion zone in the hopes that their owners may recover them.Photo: May 7th, Odaka, Fukushima, Japan. Kobayashi points out that the sections of the seawall were connected only by rubber, and were easily torn apart by the tsunami. The seawall in a neighboring town was connected by steel and survived the tsunami intact.Photo: May 7, 2011. Odaka, Fukushima, Japan. SDF workers use poles to search flooded rice fields for bodies--nearly two months after the tsunami. Because of the radiation leak, this area was had not received as much attention by recovery workers compared to other regions.Photo: May 7, 2011. Odaka, Fukushima, Japan. Kobayashi found these photos around the house he grew up in. His mother was still living there, but escaped ahead of the tsunami, which flattened her home. He has been cleaning and drying the photos, then having them delivered to a local shelter outside the evacuation zone.Photo: May 7, 2011. Odaka, Fukushima. Kobayashi admires a studio portrait of his wife Hiromi, taken during her age 20 Coming of Age Day.Photo: May 6, 2011. Odaka, Fukushima, Japan. This is a second garden Kobayashi keeps within his company's property. Because of the radiation leaks, the factory where he works has been closed. He comes to water the plants inside the factory building each week.Photo: May 8, 2011. Fukushima, Japan. I bid farewall to Kobayashi and head south, eventually crossing the entire 40km diameter exclusion zone by bicycle. Along the way I came across many abandoned cows - this one appears to have died of dehydration.Photo: May 8, 2011. Odaka, Fukushima, Japan. My bicycle ride across the exclusion zone ended when I bump into the police at the southern barricade. They ask me to get a radiation screening at a place called J Village which TEPCO is using as a staging ground for sending workers in and out of the reactor area.Photo: June 15, 2011. Haramachi, Minami-Soma. A couple weeks after I returned to Tokyo, the authorities forced Kobayashi to leave his home. He now lives in a small apartment with his wife in Haramachi.Photo: June 6, 2015. Minami Soma. Unable to tend his gardens, Kobayashi's new hobby is spending most of the day playing one yen pachinko before a night of drinking.Photo: June 14, 2011. Minami Soma. Having lost his home, Kobayashi now sleeps in a small apartment with few furnishings.Photo: July 15, 2010. Minami-soma. A week after this photo was taken, Koyabashi learned his company will transfer him to a factory in Akita-ken over 200 kilometers northwest of Fukushima where he has lived all his life.  His wife has decided to remain in Minami-soma where she has friends and family and feels comfortable.