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In Japan, the brief-blooming cherry blossom is seen as a symbol of how precious but precarious life is. When Yumiko Nishimoto returned to Naraha, she saw the devastation caused up and down the coast by the tsunami, and thought of cherry trees. She founded the non-profit Sakura Project, which is working to plant 20,000 cherry trees spanning the entire 83-mile length of Fukushima Prefecture. Almost every week, volunteers now arrive from across the country to participate in tree-plantings.<br />
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“Even now, there are people who are not able to return to their hometowns and suffer from many problems including the effects of radiation. We have established the Sakura Project as a symbol of the restoration and determination to create a community,” she writes. “We would like to pass the memory of this disaster to future generations. We intend to create a bright future with hope for children to come back to this place. That is why we are moving forward.”<br />
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Someday, Nishimoto hopes, the trees will bloom every few meters along Route 6, the coastal highway that cuts through the Fukushima Exclusion Zone. She considers the trees as a testament to lives lost that will also encourage locals and tourists to return here.<br />
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In March 2011, an earthquake and tsunami hit northern Japan and destroyed the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Some 488 thousand people evacuated from the three-part disaster; in 2015, nearly 25% remain displaced.<br />
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A massive effort is now underway to decontaminate towns in the Fukushima Exclusion Zone. In Tomioka, 5 to 8 miles from the nuclear plant, thousands of laborers are cleaning or demolishing every building, and removing and incinerating all topsoil in inhabited areas. In the adjacent forests and mountains, radiation levels remain higher and will not be cleaned.<br />
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Naraha, 12 miles south of the nuclear plant, is the first town to reopen after the disaster. Residents were allowed to return home full-time on Sept. 5, 2015. To date, an estimated 440 residen
In Japan, the brief-blooming cherry blossom is seen as a symbol of how precious but precarious life is. When Yumiko Nishimoto returned to Naraha, she saw the devastation caused up and down the coast by the tsunami, and thought of cherry trees. She founded the non-profit Sakura Project, which is working to plant 20,000 cherry trees spanning the entire 83-mile length of Fukushima Prefecture. Almost every week, volunteers now arrive from across the country to participate in tree-plantings.more »

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