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Fukushima evacuee Hisao Yanai stands for a portrait after returning home to his native town, Naraha, Japan, in the Fukushima Exclusion Zone, Sept. 30, 2015.  <br />
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When the tsunami hit, Hisao Yanai was head of the local Yakuza (Japanese mafia) in Naraha. He says the disaster changed him; he decided to leave the mafia and dedicate himself to helping people. He now owns a Japanese pub in Naraha, but kept many symbols of his former status, including a taxi-yellow Hummer and the stuffed polar bear in the foyer of his sprawling house. <br />
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Just after this photo, Yanai sat beside the bear, holding a whiteboard on his lap as he wrote with his one hand about his hope — “solidarity” — and his worry for the future: “how to accomplish the reconstruction of my hometown.” <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 residents have returned, out of a pre-disaster population of 7,400. <br />
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I returned to Fukushima one week after Naraha reopened and spent a month there, interviewing and photographing returnees and decontamination workers. I asked portrait subjects to write down their hopes and fears for their hometowns, and then discuss these thoughts about their future. Many of the subjects spoke openly but were very circumspect about what they were willing to put in w
Fukushima evacuee Hisao Yanai stands for a portrait after returning home to his native town, Naraha, Japan, in the Fukushima Exclusion Zone, Sept. 30, 2015.

When the tsunami hit, Hisao Yanai was head of the local Yakuza (Japanese mafia) in Naraha. He says the disaster changed him; he decided to leave the mafia and dedicate himself to helping people. He now owns a Japanese pub in Naraha, but kept many symbols of his former status, including a taxi-yellow Hummer and the stuffed...
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