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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. 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 100 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. People’s written declarations often differed substantially from their spoken comments.<br />
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Kunihiko Konno is a farmer from Akougi village, in the mountains of Namie district. Despite the high radiation levels, he has a permit to visit his property in the Exclusion Zone during daylight hours. He writes, “May we keep our health and meet together again 100 years from now.” Later, he explains “the national government just told me I can’t go home to Namie for one hundred years.” <br />
© Michael Forster Rothbart Photography<br />
www.mfrphoto.com • 607-267-4893<br />
34 Spruce St, Oneonta, NY 13820<br />
86 Three Mile Pond Rd, Vassalboro, ME 04989<br />
info@mfrphoto.com<br />
Photo by: Michael Forster Rothbart<br />
Date:  9/20/2015<br />
File#:  Canon — Canon EOS 5D Mark III digital camera frame B15318
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.

A massive effort is now underway to decontaminate towns in the Fukushima Exclusion Zone. Thousands of laborers are cleaning or demolishing every building, and removing and incinerating all topsoil in inhabited areas. In the adjacent forests and mountains,...
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