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Engineer Ben Takeda is a Fukushima decontamination supervisor working for the Joint Venture in Tomioka, Japan. He poses for a portrait beside the mahjong table in the Maruto office of his friend Kenichi Hayashi, another decontamination supervisor. <br />
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In Tomioka, seven miles from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, almost all developed properties are now getting cleaned or demolished five years after the nuclear disaster. Takeda’s job involves traveling from site to site, checking in with laborers as they decontaminate homes and commercial properties. The workers remove plants and topsoil for incineration and physically scrub the outside of every building.<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 writing.<br />
© Michael Forster Rothbart Photography<br />
www.mfrphoto.com • 607-267-4893<br />
34 Spruce St, Oneonta,
Engineer Ben Takeda is a Fukushima decontamination supervisor working for the Joint Venture in Tomioka, Japan. He poses for a portrait beside the mahjong table in the Maruto office of his friend Kenichi Hayashi, another decontamination supervisor.

In Tomioka, seven miles from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, almost all developed properties are now getting cleaned or demolished five years after the nuclear disaster. Takeda’s job involves traveling from site to...
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