Photographers' Blog

The quiet of a nuclear beach

August 29, 2013

Iwaki, Japan

By Issei Kato

“I have to arrive at the beach before it starts raining.” This is what I was thinking as I drove up to the Fukushima coast, less than 35 km (21 miles) from the crippled nuclear plant. Because the weather forecast said it was going to rain in the region, I had packed a waterproof kit for my camera and beach gear so I could be ready to photograph the beach.

Iwaki city, located just 40 km (24 miles) south of the plant, had declared nearby Yotsukura beach open to the public this summer, the first time since a massive earthquake and tsunami triggered a nuclear crisis at Tokyo Electric Power’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. But, during the period between July 15 and August 18, when the beach was open to the public, the operator of the plant admitted that contaminated water was leaking out to the ocean. Government officials said 300 tonnes of radioactive water was probably flowing out to the sea every day.

Most of Japan’s beaches are controlled by the local government, which holds official opening ceremonies during the summer months and assigns lifeguards to patrol the beach. Residents and visitors can go to the beach during the off-season too, but it is usually less crowded. I went to the beach just after the open season had ended, thinking there would still be about 100 residents enjoying the sun, even though it was weekday, because the summer holiday season had still not ended.

As soon as I arrived there was a blue sky, beautiful white sand and a calm, ebbing ocean. What struck me, though, was that I couldn’t find a single beachgoer. All I could find were abandoned beach balls, barbeque kits, a beach parasol and some trash. It was silent and abandoned except for the sounds of the ocean surf and noise from a construction site nearby.

After two hours, I finally came across a man on the beach. Takeshi Takaki, a 71-year old resident, was walking his dog Marron on the beach as part of their daily routine. Takaki told me he lives in Hisanohama, around 30 kilometers (18 miles) south of the plant and he had traveled by car to walk on the beach with his dog. He said his family survived the 2011 tsunami by climbing to the second floor of his house when the water flowed into his house.

“This beach was very crowded before the disaster. It seems like only one-tenth of the people who used to visit are back,” he said. Close to 14,000 people visited the beach this summer during July and August, down from 101,000 visitors in 2010, the Iwaki City government office said.

After talking to Takaki, I spotted a single surfer on the beach. The surfer was the only person I saw swimming in the ocean. Just then, it started raining. The beach was once again empty and I walked back to my car.

Comments
3 comments so far | RSS Comments RSS

Did you bring a Geiger counter with you?

Posted by 2Borknot2B | Report as abusive
 

Pretty dumb to go anywhere near the Fukushima nuclear plant. TEPCO in collusion with the Government and the media , has deceived the people of Japan. There have been many lies about the leaks and radiation for three years. Most nuclear professionals are not involved in the clean-up. TEPCO has hired the homeless and downtrodden through outsourcing companies controlled by the yakuza to clean up the leaks. These poor souls are paid high salaries and have no idea of the dangers of being exposed to radiation. There is no monitoring of their health and they are dumped back and new recruits are brought in for more work. It is incredible that Japan has failed as a country to protect it’s people. And more dangers lie ahead in November as nuclear rod bundles will be extracted from reactor #4, an extremely delicate operation. In event of a slight mishap radiation will be spread far and wide.

Posted by SnazzyJazzy | Report as abusive
 

When you think about it the lies of the aftermath are commensurate to the absurdity of building a number of nuclear plants on the beaches of the island whose language brought us the word tsunami, assuming it is a Japanese word. There are also ominous maps around of France’s 50+ nuclear plants and dump sites. At least one of the plants is unstable. Never mind with war, but with energy production, was there really no other way than nuclear? Germany ended its program, but it’s a customer of nuclear energy. I often wonder how much of the energy I use personally is nuclear. When I was a kid in the seventies, my older brothers took part in demonstrations against nuclear power generation. The message has always been around, it just hasn’t been heeded. Chernobyl and Fukushima are forever tarnished. I’m sure people once fell in love there,loved their towns, enjoyed friendships. Humanity’s masochistic streak.

Posted by JFVernet | Report as abusive
 

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