After covering myself from head to toe in protective clothing in the hope of protecting me from radiation, I went to accompany evacuees who were temporarily allowed to visit their homes in the 20 km no-entry zone surrounding the tsunami-crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant, a place now notorious for its radiation leaks.
My destination was Okuma town where the whole population of about 11,000 had been evacuated since last year’s earthquake. The town is still afflicted with high levels of invisible radiation.
In the evacuees’ memories, the town was a beautiful rural town with a close-knit community and the only unusual thing was that the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant was located close by.
Most residents accepted the nuclear plant because they believed in TEPCO, the operator of the nuclear power plant, and the government had told them their safety standards were impeccable. Some of the residents were skeptical but they could not raise awareness of possible dangers posed by the nuclear plant because it provided employment to the locals and it also gave financial subsidies to their local towns which were used to build infrastructure such as good roads and schools in exchange for tolerating the power plant which supplied electricity to urban areas.
But their trust in TEPCO and the government was betrayed. TEPCO failed to contain the fallout from the tsunami-stricken nuclear reactors and now many evacuees are suffering from invisible mental scars.