By Issei Kato
“This day finally came.”
That was my first impression when I was chosen as a pool photographer on behalf of foreign media based in Japan to visit the tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
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.
When the Fukushima nuclear power plant exploded, I was in Fukushima covering people who had evacuated from their houses near the plant, as they underwent radiation checks as authorities isolated those who had showed signs of exposure.
Every year Orthodox Christians in Belarus throng to local cemeteries to commemorate their deceased relatives and loved ones on the ninth day after Easter, following an ancient Slavic rite on a revered day called Radunitsa. They tidy up tombs and adorn them with wreaths, and bow their heads in somber silence.
As a Reuters photographer, I have covered many disasters and incidents over the last ten years but these things had little direct affect on my life. Just like the saying: “The photographer must be taken out of the picture”, I was a third party in most of these cases. By and large, those catastrophes had nothing to do with my personal life. Once my assignment was over, I used to go back to my normal life and switch from emergency mode.
Japan continues to dominate the file from Asia with new photograhers rotating in to cover the twists and turns of this complex and tragic story. In a country were the nation rarely buries its dead, the site of mass graves is quite a shocking scene to behold. Holes the length of football pitches are dug in the ground with mechanical digggers and divided into individual plots by the military and are then filled with the coffins of the victims of the tsunami. Family members come to weep and pray over the graves. Some are namless and marked only with DNA details, others bear the names of the victims. There is not enough power or fuel to cremate the thousands of bodies that are being recovered from the disaster zone.