A trek through ghost towns

  • Nation
  • Wednesday, 13 Jul 2016

Stuck in time: A calendar at a shop in the Fukushima red zone lies undisturbed from the time the nuclear meltdown happened following the tsunami and earthquake in the Tohoku region on March 11, 2011.

ENTERING the Fukushima red zone, I feel a burning sensation in my eyes and there’s a thick chemical stench in the air.

Safety measures? I have a full gas mask to protect my eyes and reduce inhaling air in the red zone.

I have been wondering what it would be like in the Fukushima exclusion zone, to be the only person walking in the town and have 100% access to every shop in the ghost town and to explore at will. And now, here I am.

Before going in, I am told by the authorities that I need a special permit from the local council.

That is too much bureaucracy for me, so I just sneaked in through the forest to avoid the police on the road and it is amazing!

I just have GPS and Google Maps to guide me, walking in the woods at 2am, getting into the towns of Okuma, Futaba and Namie in the Fukushima prefecture.

It is eerie; how towns once filled with people now lie empty.

All the shops are unlocked – the supermarkets, goldsmiths, banks, bookstores and restaurants.

There is still electricity.

The traffic light changes from green to red even with no cars around.

It feels like being in a post-apocalyptic movie like I am Legend or in the Fallout video games, but with no zombies!

Animals, mostly stray dogs and wild boars, hang around the shopping malls and supermarkets fora­ging for food.

The radiation levels are still very high in the red zone. Not many people have been in this town in the last five years; it’s like it vanished.

I find food, money, gold, laptops and other valuables in the red zone.

I’m amazed that nobody has looted this town.

Though the red zone is untouched, there are obvious signs of looting or items moved by animals in the yellow zone.

(Residents are allowed by the authorities to return to their homes for a limited time every month to reclaim items left behind.)

There are digital boards which measure radiation levels on the main road where the police patrol.

There are also safety booths at the yellow zone where I go for a check before leaving.

The scan rates me as “normal”.

I am careful not to overstay so I believe the trip will not cause me any serious health problems.

I got a flu later but I think it is probably due to the cold weather and not from any radiation.

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Environment , fukushima


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