Photographer in Fukushima Prefecture
“So, the mountains may appear pretty, but even these locations are contaminated by radiation as well — and I thought that approach was more me.”
It is this juxtaposition — the radioactive elephant in the beautiful room of nature, as it were — that invests his otherwise picturesque and seasonal shots of lush forests, valleys and foliage with a haunting, invisible presence.
As if to prove Imai’s point, the trail to our lookout point on Mount Higakure from the Sakashita Dam — which was a popular fishing spot for carp and smelt before the reactor meltdowns — offered stunning panoramic views of Fukushima’s Abukuma mountain range and the Pacific coastline. Yet, though radiation will force residents to regard the landscape quite differently for an untold time to come, at first glance it’s as if contamination has yet to taint the cyclical nature of Mother Earth in these parts.
But then that reality intrudes. Returning to the base of the mountain overlooking the manmade lake behind the dam, we find a public radiation-monitoring post indicating a reading of 0.44μSv/hour — roughly 40 times the level in Tokyo on the same day.
Moving on from there, before heading back to Tokyo we decide to drop by the abandoned tsunami-ravaged town of Tomioka, which had been off-limits until just recently. There, a mere 10 km from the nuclear plant, we were chastened to find the radiation readings were almost 10 times those by the dam — some 400 times Tokyo levels at the same time on the same day.
Meanwhile, though casual visitors in such irradiated parts may see evidence of the government’s decontamination efforts and think effective programs are being carried out, it doesn’t take an expert to realize other new problems are kicking in....
For instance, though dozens of cleanup workers were filling plastic bags with contaminated mud and leaves from hillsides and roads in deserted areas of Futaba close to Tepco’s plant, it was deeply disturbing to see huge mounds of those bags filled with radioactive waste dotting the landscape with nowhere to go......