Two years ago, a chain of events lead to the biggest nuclear disaster since Chernobyl. An earthquake triggered a tsunami and the tsunami triggered a meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear power plant.
Some areas in the evacuated zone remain deserted. VICE Japan recently released a documentary that takes a look at one such place, Tomioka, a town of 15,500 residents, that has been essentially reduced to a population of one, Naoto Matsumura, 53, a man who refuses to abandon the place he grew up. It's an eery, inside look at a life interrupted.
I asked the producers, Ivan Kovac and Jeffrey Jousan, what it was like filiming in Tomioka:
The day we were up there was beautiful. It was so quiet. That background level of white noise we are all used to living in towns simply was not there. And you could hear your own heartbeat in your head.
Even to this day you can find personal items scattered around the place. It was not particularly easy to shoot in a full body radiation suit and air filter mask. And having a geiger counter by one's side at all times just amped up the tension.
Why would Matsumura stay? To Kovac and Jousan:
His whole life was based around that house. What else is he supposed to do? What would you do? Rot away in temporary nuclear-refugee housing… unemployed and grieving for the life he lost? That seems like the stupid and depressing option to me. The choice seems rather obvious.... Well, obvious if you were him, anyway.
Life is never easy. But it is in the way in which you deal with the greatest of tragedies that will show yourself and the world who you really are.