Eight years after the Fukushima disaster, it is an appropriate moment to sum up what has changed since these tragic events in the contaminated areas around the damaged Fukushima Daiichi Power Plant. This is best illustrated by the map below.

Changes in the boundaries of the zone between the years 2011 and 2018


The efforts of thousands of workers and billions of dollars spent on decontaminating the contaminated areas are beginning to bear fruit. In the cleaned areas — marked on maps in previous years in orange and green — decontamination works have been completed and the evacuation order lifted. As a result, most of the residents of Tomioka and Namie, two of the largest cities around the damaged power plant may return to their homes. Yet intensive cleaning and demolition works are still being carried out. Buildings that were damaged during the earthquake or due to lack of upkeep because the residents had fled from the radiation are still being repaired or torn down. As a result, many homes are unfit for further residence and have to be dismantled and the furnishings, electronics, clothing and food inside disposed of. Public buildings are in a similar state: not only were shops and restaurants destroyed, so too were both of the local hospitals.

The scale of these changes is best seen from the air. In places where buildings once stood, today there are only empty lots covered by a thin layer of orange sand or gray gravel. There are perhaps more of them then there are built-up plots. And the work is not yet finished.


The temporary waste incinerator was designed to treat “disaster waste” stored at a temporary yard in Namie (tsunami debris, residential demolition debris and decontamination waste)

Temporary yard in Namie

Unfortunately, decontamination and cleaning are not enough to revive the city. Residents are needed, but they do not want to come back. They remain suspicious of the actions of the government, which assures them that radiation levels have fallen to safe levels. They remember how, just a few years ago, this same government unilaterally raised them. Additionally, the newly opened cities still lack infrastructure — shops, hospitals and restaurants. And, chiefly, neighbors. As a result, both cities remain practically empty. Eight years after the disaster and two after their opening, only about 5% of residents have returned. The vehicles and people seen on the streets only create the appearance of an inhabited city. The majority are cars belonging to construction companies and workers here to clean the area and demolish buildings.

That is why it’s important to document the consequences of a nuclear disaster. Many of the devastated, abandoned and contaminated buildings and interiors I have photographed no longer exist. They have been cleaned and restored or demolished. This is obviously right and necessary. My task, however, is different. I want to preserve as many testaments to the nuclear disaster and human tragedy as possible. Despite eight years having passed, there is still a huge number here, particularly in the red zones — the most radioactive ones that are still closed and where residents are not allowed to return. Although I could be wrong, there is no indication they ever will. Let them serve as a warning to future generation so they do not forget what the careless handling of nuclear energy can lead to.

8 thoughts

  1. These photos are stolen and uncredited from James Galbraith who took them in early 2018, if not earlier.

  2. Greetings,
    I have a question: can a foreigner apply for permanent residence and citizenship, if he were to start living in the red zone?
    Thanks and regards

  3. Photo Stealer Police, the pictures are not the same. You have the same locations featured in some instances, but they have a slightly different perspective. Also, if you look at Mr. Galbraith’s photos you will notice that they have different color profiles.

  4. Contrary to the anonymous comment left earlier, these are not stolen photos, just the same subject matter photographed by two different individuals. Their rush to judgement was done without truly checking all the facts.

  5. These shots are so eerie – what a great documentation of an important historical event. Reminds me of some of the Chernobyl stuff. Good work.

  6. Very much appreciate your diligence in capturing these eerie scenes. They are a reminder of what can happen when disasters compound onto each other.

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