Broadly (Vice): 'You're Contaminated': The Stigma Against Japan's Fukushima Survivors

Broadly (Vice): 'You're Contaminated': The Stigma Against Japan's Fukushima Survivors

A 2011 quake and tsunami led to a meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, killing thousands and displacing more. Two 'nuclear refugees' explain why returning home is more complicated than it seems.

This month marks the seventh anniversary of the triple disaster that hit the east coast of Japan on March 11, 2011, when a 9.1 magnitude quake and tsunami led to a meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. Almost 16,000 people were declared dead.

While the nuclear disaster is becoming a distant memory for most Japanese, for some others it is their everyday reality. Nuclear refugees and evacuees face discrimination, separation from loved ones, and in some cases, they are even forced to return to the former evacuation zone.

The government, worried about people getting exposed to radiation, declared a 20-km evacuation zone around the plant and uprooted close to 165,000 people. As of today, there are still 50,000 people who haven’t returned to Fukushima.

Keiko Owada, 66, is one of them. When I meet her in Tokyo, she refers to the Japanese capital as her home for the past seven years. That will soon change due to the government’s decision to withdraw her free housing subsidies.

Because decontamination work has made progress and food declared safe from radiation, it has been deemed safe to return to most villages within the evacuation zone. The same goes for Owada’s village Naraha, where the evacuation order was lifted two years ago.

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