On July 20,
2013 Yoichi Shimatsu and I departed from Ueno station in Tokyo to visit
the Fukushima nuclear disaster region and see what we could
Interestingly, the train from Tokyo to Fukushima on this particular
line is hard to find on the map, and the train line has apparently been
removed! Could it be the powers-that-be do not want people exploring
this area given it is now a forbidden zone of nuclearized zombies and
headless taxi drivers?
Our 2 day trip was filled with activity, waiting, rushing, observations
and emotions. A trip to the Fukushima nuclear zone is like a combination
of Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone meets a Stephen King horror story meets
Kerouac’s “On The Road.”
I must thank Yoichi Shimatsu, who has done the tireless and thankless
work of discovering the travel routes, places for overnight stay and
the facts on the ground in Fukushima. No one knows more about the geographical
reality of the Fukushima nuclear power plant no. 1 (FNPP#1) situation
than Yoichi. More than his incredible kindness and knowledge is Yoichi’s
biting sense of humor which keeps him moving against all odds.
The long train ride which would normally take just a couple of hours
between Tokyo and Fukushima was interspersed with long lay overs between
stations, for no apparent reason. Undoubtedly Japan’s countryside regions
have suffered from brain drain and thus the numbers of passengers do
not justify the number of trains. After the Fukushima disaster many
people moved out of the immediate area and this has reduced the need
Beyond that fact, Yoichi speculates that the Japanese government does
not want people going up there to snoop around, Fukushima is now a DEAD
ZONE and off limits. Indeed it is, even while they are urging some people
to move back in. Families that moved out of the immediate area of the
nuclear disaster may now live in safer zones to the south, but they
are forced to train their kids back to their original schools during
the daytime, if that is where their family property is registered.
When we arrived at Nakaso, a seaside town on the southern border of
Fukushima prefecture, my dosimeter which is a “Terra-P” (made in the
Ukraine), measured low to normal background radiation. However, after
we had dropped off our bags at the seaside hotel and traveled further
north, radiation levels increased.
We stopped at one town along the train route, Hisanohama, which is about
11 km from the FNPP#1. On a spectacular summer’s day we had a chance
to walk out to a fishing port. Background air readings averaged 0.25
microsieverts per hour (mcs pr hr), about double a tolerable background
level for long term habitation (although no background radiation level
is known to be safe, some radiation is unavoidable). The highest reading
we found at this location was an old fishing net piled up alongside
the road: 0.52 mcs pr hr. We measured fresh seaweed that was dropped
on the road that locals eat in their soup to be 0.28 mcs pr hr. It would
not be recommended to eat such food on a daily basis given that cesium
and other radio nuclides accumulate in the body faster than they are
At the port the fishing boats were no longer used for fishing but for
other kinds of clean up work subsidized by the government. There was
some rebuilding work at the port, a perfectly good asphalt parking lot
was being torn up by bulldozer. Presumably the radiation could not be
removed so the only other option is to get rid of the entire surface.
Along the ocean a huge swath of houses had been wiped out by the tsunami
on 3/11, which must have housed several hundred or even thousands of
people. All that was left was the housing foundations covered in sand
All along the sea coast we saw cracked walkways and fractured seawalls.
In Nakaso the tsunami had actually made some small coastal islands disappear
and scattered the concrete barriers across the beach.
As we walked back to the station in Hisanohama, we walked past a house
with a motorcycle dude with his two little kids and wife playing in
the yard. With the background radiation noticeably higher than the recommended
dose I wondered about the fate of the children.
We also spotted many suspicious looking flowers and other forms of vegetation.
According to Yoichi, radiation has affected some flowers in the nuclear
zone to go haywire and outgrow their natural size (a topic for future
research). Yoichi noted that radiation affects different plants differently,
some are hardy and not affected; others, especially flowers may receive
small doses but have big results in terms of mutations.
An oddly colored daisy among normally colored flowers
Yoichi indicates the normal
height of this
flower compared to this giant version
We already know that the biologist and
expert on mutagenetic affects, Tim Mosseau, has shown that in Fukushima
prefecture a variety of insects and other species have been affected
“Tim Mousseau [has] offered irrefutable and conclusive data proving
the effects of the radioactive linear low-dose on wildlife at Chernobyl.
In other words, the greater the dose, the greater the evidence of harm.
His team continues to investigate the effects in Fukushima on wildlife
and have found disturbingly similar results including birth defects,
genetic mutations and tumors. If it can happen to bugs and birds, it
can happen to humans.” And to vegetation.
As we left departed the station we were among a very few number of travelers.
The last station on the line was Hirano. We took a taxi to “J-Village”
which used to be the sports complex paid for by the power companies
as a bribe to the local community to accept the nuclear power plants,
Fukushima no. 1 and 2, which are in the nearby area.
The taxi driver was a very old fellow with a hoarse voice who after
a few minutes of driving began to noticeably twitch his body from side
to side, as if to nearly go into convulsions. Whether this man was affected
by old age or radiation we did not know, but it was not a good sign.
We wondered whether this was a scene from “Men In Black” and he would
remove his head upon arrival and place it on the dashboard. “That will
be 20 dollars please.”
Hirano town itself had been decontaminated pushing radiation levels
back to “normal.” The small town offered beautiful countryside vistas
of the “Abukuma” mountain range. However, as soon as we reached the
outskirts of the town levels jumped to 0.52 micro sieverts per hour,
about four or five times the level considered safe for long term habitation.
Once we reached “J-Village” we got out and walked around part of the
former sports complex, which had now defunct soccer fields acting as
parking lots and a large building that served as the Tepco administration
worker center. We walked past a few workers waiting for the bus, they
did not seem friendly and everyone went about their business with a
sense of urgency.
Now within a couple of miles of the actual FNPP#1 background radiation
was 0.5 mcs pr hr.
It was now late in the day but the sun was still hot. Temperatures were
slightly cooler than Tokyo which made it a pleasant temperature for
As we headed toward the ocean in the direction of FNPP#1 we saw some
huge thermal power generation plants. According to Yoichi, these power
stations were knocked out by the 3/11 earthquake and tsunami and this
contributed to the problems at FNPP#1. Without back up generators or
outside power from these generators, the nuke plants were doomed and
therefore melted down during that fateful week in March of 2011.
We heard beautiful bird songs, but also noticed strangely shaped flowers
by the roadside that seemed too tall and chaotic; one plant would have
flower stems that varied wildly in length. Was this a sign of genetic
As we walked down the hill toward the ocean in the direction of Tomioka,
the town closest to FNPP#1 which is the now abandoned, we suddenly smelled
a distinctly metallic odor which Yoichi described as “radiation.” Considering
that my dosimeter was going crazy with alarm bells ringing and an average
0.5 mcr sv pr hr reading. It may have been radiation blowing toward
us from the north from FNPP#1. It may have been some other substance
being emitted by the nearby thermal power plant. We would regularly
spit instead of swallowing in order to make sure we did not ingest it.
Whatever that alien substance entering our bodies, it was definitely
not healthy to living organisms and had to be expelled as soon as possible.
Dr. Wilcox assesses low level radioactive debris
At the bottom of the hill which led to Tomioka town there was a magnificent
vista of the ocean on the right side and a housing development on the
left, with Tomioka in the distance surrounded by the undulating Abukuma
mountains on the blue gray horizon. An older woman was gardening in
her dusty and grassless garden, pulling a few weeds. Yoichi and I had
our masks on and were spitting furiously to rid the alien substance
from our mouths. She was either ignorant or indifferent to the situation.
Another troubling sight, chemtrails were scattered throughout the otherwise
blue sky. Geoengineering programs are definitely being carried out in
Japan where aerosol spraying residuals are witnessed daily.
We climbed a bluff overlooking the ocean and saw what was most likely
one of the smokestacks of FNPP#1. I cannot say for sure that it was
the diabolical place of pure evil, that for the next million years will
spew its poisons into the life belt of the planet’s habitations, but
it was most likely the place, given the thermal power plants were closely
located to our right side, and FNPP#2 must have been a few kilometers
to the south of us down the coast, out of our view.
There were no Devil’s Horn’s sprouting from the distant image of the
smokestack, but there were plenty of dead pine trees around us and an
eerie, lonely feeling given that people normally inhabited these parts
but now the roads and houses were all nearly empty.
On the long hike back, our feet and calves aching, Yoichi and I talked
to a few Tepco employees who were walking on the street but they looked
very serious, a tad frightened and entirely surprised to see us. We
were friendly to people but most of whom that we encountered were not
friendly and tried to ignore us. This was gloomy Japanese village.
As we crossed a large bridge we spied massive numbers of white canvass
wrapped bags of debris, piled three on top of each other under the bridge
(out of sight out of mind!). There must have been thousands of them,
each must have weighed tons if containing much soil. They looked weighty
Around J-Village and in Hirano town we saw a number of Japanese men
who looked like, and most likely were, Japanese military or police.
They were young and fit and jogging in the early evening (breathing
in high background radiation) and on the look out for anything unusual.
They saw us but never acknowledged us and no one ever questioned or
harassed us. Many months earlier in a location that we passed, near
a Buddhist statue, a secret policeman grilled Yoichi for 20 minutes
asking him what the hell he was doing there. He explained that he was
photographing the statue! Always have a cover story.
As we approached Hirano town the radiation level suddenly lowered, this
was due to the intensive decontamination that must have taken place.
From 0.5 mcr sv pr hr to 0.15 in such a short distance was a drastic
change for the better and we could breath easier. I would assume that
decontamination would have to be carried out fairly often to keep the
levels down. Even though 80 percent of the radiation that was emitted
from the original nuclear meltdowns has now washed away from the land,
the remaining 20 percent is molecularly bound to the substances it is
Of course, the nuclear reactors continue to leak significant amounts
of radiation into the air and water, although the rate is much less
than the original blasts, it is still an ongoing source of significant
We finally reached the station, but the last train from Hell would not
leave for awhile. In the otherwise spooky and nearly abandoned town,
we found a small restaurant that served Japanese rice wine and fish
that was catering to local nuclear cleanup engineers.
I sucked on a lemon quarter to help remove radiation (during the next
week I would consume turmeric to detox my body). With some trepidation,
exhausted and famished we devoured the very salty and tasty “Suzuki”
fish. Fukushima prefecture inspects all food products for radiation
(with 100 bq. per kg. permissible level) whereas surrounding prefectures
no longer do.
Somewhat inebriated we stumbled onto the train to the next destination
where we had another meal of noodles. Now, well outside the radiation
zone, we talked to friendly local people about our trip. We drank more
rice wine and listened to the stories of the boisterous locals, who
speak more loudly and plainly than city folk. There was a skinny and
unattractive barmaid with buck teeth who poured our drinks and a hotelier
who guzzled beer, listened to the Beatles, and told us at a volume 3
times louder than required how he plays the shamisen, a Japanese stringed
musical instrument. In times past he had been a sushi chef but now serves
less fish on his menu.
One young teacher who was staying in the hotel with his family told
me-- after I pointedly asked him-- that people in the northeastern region
were still very worried about the nuclear situation. “Very worried.”
The long day ended after walking many miles and drinking gallons sake,
and and ten thousand jokes between me and Yoichi about the hopeless
state of Japan with its nuclear nightmare and lack of public motivation
to solve the problem. That night I slept peacefully in a radiation-free
zone with the beautiful sounds of the ocean roaring just outside my
window, the waves washing my troubles away.
* Part two of this article will be a photo-essay of the trip to Fukushima.
I will offer more technical analysis of the affect on plants from radiation.
Richard Wilcox holds a Ph.D. in Environmental Studies from a social
science, holistic perspective. He teaches at a number of universities
in the Tokyo, Japan area. His articles on environmental topics including
the Fukushima nuclear disaster are archived at http://wilcoxrb99.wordpress.com/
and are regularly published at Activist Post and Rense.com. His interviews
with Jeff Rense are available at the website http://www.rense.com. Wilcox
can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
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