Fukushima town’s sole resident speaks out in documentary

By Andrew Miller

After the great earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011, there was also the explosion at the Fukushima nuclear plant, spreading radioactive contamination even as far as Tokyo. Now after two years, Fukushima’s 20-kilometer radioactive exclusion zone still remains in place.

While most families fled the contaminated areas in the early stages following the explosion, one brave man remained undeterred by it all, staying put in his hometown. Naoto Matsumura, 53, is believed to be the sole inhabitant within the 20-kilometer red zone.

Matsumura’s determination to remain rooted in the same place and see through the nuclear catastrophe has caught the attention of many, with his accounts even being adapted into a documentary. The documentary tells of the events after the great earthquake and Mutsumura’s reasons for remaining at his home despite all those around him fleeing, never to return. Perhaps even more interestingly, it gives some rather candid accounts of this man’s feelings towards Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), the company that operated the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

Although the dialog is in Japanese, an explanation of the most pertinent and moving moments from the footage, along with the video itself, is included below. The footage of deserted towns and the way in which the wildlife has taken over the now uninhabited areas of Fukushima alone, however, make compelling viewing.

Immediately after the nuclear accident, Matsumura asked his close friend who somewhat ironically worked for TEPCO, if the situation was serious and whether there was cause for genuine concern. This so-called friend, despite having already rushed his own family far way from the site, replied, “No need to worry. I can see it all breezing over in a couple of days.” When Matsumura recalls this episode, it is difficult not to feel a pang of sadness for him as he adds, “Such heartlessness. In spite of all that happened, to continue the cold lies…”

Brief explanation of the documentary (footage below):

In the beginning of the documentary, Mr Matsumura, who lives in Tomioka in Fukushima, recalls the emotional trauma of being left alone after all the other residents had fled the area:

“The feeling of loneliness was so overbearing that it even numbed my sense of what it is to be lonely. Admittedly, acclimatizing to this new environment took me some time.”

He then recounts the reason for continuing to live in the hazard zone, commenting: ”I originally fled south, after the fourth reactor at Daichi exploded. Hoping to stay at my father’s house, I was bitterly disappointed after being turned away due to fears of radioactive contamination.”

As a final alternative, Matsumura turned to the closest evacuation center, but was denied entry due to the overwhelming number of citizens seeking refuge. He reached the point where finding a safe place to stay had become all too bothersome, and besides, Matsumura felt responsible for the livestock and pets waiting for him back home. With this, he once again returned to his hometown.

Later in the video he reflects of his fears of developing leukemia five or 10 years down the line; however, he bravely shrugs this off by commenting: “If this were to happen, it’s something I’ll deal with at the time.”

In the closing moments of the footage, we see the starling images of some of Matsumura’s livestock that eventually died of starvation. He reflects on how Tomioka was once a place abundant in life and happiness. Ultimately, Tomioka is where he was born and raised, and “it’s a place where I’ll die”, he says. 

Read more stories from RocketNews24. -- Blogger’s Troubling Insight into the Psyche of Post-Disaster Fukushima Residents -- Buses in Fukushima to Shed Light on Radiation in the Area -- Google to Photograph Street Views of Evacuated Town in Fukushima

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”I originally fled south, after the fourth reactor at Daichi exploded. Hoping to stay at my father’s house, I was bitterly disappointed after being turned away due to fears of radioactive contamination.”

Saddest thing in the whole article. Even people exposed directly receive more passion than a case of, "you might be exposed, so go way" from your own father.

9 ( +10 / -1 )

When I started reading the article, I was thinking this guy is stupid for wanting to remain there. But as I kept reading and learning that he tried to go elsewhere, I can see why he chose to stay at home. I agree Okinawamike, how sad to be turned away by your own father. I wish Mr. Matsumura and his pets well!

7 ( +7 / -0 )

The sub-titles in the documentary say "I was told by my father to go his (the father's) sister's house", but she turned him away.

The documentary is incredibly sad and moving. The part towards the end where he describes the cows dying and their skeletons can be seen lying around is just very sad. And I agree with Prof. Koide Hiroaki that Tepco is a disgrace to all.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

By all means watch the video at the bottom. Very well done.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

It was not his father's house, but his father's little sisters' house, yes they were turned away due to radiation fears. That broke my heart. Even worse was being turned away from the Evacuation Centre...where is one supposed to go? Also, his **cousin worked for TEPCO, not his neighbor (actually he was both). Matsumura said that TEPCO employees are like brainwashed cult members, and that he couldn't believe that his own cousin lied right to the end...well with an aunt that won't let you in due to radiation fears, poor Matsumura-san doesn't seem to have a very compassionate family. All the best to him, even if he is Japan's 'irradiated champion'.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

I wish there were some way to support him, send him stuff he needs. Any ideas?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

"I said 'going north is no good, I'll go south' and my father said 'My sister is there, go there' but when I got there she said 'Don't come in the house. You've been exposed to radiation, don't come in'.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Feeling so sad for him and angry at TEPCO for not doing anything to help.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

is believed to be the sole inhabitant within the 20-kilometer red zone.

far from it, there are a few people living in the area, he's just the only one left in Tomioka Sorry, as someone who has met and even sat in the homes of other people who are also still living there, this line bothers me.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Looks weird to be concerned about radioactivity and yet smoke, smoke, smoke that king-sized ciggie.

Maria, probably sending something to: Naoto Matsumura, Tomioka, Fukushima, Japan would do it. As I recall, though, he gets mail at the store where he buys pet feed. Perhaps a Google would turn up that store name and address?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

@Ranger_Miffy - thank you! You are right, of course, an obvious solution. I googled him, and have come up with a website which gives information on how to send him money (I think; I need to read it carefully later).

If anyone find any better info, please post it!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

This chap should be Given a medal, an used for a Study of the effects on Huemans of prolond effects of radation. With support of food and money. As for the animals starving and suffering it is a Discrace in these times for this to happen.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

There are a couple of international groups supportng Matsumura. Here is one site, with different ways to send help:

There is a FB page, which is less well-laid out, but has some useful information in English:

The FB page has a link for other animal rescure shelters in the no-go area and around it, in Japanese:

0 ( +0 / -0 )

blimey! is this the same old japan today?? This is a great human interest post JT with great comments and links by all! a very pleasant if sad surprise! domo arigato and posting to wow!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I must admit I enjoyed this article and was moved.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

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