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7 years after quake, tsunami, Fukushima town records legacy of disasters

A pool whose roof has fallen in is seen at the "Rifure Tomioka" hot spring facility in Tomioka, Fukushima Prefecture, on March 2, 2018, nearly seven years after the quake and tsunami disaster. (Mainichi)

TOMIOKA, Fukushima -- As Japan prepares to mark seven years since the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami that triggered the meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant, efforts are underway in the Fukushima Prefecture town of Tomioka to preserve visual records of the aftermath of the disasters.

Evacuation orders that were placed over the town following the outbreak of the nuclear disaster have mostly been lifted. While memories of the disasters are slowly starting to fade, a town ordinance has designated footage taken in the aftermath of the events of March 11, 2011 as a "legacy of the quake disaster." This includes images of clocks that stopped when the earthquake hit, and the interior of shelters that appear frozen in time. Officials plan to open an archive facility three years from now, and display the images there, teaching people the lessons learned from the disasters.

On the afternoon of March 2, a company contracted by the Tomioka Municipal Board of Education captured drone footage inside the gymnasium of Tomioka Daini Junior High School in the north of the town. On the day of the disasters, the school's graduation ceremony was held, and festive red-and-white striped decorations adorn the walls.

Empty cans of pilot bread that evacuees ate can still be seen lying about, and the gym appears exactly as it was before the town was placed under evacuation orders.

After taking this footage, a drone was used to capture images from the hot-spring facility "Rifure Tomioka," which stands in a "difficult-to-return zone." The images included Japanese style rooms where evacuees slept, and a pool whose roof had fallen in.

"For seven years after the disasters, people couldn't even clean up. We're preserving everything, including that fact," says 34-year-old town worker Takeshi Monma, who is qualified as a curator.

Analyzing the footage taken inside the shelters offers traces of the activities of residents at the time, and it is thought that this could provide lessons on such issues as the operation of shelters in the wake of future disasters.

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