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A walk through Futaba, the Fukushima town left to time since the 2011 nuclear disaster

One of the town of Futaba's main streets is seen with dilapidated shops and devoid of people or cars, in Fukushima Prefecture on Aug. 12, 2020. (Mainichi/Tomonari Takao)
Futons at Healthcare Futaba are seen left much as they were in March 2011, communicating a sense of the urgency at the time, in this image taken on Aug. 11, 2020. (Mainichi/Tomonari Takao)
Stacks of files strewn over a bed containing the names of people using the welfare center that someone had appeared to try and maintain are seen in Healthcare Futaba, in the town of Futaba, Fukushima Prefecture, on Aug. 11, 2020. (Mainichi/Tomonari Takao)

FUTABA, Fukushima -- Nine-and-a-half years after the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and the resultant nuclear disaster, the streets and homes of this Fukushima Prefecture town continue to deteriorate while remaining much as they did on the day people's everyday lives were suddenly interrupted.

    The town of Futaba is the only municipality left in the area near the stricken Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station where people can't live due to the meltdowns. Town residents remain dispersed across the country, unable to return. Vegetation invades the interiors of homes, with some plants reaching as high as the roofs. Walking through the silent town, which was victim to earthquakes, tsunami and a nuclear disaster in short succession, its stillness seemed to still ask why it had been allowed to end up this way.

    The town's integrated health and welfare facility, Healthcare Futaba, served as an evacuation center in the immediate aftermath of the powerful earthquake. Even now the notices displaying evacuation destinations for the town's residents are still up. There are futons and beds left out like people had just woken up. At a cooking station, pots with rice still stuck to them have been left with spatulas, dried out ingredients and other items still in them.

    I was allowed into the building by Muneshige Osumi, 66, the Futaba Municipal Government secretary and public relations department's general coordinator, and Yukimi Itakura, 61, the department's principal. They told me it was really just as it had been in March 2011.

    On the day I was there, almost nine-and-a-half years to the day since the disaster, I found a whiteboard inside the facility with the words "happy birthday" written on it. On March 11, 2011, a party for a woman celebrating her 88th birthday was thrown here. The plastic bottles left there on a table with drinks still in them evoked a sense of people enjoying a calm time.

    But stacks of files strewn over a bed containing the names of people using the welfare center that someone had appeared to try and maintain communicated the urgency of the time.

    (Japanese original by Tomonari Takao, Osaka Editorial Division)

    In Photos: The Fukushima town frozen in time by the disasters of March 2011

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