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Rice planted in evacuated Fukushima town for 1st time since nuclear disaster

A planting machine runs in a paddy field during the first-trial cultivation of rice since the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station disaster, in the town of Futaba, Fukushima Prefecture, on May 19, 2021. (Mainichi/Daisuke Wada)

FUTABA, Fukushima -- The local government of this town, where all residents have been forced to evacuate due to the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station accident, began a trial cultivation of rice for the first time since the disaster.

    About 10 farmers who remain evacuated in areas within and outside Fukushima Prefecture planted seedlings of the prefecture-produced brand rice "Ten no Tsubu" in about 10 acres of decontaminated paddy fields with the support of Futaba Municipal Government employees on May 19.

    Toshiro Kohata, 71, a farmer who used to grow pesticide-free rice in the town and sold it nationwide before the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, took part in the project from the prefectural city of Sukagawa, where he has evacuated. As he watched a rice-planting machine running in a paddy field, he smiled and said, "I had been feeling empty as I couldn't do what I usually did for a living, so I'm glad that the normal scenery is gradually returning."

    After harvesting the rice, the local government will inspect whether the concentration of radioactive cesium is below national standard levels (100 becquerels per kilogram), and discard all the rice. It aims to resume full-scale farming in 2025.

    (Japanese original by Naoki Watanabe, Fukushima Bureau)

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