It was not so long ago that the whole world was on the edge of their seats watching the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl unfold right before their eyes. The live news footage from Ōkuma in Fukushima seemed like a scenario straight from the apocalypse, as viewers across the globe witnessed Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant go up in flames after being battered by a devastating scale 9.0 earthquake and massive tsunamis. A total of three meltdowns took place within the plant due to the failure of cooling systems and ineffective crisis management on part of the local authorities.
A couple years after the events in 11 March 2011, the town still remains uninhabited and ongoing efforts to clean up the aftermath of the catastrophe are far from finished. So far the fear of residual radioactivity has kept people away from Ōkuma, which has ensured that the town has been left mostly untouched. This is what makes Fukushima a truly unique location on the face of the Earth, because unlike Chernobyl, where locals and tourists have left their mark over the years, it has preserved its “pristine” condition. The pictures taken by various daring photographers and reporters capture the eerie beauty of the abandoned ghost town.
Fukushima seems like a place that one day all of a sudden stopped dead in its tracks – homes and workplaces abandoned, cars deserted in the middle of the street, things left untouched in the precise spot where they were struck by the disaster. Numerous clocks and calendars hauntingly reflect the exact moment time stopped running in Fukushima.
Horror fiction writers and filmmakers have played around with the idea of what it would be like if everybody would suddenly just disappear. Fukushima actually lets you see what it would be like.
Currently, even six years after the disaster the tragedy is ongoing, as tens of thousands of evacuees have been denied access to their homes and possessions. Debates continue among scientists and government officials about the actual level of danger in Fukushima and whether inhabitants will eventually be allowed to return. In the meanwhile, Fukushima is slowly becoming a famous destination for “dark tourism”.
Despite the potential risks, local inhabitants have lately begun organizing guided tours in small groups through the ruined town in order to help preserve the memory of the tragedy and send a warning about the dangers of nuclear power. While Fukushima most likely will never be an official tourist spot, the local government has acknowledged and started permitting short visits to safer areas of the prefecture with adequate safety gear. Locals claim the tours are all part of a larger long-term plan of rebuilding Fukushima in the future. For now, though, it remains a ghost town frozen in time on that faithful day of 11 March 2011.