Five Years After Fukushima Disaster, Scars Remain

It's been five years since an earthquake and tsunami left nearly 19,000 people dead or missing in Fukushima, Japan, turned coastal communities into a wasteland and triggered a nuclear crisis. In the intervening years, progress has been made to rebuild much of the prefecture, yet within evacuation zones scars are still obvious and many evacuees who fled are unwilling to return. See how Japan is recovering five years later.

38 photos
1/38
Bloomberg via Getty Images
Noriaki Yamamoto is photographed at prefabricated temporarily housing complex near an evacuation zone, March 3, 2016. He and his wife have lived there for five years and now they gave up on returning to their home in Tomioka.
2/38
Bloomberg via Getty Images
Visitors look out at an evacuation zone area damaged by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami during a tour in Namie, Feb. 13, 2016.
3/38
Bloomberg via Getty Images
Akiko Onuki speaks into a microphone as she guides a tour traveling through evacuation zone areas damaged by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami onboard a bus in Namie, Japan, Feb. 13, 2016.
4/38
Bloomberg via Getty Images
A fishing boat swept inland by the 2011 tsunami sits next to a bowling alley in an evacuation zone in Namie, Fukushima Prefecture, Feb. 13, 2016.
5/38
Bloomberg via Getty Images
Houses and stores stand along a deserted street in Tomioka, Japan, March 2, 2016.
6/38
Bloomberg via Getty Images
Haruhisa Endo looks inside his home in an evacuation zone area five years later, Tomioka, Japan, March 2, 2016.
7/38
Bloomberg via Getty Images
Prefabricated temporary house complex stands near an evacuation zone area damaged by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture, Japan, March 3, 2016.
8/38
Bloomberg via Getty Images
Televisions sit stacked in an evacuation zone area damaged by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Minamisoma, Feb. 13, 2016.
9/38
Bloomberg via Getty Images
A broken toilet at the site of a house destroyed by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami stands in an evacuation zone area in Namie, Japan, Feb. 13, 2016.
10/38
Getty Images
A lone house sits on the scarred landscape, inside the exclusion zone, close to the devastated Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant on February 26, 2016 in Namie, Fukushima Japan. The area is now closed to residents due radiation contamination from the Fukishima nuclear disaster.
11/38
DigitalGlobe via Getty Images
In this satellite view, the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power plant is seen after a massive earthquake and subsequent tsunami on March 14, 2011, in Futaba, Japan.
12/38
Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
Workers stand outside reactor 4 as they continue the radiation decontamination process at the Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s embattled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant on Feb. 25, 2016, in Okuma, Japan.
13/38
Getty Images
A local resident rides a bicycle among debris on March 31, 2011, in Kesennuma, Miyagi Prefecture, Japan.
14/38
Getty Images
Dr. Hanai Tatsui, 48, prepares patient Ichiji Ishizawa, 52, to be screened for radiation during a whole body radiation check at the Minamisoma City General Hospital, just outside the 20km evacuation zone surrounding the tsunami-crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant, on March 9, 2012, in Minamisoma in Fukushima Prefecture, Japan. At the time, radiation was still being emitted from the shutdown nuclear Dai-ichi plant, though much slower than the following weeks after the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami. At the Minamisoma City General Hospital, over 20,000 people were registered on waiting lists to get their radiation levels measured with a newly acquired whole-body counter.
15/38
Getty Images
A masked protester stands in front of flags at the gates to the Hinkley Point nuclear power station to mark the first anniversary of the Fukushima disaster in Japan on March 10, 2012 near Bridgwater, England.
16/38
Getty Images
Police sergeant Yabuki Koshin and Constable Kanno Tomoyasu walk the grounds of Obori Kindergarten while on patrol within the 20km exclusion zone around Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, on February 27, 2012 in Namie, Japan, looking for any signs of burglaries or crime after approximately 73,000 were evacuated. The evacuees were restricted from returning home due to high levels of radioactive contamination from the explosions at the nuclear plant following the earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011.
17/38
Getty Images
Young Japanese children are led to a classroom by a parent prior to the beginning of the Kawauchi school and kindergarten entrance ceremony on April 6, 2012, in Kawauchi, Japan. Earlier that month, the Japanese government lifted evacuation orders and restrictions on villages, including Kawauchi, situated just outside the 20km nuclear exclusion zone in place round the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. Only a few residents returned to try and rebuild their lives in the village of Kawauchi, in the aftermath of the nuclear disaster of 2011. The school welcomed only 30 students at their entrance ceremony, whereas normally the number of fresh students would have been closer to 200.
18/38
Tokyo Electric Power Co via Getty Images
In this handout image provided by Tokyo Electric Power Co, workers remove nuclear fuel rods from a pool at No. 4 reactor of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant on November 18, 2013 in Okuma, Fukushima, Japan. TEPCO started removing nuclear fuel from a damaged reactor building for the first time, marking a new stage in the decades-long decommissioning process. The operation to empty the storage pool in the No. 4 reactor building, which holds 1,533 nuclear fuel assemblies, began and expected to be removed by December 2014. But the overall decommissioning work at the stricken nuclear plant is expected to take 30 to 40 years to complete.
19/38
Getty Images
Police officers stand guard at checkpoint to the town within 10km the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant on March 9, 2015 in Tomioka town, Fukushima prefecture, Japan.
20/38
Getty Images
Workers of TEPCO and the Kajima Corporation at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant pose for portraits on Feb. 23, 2016 in Okuma, Japan.
21/38
Getty Images
A man searches the missing at Ukedo coast on March 11, 2014, in Fukushima, Japan.
22/38
AP
In this March 5, 2016, photo, visitors clime to top of Hiyoriyama in a neighborhood devastated by the 2011 tsunami at Yuriage area in Natori, Miyagi Prefecture, northern Japan.
23/38
AP
In this Thursday, April 7, 2011, file photo, two women walk past debris in an area devastated by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, northern Japan.
24/38
AP
Family members with missing relatives and a monk, second from left, pray during underwater searches by Japanese Cost Guard a day before the 5th anniversary of the deadly earthquake and tsunami in Rikuzentakata, Iwate Prefecture, northeastern Japan on Thursday, March 10, 2016. The Japanese coast guard has resumed underwater searches for some of the more than 2,500 people still missing from the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that devastated the country’s northeast coast.
25/38
Red Cross via Getty Images
In this handout images provided by the International Federation of Red Cross Japan, A member of the Japanese Red Cross team walks through what is left of the city of Otsuchi, after an 9.0 magnitude strong earthquake struck on March 11, off the coast of north-eastern Japan, March 14, 2011, in Otsuchi, Japan.
26/38
Getty Images
Local residents who live around the 20km exclusion zone around the Fukushima Dai-Ichi Nuclear Power Plant, undergo a screening test for possible radiation at screening center on September 13, 2011 in Minamisoma, Fukushima Prefecture, Japan, sixth months after the earthquake.
27/38
Getty Images
In this handout image provided by the International Federation of Red Cross Japan, patients line the corridors of Ishinomaki Japanese Red Cross hospital as space is reserved for the seriously ill, after an 9.0 magnitude strong earthquake struck on March 11, off the coast of north-eastern Japan, March 12, 2011, in Ishinomaki, Japan.
28/38
Getty Images
In this handout image provided by the International Federation of Red Cross Japan, a general view is seen of what is left of the city after a tsunami wiped away the gas station which caused a fire and burnt down the whole town.
29/38
Getty Images
An abandoned dog walks on a damaged street on April 15, 2011 in Naraha, Fukushima, Japan.
30/38
AP
81-year old Chikara Yoshida sits in his living room in front of his son’s altar talks during an interview in Rikuzentakata, Iwate Prefecture, northeastern Japan Wednesday, March 9, 2016. In the aftermath of the earthquake, his son disappeared while helping the elderly escape the tsunami. The Japanese coast guard has resumed underwater searches for some of the more than 2,500 people still missing from the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that devastated the country’s northeast coast.
31/38
AP
In this March 6, 2016 photo, visitors pray in front of the legacy of tsunami damaged disaster prevention building in Minamisanriku, Miyagi Prefecture, northern Japan.
32/38
AP
A woman lights a candle in prayer to mourn for victims of the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Tokyo Wednesday, March 11, 2015.
33/38
AP
In this Thursday, March 17, 2011, file photo, refugees, including 53 who were saved from a retirement home during the tsunami, take shelter inside a school gym in the leveled city of Kesennuma, northeastern Japan.
34/38
AP
In this March 26, 2011, file photo, a Japanese funeral parlor worker fills a mass grave for victims of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Yamamoto, northeastern Japan.
35/38
AP
In this Nov. 12, 2011, file photo, workers in protective suits and masks wait to enter the emergency operation center at the crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power station in Okuma, Japan.
36/38
AP
In this Friday, March 6, 2015, photo, a worker of Yagisawa Shoten Co., checks a soy sauce tank of the company's new factory in Ichinoseki, Iwate Prefecture, northeastern Japan. The traditional soy-sauce maker, destroyed by a giant tsunami four years ago, has made a comeback, defying tsunami-scale odds. The secret lies in a little white bottle, named "the miracle," which holds the special ingredients that were passed down for decades.
37/38
AP
In this March 8, 2016, photo, the lone pine tree that miraculously survived the deadly 2011 tsunami among 70,000 trees along the coastline, is seen though construction blindfold in Rikuzentakata, Iwate Prefecture, northern Japan.
38/38
Getty Images
A lone tree sits on the tsunami scarred landscape, inside the exclusion zone, close to the devastated Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant on Feb. 26, 2016 in Namie, Fukushima Japan, Thousands of homes used to stand here, the area is now closed to residents due radiation contamination from the Fukishima nuclear disaster.
Contact Us