By Rachel Mealey
via abc.net.au / March 7, 2016 /
The town of Futaba lies six kilometres from the Fukushima nuclear power plant.
There is an eerie feeling there. Shoes sit in the doorway of houses, as they do in houses across Japan — neatly placed together, waiting for feet to walk them out the door.
Bicycles rest against fences — waiting for the next journey.
The magnitude 9.0 earthquake struck this town on March 11, 2011. Clocks throughout the town stopped ticking at 2:46pm.
In those critical hours after the earthquake, the residents of Futaba were not told anything about what was happening at the Fukushima power plant.
Families in a state of limbo
Five years on from Japan’s worst nuclear accident, the Ohnumas and many thousands like them remain in a state of limbo. They receive compensation to pay rent in their new town, but there are no decisions yet on whether they can get a payout for the house they own.
The house is a double-storey brick cottage in the centre of town. It’s a time capsule of the day they grabbed what they could and ran.
The calendar on the wall still shows March 2011 — a little cartoon character on that page throws handfuls of cherry blossoms into the air. There are even unwashed dishes in the sink.
The Ohnumas move through the house as if in mourning.
“I never thought an accident like this would happen. I still can’t believe that I experienced it and I’m standing here wearing this,” Mr Ohnuma says as he stands in a white protective suit, with a white cap and mask.
He hasn’t always been such an ardent voice for the anti-nuclear campaign.
As a schoolboy Mr Ohnuma entered a competition to come up with a slogan, which was to be emblazoned on a billboard on the way into town.
He had seen the benefits the newly-built power plant had brought to his town — people had jobs and there was a feeling of prosperity.
His slogan, “Nuclear Energy: The Energy of a Bright Future” won the day.
Mr Ohnuma recalls being very proud when the billboard was erected — it stretched across the road on the way to the train station — seen by all who passed under it.
But now the bright future he foresaw has been ripped away. Council workers peeled the words off the billboard in December last year.
Mr Ohnuma campaigned for the sign to remain where it was — to serve as an ironic reminder to future generations of the dangers of nuclear power. But in a nation that has heavily invested in atomic energy, the billboard was not ironic — it was embarrassing.
The ABC filmed an interview with Mr Ohnuma under his sign on February 27 — the outline of the words could still be seen.
Last week on March 3, the entire structure was demolished.
The town is a chaotic mess and lives are in ruin — yet this job was given immediate priority.
“Nuclear energy has taken away my dream and my life and the bright future has become a catastrophe for us. I had a vision that my children would some day graduate from the same school as me, but all my plans are destroyed and there are no future prospects,” Mr Ohnuma said.