Inside the Exclusion Zone: No-Man’s Land Attests to Japan’s Fallout

The crippled Dai-ichi nuclear power plant stands on the coast leaking radiation as pieces of the protective sea wall lie on the shore after it was obliterated and scattered along the Fukushima coastline on July 9. (AP/Eric Talmadge)

Footsteps are imprinted in the drying mud on the streets of Odaka. where local police, wearing white suits to protect them from radiation, search for bodies along a river on April 7. (AP/Eric Talmadge)

Weeks after authorities had searched for victims and started recovery in other tsunami-hit regions, cleanup crews hadn’t yet been dispatched around the crippled reactors because of high radiation levels. (AP/Eric Talmadge)

On June 5, an animal rights activist wearing a suit to protect him from radiation tries to guide a car through an overgrown mountain road near Naraha, as he and his colleagues bypass police barricades to enter the nuclear exclusion zone so they can feed and rescue abandoned animals. (AP/Eric Talmadge)

On June 21 a Japanese police barricade,reading “No entry” and secured with locked steel cables blocks a mountain road leading into the nuclear exclusion zone near Naraha. (AP/Eric Talmadge)

Two stray pet dogs fight in the deserted streets of Okuma on June 5. In the early days of the crisis, roaming farm animals and pets were everywhere inside the no-go zone. But by midsummer, some animals had been rescued and a number of others had perished of starvation and disease. (AP/Eric Talmadge)

A hog naps after eating a meal inside an abandoned feed store and wandering the deserted streets of radiation-contaminated Namie on June 18. (AP/Eric Talmadge)

A stray pet cat rests inside a dryer at an abandoned coin laundry in Namie, less then ten kilometers from the crippled nuclear reactor, on June 19. (AP/Eric Talmadge)

A mud-caked television remote control device sits on a table above a mud-covered and cracked floor of an abandoned home in Odaka on June 18. (AP/Eric Talmadge)

A waterlogged family photo album left behind in Namie is seen on July 8. In the pictures the children are dressed in fine kimonos worn during a traditional celebration when children turn three, five, and seven. (AP/Eric Talmadge)

On July 26, oranges which were left behind when Namie was evacuated rot on the shelves and floor of the town’s main supermarket. (AP/Eric Talmadge)

Residents of a nursing home in Itate rest in a community room on June 7. Itate is located just outside the official nuclear exclusion zone but registers some of the highest levels of radiation in the prefecture and was largely abandoned over the summer. Some residents of the nursing home elected to stay behind because they are old enough that they do not fear the long-term effects of exposure to radiation. Employees of the facility had mostly moved away but commute to work and rotate their shifts to limit their own exposure. (AP/Eric Talmadge)

An evacuee lies down in her makeshift temporary home on the floor of the Big Palette convention center in Koriyama on June 9. Tens of thousands of people had fled their homes surrounding the damaged nuclear power plant. (AP/Eric Talmadge)

69-year-old and tattooed Toyoo Ide bathes with fellow evacuees in a traditional Japanese-style bath set up in a tent by Japan’s Self-Defense Forces at an evacuation center in Koriyama on June 9. “There’s no water or electricity now, but if there were, I’d go back, radioactivity or not. I’d go back today. I can’t live in a stranger’s town,” said Ide, who was a lifelong employee of the nuclear power plant. (AP/Eric Talmadge)

Dawn breaks over the radiation-contaminated and abandoned town of Namie on July 25. (AP/Eric Talmadge)

Residents wearing protective suits inside a bus in Hirono on July 24 wait to be escorted to their homes inside the exclusion zone for the first time since the March 11 tsunami. The government allowed strictly controlled visits by residents to retrieve a few small personal items, and each person had to be tightly screened for radioactive contamination upon return. (AP/Eric Talmadge)

Debris lies in heaps covering an area where a residential neighborhood once stood in the town of Namie on July 24. (AP/Eric Talmadge)

Rice and tempura mildews in bowls left on the tables of a restaurant in Namie, seen on July 26. (AP/Eric Talmadge)

Cans of beer lie dislodged inside a flood-damaged vending machine in an abandoned neighborhood in Naraha, seen on July 13. (AP/Eric Talmadge)

On July 22, a woman shops for groceries despite the shelves being mostly empty during the final days of a gradual process of evacuation of the town of Itate. Itate is northwest, and just outside of the official nuclear exclusion zone but registers some of the highest levels of radiation in the prefecture and was largely abandoned over the summer. (AP/Eric Talmadge)

Grass sprouts from a wrecked car in Namie, where nature began to reclaim the town in July. (AP/Eric Talmadge)

Keigo Sakamoto holds two of his dogs in the front yard of his house on June 8. Sakamoto, a Japanese egg farmer, lives in Naraha on the 12-mile boundary line of the exclusion zone around the damaged nuclear power station. (AP/Eric Talmadge)

He is allowed to stay in his home but must bypass the police barricades and lost his livelihood when his neighbors and nearby towns were evacuated. (AP/Eric Talmadge)

The carcass of a cow decomposes next to a barn at a farm in Naraha on July 9. Farmers across the area had to hastily leave their homes and many were unable to evacuate livestock, or return to the irradiated zone to care for them. (AP/Eric Talmadge)

One of the moe fortunate farmers loads one of his last cows into a truck to be removed from his farm as he is evacuated from the town of Itate on June 26. (AP/Eric Talmadge)

A member of the Namie school board wears a protective suit while measuring radiation levels in a field in his community inside the nuclear exclusion zone on July 8. (AP/Eric Talmadge)

A water line showing the height of the tsunami wave marks a wall in an abandoned home in Narahaon July 13. (AP/Eric Talmadge)

A water mark seen on July 10 cuts across the backs of theater seats at a planetarium in Namie after tsunami waves swept across parts of the town. (AP/Eric Talmadge)

A mourner in a protective suit holds flowers at a memorial ceremony for residents from the town of Okuma, inside the contaminated exclusion zone on July 24. Under tight government supervision, dozens of villagers from the town where the nuclear plant is located ventured deep into the irradiated no-man’s land to hold a belated memorial for friends and relatives killed by Japan’s earthquake and tsunami. (AP/Eric Talmadge)

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