It’s hard to imagine what it’s like… Close your eyes and picture a drive through your home town or city mid morning on Sunday. The side walk is bustling with people moving about, a man at corner is selling news papers, a family is climbing in the car after church — kids giggling and laughing. You slow your car to let them back into your path and wave at an on coming car as you recognize the driver. As you round the corner by the school the soccer team’s already assembling for practice or a weekend game.
Now, open your eyes and here’s what you see. NOTHING ! The streets are empty, the paper man’s gone, there are no cars, no children, only the amber, red and green street light that changes on schedule to control the traffic that never comes. The fields are bare, there’s no practice today.
Some of the properties damaged by the tsunami have already been demolished and cleared away, others stand as the did the day after the owners uneasy to return and start rebuilding knowing their access is limited due to the slowly decaying radiation. The lone activity is an illuminated and spinning barber poll, one man who opens his shop daily clinging to the past with hope that everyone will return in the future. This is the blight of the city’s within the restricted zone.
One of the most striking images, amongst many we witnessed was this picture near the train station in the Town of Okuma.
These bicycles belong to high school students. They parked them here on the morning of March 11, 2011 and here they remain untouched Sunday April 7, 2013.
It’s been two years and outside the restricted zone a great deal of rebuilding has been done, but inside the debris remains piled and waiting for a disposal solution. Residents are allowed to enter the restricted zone, as we did under special permit during the day. However, the government will not allow any of the debris to be removed from their properties outside the restricted zone. While everyone understands this the optics are another constant reminder.