NAGOYA--Naoto Matsumura kept a visual record of the Fukushima nuclear disaster. But the images he snapped are not of neighbors and others who were forced from their homes.
His photos are of the livestock and pets that were left to fend for themselves after residents were ordered to evacuate as radiation spewed from nuclear reactors.
Tens of thousands of animals were left to their fate after areas were designated no-entry zones because of the crisis triggered by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
The 54-year-old is now showing his photos at a gallery here.
Matsumura lived in Tomioka, Fukushima Prefecture, and worked as a farmer and operator of a local construction company before the nuclear accident.
Immediately after the crisis unfolded, he evacuated to safety but returned to his home several days later to take care of domestic animals and pets that were left behind in his neighborhood.
His house is located only 12 kilometers from the stricken nuclear plant and was designated as part of the no-entry zone until March this year.
“When I (returned and) approached the animals, they mooed and meowed. (They were so happy to see me),” he said. “That’s why I stayed in my house.”
About 70 photos are on display. They include images of Matsumura feeding cats and ostriches, and skeletal cattle that starved to death.
Even now, he is taking care of 50 head of cattle, two ostriches, a pony and several dogs and cats. His house has electricity, but no gas and running water. He gets around that problem by using gas cartridges for cooking and taking water from a spring.
Matsumura said he had taken steps to stop the cats and dogs from breeding.
The no-entry zone was within a 20-kilometer radius of the nuclear plant. It is estimated that 3,400 head of cattle, 30,000 pigs and 35,000 dogs and cats were abandoned. A good number were killed and disposed of by the central and local governments. Others starved to death.
Distressed by what happened, Matsumura set up a nonprofit organization, “Ganbaru Fukushima” (Struggling Fukushima) in spring 2012, and is seeking support.
“It could take decades, or even hundreds of years for Fukushima to return to how it was before the nuclear disaster. I will go on feeding the animals until I die. I want visitors (to the exhibition) to see the photos and know that the reconstruction has not progressed,” Matsumura said.
The exhibition at Gallery Tamamiseum, in Nagoya’s Naka Ward, runs until Oct. 22. Admission is free.
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