NARAHA, Fukushima Prefecture--It is a bittersweet return home to Naraha for the New Year’s holidays for Haruo Suzuki, 75, and his wife, Michiko, 74, evacuees for the past three years after the March 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.
Evacuees from the town have been allowed to return from Dec. 28 until Jan. 4 on a “special” basis and spend New Year's in their homes for the first time in three years.
“I miss our two grandchildren and feel lonely,” Michiko says, sitting at the dining table where the entire family of six used to enjoy meals together before going their separate ways following the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
Naraha, within 20 kilometers from the plant, is in an area designated as a “zone being prepared for the lifting of the evacuation order.”
The Suzukis returned to their home from Hirono, a town adjacent to Naraha, where they have been evacuated.
“My own home is the best place to relax,” Haruo says.
The elderly couple used to live in the house together with their daughter, her husband and two children. But the accident forced the young couple to evacuate to Oita Prefecture on Kyushu island with their two children. They feared that the radiation from the accident could adversely affect the health of the two elementary school pupils.
Among the approximately 7,500 residents in Naraha, 428 people of 168 households applied for the special return program. The Naraha municipal government plans to make a final decision next spring on when to allow residents to return to the town on a permanent basis.
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