A clickbait post has appeared in the Daily Mail (I don’t encourage you to click, but if you want to check for yourself the link is at the end of this post) discussing the reopening of beaches on the coast of Fukushima Prefecture. While there is nothing factually wrong with the article, there is a lot of sensationalist language in there which needs some contextualising.
First, the article starts “Japanese daredevil surfers are risking radioactive water and sand to ride the waves”. Nobody is ‘risking’ anything. The water, seabed and indeed the fish within it are regularly monitored, hence why the beaches have been reopened. When I visited Misaki Park (a bit further south), families with kids were playing on the beach.
We are then told “Haunting images show empty streets, broken houses and gravestone near to Tairatoyoma beach”. This may well be true, but in this part of coastal Fukushima, broken houses and gravestones will be the result of lingering tsunami damage rather than evacuation orders. Indeed, the nearest area still under evacuation order is 40km to the north. Tairatoyoma was badly hit by the tsunami, that is true, but was never evacuated for reasons of radiation. I went to Toyoma in 2014 to interview fishers, and also stopped by the memorial to Japanese diva Hibari Misora, just round the corner at Shioyazaki Lighthouse.
The article comes with a selection of photos of abandoned streets and houses, which are “believed to have been photographed in Futaba.” This could refer to either Futaba County (the municipality which makes up Fukushima Prefecture’s central coast, where evacuation orders have slowly been lifted since 2012), or Futaba Township (the remains under evacuation order township immediately north of the Fukushima Dai’Ichi Nuclear Power Plant). In either case, the nearest location which could be called ‘Futaba’ is a good 20km north of Tairatoyoma beach.
Lastly, there is a photo captioned “a Japanese man stands on the edge of the restricted area.” The sign behind him is a standard ‘no entry’ sign, which does not necessarily mean it is the edge of a restricted area. Neither of the beaches mentioned in the article – Tairatoyoma to the south and Kitaizumi to the north – are near areas still subject to evacuation orders.
For a more nuanced take on surfing and the sea in coastal Fukushima, I suggest this well-written Guardian article.
If you’d like to know more about the research I’ve done on the social and cultural aspects of post-disaster recovery on the Fukushima coast, a couple of my papers are open access in the university repository:
The Daily Mail article URL is as follows, should you wish to check for yourself: