The blog of Tokyo based photographer and photojournalist, Damon Coulter

Bye Bye

dc tomioka 201305028287Tomioka, Fukushima, Japan. Thursday May 2nd 2013

Cars can no longer cross the bridge in Tomoioka Bay. The earthquake dropped it about 30 centimetres and on the other side the radiation readings climb rapidly to levels that are getting unsafe. We walked it across on our last day  in Fukushima. It was a windy day and the sound of the wind howling through the arches and railing of the bridge was unsettling. Indeed it would have been hard to find a scarier soundtrack for the foolish steps we took into this empty, overgrown place. We were about 7 kilometres from the Daichi nuclear power station and had we been stupid enough to leave the road and wander the paths through the highly radioactive undergrowth to a nearby hilltop, we could probably have seen it.

Hillside, forest and craggy coastlines, this part of Tomioka must have been a nice place to live before the events of March 11th 2011 which made the encounter I had above even more poignant. I saw this couple dressed in makeshift radiation suits photographing the area as I crossed the bridge.

“is this your house?” I asked the man when I got closer and he had started to leave.

“Yes it is.” he said.

Then he turned and looked at the house and in the saddest tone I’ve ever heard said “Bye Bye”

He said no more, he didn’t need to.

He crossed back over the bridge, pausing one last time to look at his house, perhaps for the last time ever. Then he went down and we carried on into a place where there have been many similar, sad good-byes.


More images of Tomioka Town inside the Fukushima Exclusion Zone at my archive here:


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