Namie-machi is a small city in Fukushima Prefecture sitting along the coast of the Pacific. We are blessed with both ocean and mountains, and known as a place where you can experience both the beauty of the sea and the forests. Tragically, however, since the nuclear accident caused by the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 11, 2011, all of Namie-machi’s 21,000 townspeople have had to flee their homes.
Two years have passed since the disaster, but people still aren’t allowed to enter Namie-machi. Many of the displaced townspeople have asked to see the current state of their city, and there are surely many people around the world who want a better sense of how the nuclear incident affected surrounding communities.
Working with Google, we were able to drive Street View cars through Namie-machi to capture panoramic images of the abandoned city exactly as it stands today. Starting today, this Street View imagery is available on Google Maps and the Memories for the Future site, so anyone from Namie or around the world can view it.
Here is one of Namie-machi’s main streets, which we often used for outdoor events like our big Ten Days of Autumn festival that saw 300 street stalls and 100,000 visitors.
Many buildings, like this one in the foreground, collapsed during the earthquake, and we still have not been able to remove them. We are also unable to repair damaged buildings and shops nor prepare them for the potential impact of further aftershocks.
This image shows an area located one kilometer inland from the Pacific Ocean. In the distance you can see Ukedo Elementary School. Nearby Ukedo Harbor once proudly boasted 140 fishing boats and 500 buildings, but suffered some of the worst tsunami damage. After being set off-limits, we have not been able to clean up the wreckage on the side of the road, including the many fishing boats that were washed several kilometers inland.
Ever since the March disaster, the rest of the world has been moving forward, and many places in Japan have started recovering. But in Namie-machi time stands still. With the lingering nuclear hazard, we have only been able to do cursory work for two whole years. We would greatly appreciate it if you viewed this Street View imagery to understand the current state of Namie-machi and the tremendous gravity of the situation.
Those of us in the older generation feel that we received this town from our forebearers, and we feel great pain that we cannot pass it down to our children. It has become our generation’s duty to make sure future generations understand the city’s history and culture—maybe even those who will not remember the Fukushima nuclear accident. We want this Street View imagery to become a permanent record of what happened to Namie-machi in the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster.
Finally, I want to make a renewed commitment to recovering from the nuclear hazard. It may take many years and many people’s help, but we will never give up taking back our hometown.
(Cross-posted and translated from the Google Japan Blog)
Posted by Mr. Tamotsu Baba, Mayor of Namie-machi, Fukushima, Japan