On March 11, 2011, there was a major earthquake off the coast of Japan. As a result, a tsunami wave that was almost 50 feet tall crashed into the coastline of Honshu Island (Japan's main island).
The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant is located in the Fukushima prefecture on Honshu Island. When it was hit by the earthquake and the resulting tsunami, the plant's power supply was disabled, causing a nuclear disaster.
Five years later, photographer Arkadiusz PodniesiÅ„ski traveled to Fukushima to document what the area looks like today.
In addition to decontaminated soil removal, workers must scrub every single rooftop by hand. Residents are still not permitted to return to their homes until decontamination procedures are complete, and many are distrustful of the authorities and therefore unwilling to return at all.
Dosimeters (handheld Geiger counters that measure radiation levels) near the abandoned cars give a reading of 6.7µSv/h. This is considered an elevated risk, even five years after the initial nuclear disaster.
In some areas, such as in the town of Futaba, decontamination work has still not begun. Futaba is located in the no-go zone on the border of the ruined power station and, as a result, has the highest levels of contamination of any town in the zone. The streets are completely deserted.
PodniesiÅ„ski and his colleagues traveled to the cattle farm of Masami Yoshizawa, who returned to his farm shortly after the nuclear disaster in order to take care of his animals. The cracks in his land were caused by the earthquake in 2011.
Unfortunately, Masami Yoshizawa's land is not the only thing still affected by the nuclear disaster. Not long after the accident, Yoshizawa's cows began developing white spots on their skin. Yoshizawa suspects this is from eating contaminated grass. Unfortunately, he cannot afford the expensive tests to determine exactly what is causing the spots.
Most of the buildings near the coast were completely destroyed by the tsunami, but PodniesiÅ„ski visited a school that was able to remain standing, as it was constructed from concrete. The children who attended the school were able to escape the tsunami by running to nearby hills. The clock on the school tower is stopped at the time the tsunami hit the school and cut power to the building.
In one of the first floor classrooms, there is a faint mark below the chalkboard of the water level from the tsunami wave. On the chalkboard itself there are messages written by former residents, schoolchildren and workers that are meant to boost morale.
Many of the buildings that remain standing are filled with everyday items that the people of Fukushima used in their daily lives. The only thing that appears to be missing are the many people who had to relocate after the nuclear disaster.
The shelves of a nearby convenience store are still stocked with bottles of liquor, but the layers of dust and the debris strewn throughout the building show that it hasn't had any customers for years. It will still be a long time before anyone is allowed to shop there again.