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The Last Man in Fukushima – Kindhearted Local Remains in Radioactive Zone to Feed the Animals

When the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant went into meltdown, after the devastating tsunami in 2011, most of the locals fled to overcrowded temporary shelters. So did Naoto Matsumura, but the brave man soon decided return to his home town of Tomioka, just to take care of the many animals left behind! And even though the radiation levels are dangerously high (17 times higher than normal) in this area, Matsumura says he isn’t going anywhere.

He now spends most of his time running a charity along with a few supporters, taking care of animals left behind in the evacuation zone. “I have two cats, one dog, one ostrich, one horse, 31 cows and four wild boars,” Matsumura proudly declared.

He started off by taking into his care the animals that were abandoned in his hometown. He described how most of the pets were still tied up, because locals had believed they would be back home soon. Matsumura took it upon himself to feed the animals every day. “They couldn’t stand the wait, so they’d all gather around barking up a storm as soon as they heard my truck,” he recalled. “Everywhere I went there was always barking. Like, “we’re thirsty” or, “we don’t have any food.”

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It was just dogs and cats at first, but when the government announced the disposal of cattle, he decided to care for them too. “I asked, ‘What are you doing?’ and they replied, ‘We are now going to kill all the cows.’ I told them, ‘Stop, I will take care of them.’ And that’s how I started collecting cows from all over.”

“If they were going to be used for meat it wouldn’t bother me,” he said. “That’s just the way life is. But why just slaughter them all and bury them? Animals and humans are the same. I wonder if they could kill people just as indiscreetly.”

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Matsumura earned the nickname ‘Radiation Man’ after being tested at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. He was found to have the highest levels of radiation exposure than anyone else in Japan. He continues to be bombarded with 17 times the radiation as a normal person, and eats produce that is all contaminated by radiation. Thankfully, he isn’t expected to fall ill for another 30 to 40 years. “I’ll most likely be dead by then anyway, so I couldn’t care less,” the 53-year-old said.

He is making an effort to eat relief supplies and drink spring water that has been checked for contamination. But his daily life is mostly unaffected by the radiation. “I got used to the radiation. It’s not like I can see it, after all,” he explained. “Other people who come here temporarily stop worrying about it, too… I’m sure if you guys came back here a few more times you’d stop caring.”

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Although he appears nonchalant, he admits that he did have his reservations at first. “I was scared at first because I knew the radiation had spread everywhere,” he admitted. “The next thought in my head was that if I stayed too long, I’d end up with cancer or leukemia. But, the longer I was with the animals, the more I came to see that we were all still healthy and that we would be OK.”

“I don’t have any plans, but as of now all I can say is that the nuclear power plant is bad,” he added. “If the disaster was only about the earthquake and tsunami, everyone could come back, and reconstruction would be done by now. After the nuclear disaster, nobody wants to come back, especially the younger generation.”

 

“I was born and raised in this town. When I die, it’s going to be in Tomioka.”

Photos: VICE Japan

Sources: VICE, SCMP

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