Foreign visitors to Fukushima send positive messages back to rest of the world : Or "How to Advertise an ongoing Nuclear crisis"


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Alexandor Klenberger from Austria takes a photo of “a miracle pine tree” that survived the 2011 tsunami in Minami-Soma, Fukushima Prefecture. (Natsuki Edogawa)
By NATSUKI EDOGAWA/ Staff Writer
FUKUSHIMA–In Iitate, Fukushima Prefecture, where radiation levels remain high from the nuclear accident, a radiation detector’s piercing beep was heard, which echoed over the mountain village.
Radioactivity readings were 0.8 microsievert per hour–the day’s highest.
Alexandor Klenberger, 26, an Austrian language teacher and journalist, said it would still be difficult to live here.
“But (Iitate) is not Chernobyl,” he said. “We can see flowers growing. Houses are being taken care of. I feel this village is alive.”
Foreign visitors have returned and are on the increase in Fukushima Prefecture more than four years after the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, tsunami and Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant accident.
Unlike some videos posted on the Internet that made light of the accident, visitors such as Klenberger are viewing Fukushima in a positive manner.
He traveled to Fukushima Prefecture to record the aftermath of the nuclear accident in August. Klenberger has covered the aftermath of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, and also offers language instruction to refugees from Syria and Afghanistan at home.
He took dozens of photos in the Odaka district in Minami-Soma, within the 20-kilometer zone from the crippled Fukushima No. 1 plant where the evacuation advisory has yet to be lifted.
Klenberger took shots of collapsed houses and bicycles lined up in the parking lot in front of JR Odaka Station.
“Sad,” he repeatedly murmured.
There was a moment, however, when Klenberger flashed a radiant smile–when he saw a lone pine tree that withstood the 2011 tsunami in the city’s Kashima district.
He recalled one symbolic tree in Cherynobyl, which fell down after all local residents were gone.
Klenberger is hopeful about the future of the “miracle” pine tree that survived the tsunami.
“It is difficult to imagine how it was like in the area before the earthquake and tsunami,” he said.
But he believes the pine tree will eventually draw locals back, he added.
It is rare to see news about Fukushima in his country, as Austrians are not interested in happenings in “a faraway country,” Klenberger said.
However, his story ideas on Chernobyl have been occasionally been picked up by local radio stations and newspapers.
He hopes the same will happen to his Fukushima stories as Japan will soon mark the fifth anniversary of the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster in March 2016.
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