Written by Staff Writer
Wildlife is flourishing near the Fukushima nuclear power plant, even as international travel bookings to the area drop.
A steady stream of visitors are still arriving at a small reserve, behind the 30-meter radiation barriers on the outskirts of Tsuruga-ji, a busy intersection less than 10 kilometers (6 miles) from the site.
Friedrichs Garden , a resort 150 meters (492 feet) from the evacuation zone, has been attracting up to 3,000 visitors a month since October 2017, drawing criticism from some in Japan that the establishment is capitalizing on the disaster.
Friedrichs Garden hosted around 3,000 visitors a month before the accident, but it has boosted traffic since moving to its new location. (CNN)
While 16,000 residents were forced to evacuate in the wake of the triple meltdown on March 11, 2011, more than 1,600 stray cats and dogs are living free and wandering about in the area.
Miyabushin would be forgiven for thinking that pet owners were heading to the nearby port of Onahama to collect their beloved pooches. However, canine visits have actually fallen 50% since 2011, according to a recent government survey.
By comparison, visits to the flora and fauna preserve, which is about a 20-minute drive away, have more than doubled in the five years since it opened.
Visitors often take advantage of the free nature tours offered in preparation for a Royal Photo Obligation at the Fukushima Prefectural Museum, so it’s only natural that they would look at the habitat through rose-tinted glasses.
Timed visits are included in the ticket price, while the main attraction, a unique ‘bodipops with lenscuff in place’ Ewok Pavilion , doesn’t cost extra. (CNN)
The forest preserves includes a 16-seat Bodipops model after an Ewok from the “Star Wars” films. It features a lenscuff in place, a device used by humans to relieve eye pressure and reduce age-related macular degeneration, a major eye disease.
Poet Virginia Witterton, 31, from London, decided to visit the reserve, after visiting the nuclear emergency site for the first time on December 31, 2017.
“It was a real eye-opener, but some people seem to have got somewhat confused by a belief that radiation never affected humans,” she said.
“The nature reserve was a great meeting point — and we visited what was actually a clearing which had been cut down and subdivided by residents a few years after the nuclear accident — so it felt very natural.”
Americans Jenny Ziegler and Evan Barrett, who live in Nimanajima, near the epicenter of the nuclear crisis, bought tickets to the reserve while in town.
“We discovered the sanctuary while we were having brunch and were so impressed by what they have to offer,” Ziegler said.
“To come into a forest here and see wild animals and bats just being what they are at their best without any barriers has been a bit mind-blowing, and yet has been entirely in keeping with the natural surroundings.”