On March 11th 2011, one of the greatest disasters of modern history hit Japan. A magnitude 9.0 earthquake occurred off the northeastern coast of Japan, triggering a tsunami, which caused catastrophic damage across the Iwate, Miyage and Fukushima prefectures and thousands of deaths and destroying over 100,000 homes. Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant was among the vital infrastructures that were damaged. This damage trigged a nuclear meltdown in three of the plant’s six nuclear reactors, resulting in the largest nuclear disaster since Chernobyl. This triple disaster had profound effects on residents, particularly on the 300,000 some residents who were evacuated from the areas surrounding Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Approximately 82,000 individuals remain in the temporary housing today.
The historical context of this nuclear disaster in Japan’s history, which includes the detonation of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki during the end stages of World War II, as well the Tokaimura nuclear power plant accidents of 1997 and 1999, make this disaster particularly emotionally charged for the Japanese people. Exploring research conducted on survivors of previous nuclear disasters in other countries, including those of Three Mile Island (TMI), Pennsylvania and the Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster, provides some insight into the potential long-term consequences of the Fukushima Daiichi disaster. In both TMI and Chernobyl, research has show that the psychological consequences of the disasters tend to have a much larger long-term impact on both residents and workers, than physical disability or illness does. Often, it is the residents who are removed from their homes for whom it is most difficult to return to a normal life.
The photographs in this section were taken in a Fukushima, including Gankoya Temperary Housing facility during the implementation period of a photovoice research project in June-July of 2015
In June-July of 2015, Daniel Jack Lyons conducted photovoice research to explore the experiences of the Gankoya Temporary Housing residents and associated community members. This study was conducted with the support of Mount Sinai Icahn School of Medicine and Fukushima University. 9 currently displaced residents of Gankoya Temporary Housing Unit in Soma City, Fukushima Prefecture, Japan, participated in the study. The photos and narratives produced by participants provide a unique perspective into how these displaced residents experience life in temporary housing, their anxieties about the past, and their hopes for their future. The core findings of the study are currently being analyzed and prepared for publication in a peer reviewed scholarly journal.