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Yavianice

Pictures around the Joban line in the Fukushima exclusion zone (August 2016 & June 2019)

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Yavianice

Last summer (in August 2016) I traveled on the Joban Line between Tokyo and Sendai. Due to the nuclear disaster the part around Namie is closed, between the stations Tatsuta and Odaka. Between these stations runs a very irregular bus service. I have never been to an irradiated zone before, and I must say the experience was quite otherworldly. At first, the area is quite ordinary, just like any rural Japanese community. Until you notice that all the houses and cars are abandoned and overgrown. Eventually, in the heart of the exclusion zone, earthquake and tsunami damage is clearly visible, but the roads and traffic lights are all restored (and in case of the latter, obeyed). All side roads are closed off and guarded. To the north and south of the radiation zone there are many temporary housing buildings and "black bags" full of irradiated debris and soil, along with very many construction sites. I have driven very close to the power plant, though I do not have clear pictures of it. Also, you can only really see the tall chimneys that are next to the exploded reactors, as well as the many power lines that cross the road.

 

Here are some pictures I made of my trip. I have a lot more, but these are the ones that are 'train related'. During my trip I also visited other tsunami hit areas, between Omoto (Sanriku Railway) and Hachinohe, and Sendai - Onagawa. It was astonishing how quickly the Japanese are fixing the area up and clearing away most of the debris. If someone is interested I can upload some more train related pictures of these areas.

 

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Tatsuta station, the final station of the trains on the Joban line on the southern border with the exclusion zone.

 

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The Tatsuta station building from the bus. The geiger counter is placed just to the right of this picture, along with a big tourist map of the area.

 

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The overgrown remnants of the Joban line, between JR Namie and JR Futaba (37°28'25 N, 141°00'26 E) 

 

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JR Odaka station, the northern border of the exclusion zone, looking south. Train services have only recently been resumed to this station.

 

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JR Odaka station building, with a very friendly station manager.

 

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Geiger counter next to JR Odaka.

 

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The loneliest train in Japan @ JR Odaka, serving the Joban line between JR Odaka and JR Soma (Between Soma and Hama-Yoshida the Joban line was destroyed, though it will be opened again soon for regular service).

 

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The inside of the train. Note the lack of advertisements on the walls. 

 

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JR Sakamoto on the closed section of the Joban line between Soma and Watari station. The original was destroyed in the tsunami, the Joban line has now been constructed on a long viaduct with brand new stations. This section of the Joban line will soon be reopened.

 

EDIT: Added coordinates of the overgrown Joban line picture

Edited by Yavianice
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railsquid

Interesting, thanks for posting!

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dmustu

Thanks for that, I would love to see some more pictures, both train and not train related.

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medusa

Again it reminds me to "Stalker".

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westfalen

Good to see some photos of the area slowly but surely returning to normal rather than reading some of the over the top US websites that would have you believe there are two headed cows and the like roaming the country side.

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Yavianice

This year, in June 2019, I returned to the exclusion zone. Here are some pictures of the trip (both train related and not train related).

 

Note that all pictures from within the exclusion zone are made with permission of the official guide. If you want to visit the area I can highly recommend the official guide which is done by locals with official permission of the local government(s). https://real-fukushima.com/

 

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The train to Namie from Haranomachi. Last time I was in the exclusion zone, the train only ran until Odaka. This time I also went to Odaka, because that's where the tour started. It was a terrible dreary day so the pictures may be a bit dark, sorry.

 

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JR Odaka station in 2019, not much has changed. Although Odaka has received a few more buildings, there are lots of empty lots where the last time there were abandoned or destroyed buildings. Few residents returned, and even the young mother with the young kid in the souvenir shop next to the station (behind me) moved to another city for better school opportunities.

 

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The interior of JR Odaka. It's just like any other small rural station in Japan except that it has a radiation meter above the station master window.

 

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The JR fare map in JR Odaka station. Note the gap between JR Namie and JR Tomioka, which will be reopened in 2020 in time for the Tokyo Olympics. The part between JR Tomioka and JR Tatsuta has recently been reopened, as you can tell from the sticker on the map.

 

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The road to the plant. This is the main road through the exclusion zone that I also drove over the first time. Note the large amount of trucks, which drive all day every day collecting trash or bringing new building supplies.

 

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A storage site for contaminated soil and trash; one of many. The whole area around the plant will be turned into a large dumping ground where all the abandoned buildings, top soil, vegetation etc. is sorted and stored. You can also clearly see it on google maps, too.

 

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A fish farm, just south of the nuclear power plant, directly on the coast. This is the closest to the power plant that we were allowed to go. Note that this picture is made with official permission. What is not pictured is the steep coastline behind me, which was around a 10 meter steep drop. It was really shocking to imagine that the tsunami wave easily overwhelmed this fish farm and utterly destroyed it and killing everyone inside.

 

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Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. If you look closely you can see the nuclear reactors with their safety constructions around it. This picture was made from a hill, on which a retirement home is located. When the area was evacuated due to the radiation emergency, the elderly people were basically left behind to fend for themselves. Only several days later the elderly people were evacuated, which happened in a rather chaotic fashion, also leading to the unfortunate deaths of some of them. I was not allowed to make pictures of the retirement home but Google Streetview captured it. The retirement home is left as it was, with the calendars in the office still at 3 March 2011.

 

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JR Okuma station under construction. The Japanese government is fast tracking the restoration efforts of the Joban Line to open it as soon as possible, before the 2020 Olympics. While the town is still in the evacuation zone, the station will be reopened, as well as a small business hotel right next to it where anyone can stay the night. The city right next to it is planned to be completely demolished before that time, more on that below.

 

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The street connecting downtown Okuma with JR Okuma station. It was permitted to make pictures in this area.

 

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Downtown JR Okuma. Not pictured, but there are many cleanup crews cleaning up and demolishing houses. When the owner of the building gives permission, their house or store is valued, the owner receive a compensation, and the government purchases it and demolishes it. If you want to see empty cityscapes like this, don't wait too long, because they plan to eventually demolish all of Okuma town.

 

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Abandoned cars and buildings in Okuma town.

 

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This building, in Okuma town, is the disaster crisis management center. When the earthquake happened, it was prepared to host crisis teams and direct communications between the government, inhabitants and rescue workers, but before that could happen, the area was evacuated (including the few people in this building) due to the nuclear emergency, and this building was never used and now sits abandoned.

 

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The tour ended at JR Tomioka, and surprisingly, the regional train to JR Iwaki turned out to be a JR651 series. I've never ridden one before so it was a very cool experience, since they will be retired soon. This was a 4 part train.

 

Because it was such a rainy day, and taking pictures was very restricted, I did not make pictures of the following items:

 

- Namie town, and Namie shopping center. Highly recommended though, the people are very friendly!

- New Okuma town. As I mentioned, Okuma town is being completely demolished, and a whole new Okuma town is being built just south of it to host the people that work on the decommissioning of the plant, and the people that choose to return to Okuma town. This village is completely brand spanking new and looks rather cool, but has no shops at all save for the tiniest convenience store I've been in.

- Outer districts of Old Okuma town. Most of the people that lived in Old Okuma town worked at the nuclear power plant, so it's a bit like Chernobyl as that the inhabitants earned more than the average other people in the area, and had plenty of kids, and lots of "miracle of the atom" name related stores, slogans, etc. The houses in the old town are sometimes brand new, very big and american looking with an expensive car in front of it and solar panels on top of it. All abandoned.

- Tomioka station and Tomioka nuclear "propaganda" center. The latter is a TEPCO sponsored museum showing the plants inner workings, the day of the disaster, and decommissioning work. The museum is highly criticized by the local population for showing TEPCO in a too positive light. Taking pictures was not allowed anywhere in the center.

 

Traveling through the exclusion zone, even through parts that are usually off limits (the so-called red zone) was a very baffling and otherworldly experience, even moreso than my first visit. I will definitely visit it in the future again. All of the residents are super friendly and I got the impression that they are happy that tourists are coming and spending money, and to show that there is nothing to be afraid of (to remove the stigma that many japanese people have of the area due to the radiation).

 

Edited by Yavianice
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chadbag

I get broken links on all the pics.   I can right-click and open the pic in a new window, which works.  But inline I get broken images -- even with multiple refresh cycles.

Edited by chadbag

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cteno4

The images are showing here.

 

very interesting tour! Thanks

 

jeff

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chadbag
2 minutes ago, cteno4 said:

The images are showing here.

 

very interesting tour! Thanks

 

 

They show for me now too.   Strange as I refreshed a dozen times.  Then went took a reak to solder some track feeder connectors until your reply, and now a refresh fixed it.


Ah the wonders of browsers, http, etc.

 

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cteno4

Picts are on google so may have been “processing” (happens a lot with larger files and google).

 

jeff

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Kiha66

Very interesting!  The restriction on photos sounds very soviet, what was the reasoning?  I can see if its a personal home or in the museum, but it sounds like a lot of general landscapes were off limits for photos and I cant quite tell why.

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Martijn Meerts
6 hours ago, Yavianice said:

Traveling through the exclusion zone, even through parts that are usually off limits (the so-called red zone) was a very baffling and otherworldly experience, even moreso than my first visit. I will definitely visit it in the future again. All of the residents are super friendly and I got the impression that they are happy that tourists are coming and spending money, and to show that there is nothing to be afraid of (to remove the stigma that many japanese people have of the area due to the radiation).

 

You probably got exposed to more radiation on the plane to Japan, than you did while in the exclusion zone to be honest ...

 

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Yavianice
4 hours ago, Martijn Meerts said:

 

You probably got exposed to more radiation on the plane to Japan, than you did while in the exclusion zone to be honest ...

 


I know! But most people think, when you mention Chernobyl or Fukushima that there are mutants everywhere and that you die within 3 minutes and that everything glows in the dark.

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Yavianice
5 hours ago, Kiha66 said:

Very interesting!  The restriction on photos sounds very soviet, what was the reasoning?  I can see if its a personal home or in the museum, but it sounds like a lot of general landscapes were off limits for photos and I cant quite tell why.


Private property was the biggest reason, though also some government operations were not allowed to be photographed. The red zone is strictly controlled and they want to avoid “Netflix dark tourist - esque” situations.

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Grue

Very interesting story and photos. I registered to make some corrections since I'm interested in this area and plan to ride the reopened Joban line in 2020 (I have previously visited reopened Tomioka station in 2017).

 

On 9/27/2019 at 2:50 AM, Yavianice said:

 

The JR fare map in JR Odaka station. Note the gap between JR Namie and JR Tomioka, which will be reopened in 2020 in time for the Tokyo Olympics. The part between JR Tomioka and JR Tatsuta has recently been reopened, as you can tell from the sticker on the map.

 

Tatsuta-Tomioka was reopened in 2017 so not that recently.The sticker is due to the construction of a new J-Village station which opened in April, 2019 together with the complex itself. J-Village would be the starting place of Olympic torch relay in 2020.

 

On 9/27/2019 at 2:50 AM, Yavianice said:

JR Okuma station under construction. The Japanese government is fast tracking the restoration efforts of the Joban Line to open it as soon as possible, before the 2020 Olympics. While the town is still in the evacuation zone, the station will be reopened, as well as a small business hotel right next to it where anyone can stay the night. The city right next to it is planned to be completely demolished before that time, more on that below.

 

There's no Okuma station, this is (probably) Ōno station. Photos of its construction are pretty hard to find compared to Futaba station so thanks for posting one. Another interesting "excluded" station is Yonomori station which was famous for azalea bushes planted on the slopes to the side of the tracks, I wonder if they'll replant them...

 

On 9/27/2019 at 2:50 AM, Yavianice said:

uc?export=view&id=1oNHnY9sIMkZAeJcYBq2eR

The tour ended at JR Tomioka, and surprisingly, the regional train to JR Iwaki turned out to be a JR651 series. I've never ridden one before so it was a very cool experience, since they will be retired soon. This was a 4 part train.

 

I also managed to ride this train from Tomioka to Iwaki, it makes only two round trips on this route per day. It was previously used as Joban line limited express Hitachi between Iwaki and Sendai. Apparently it has a feature where some seats can be rotated to face the row of seats behind them, too bad I didn't know about this at the time.

 

On 9/27/2019 at 2:50 AM, Yavianice said:

- Tomioka station and Tomioka nuclear "propaganda" center. The latter is a TEPCO sponsored museum showing the plants inner workings, the day of the disaster, and decommissioning work. The museum is highly criticized by the local population for showing TEPCO in a too positive light.

Considering many residents work for TEPCO (there's also another plant Fukushima Daini in Tomioka) I doubt that. I have read mostly positive comments about it from those who visited it.

By the way there's a convenience store near Tomioka station where various local souvenirs are sold. Including one of the winners of JR East souvenir grand prix Hamado~ri Ramen, which was developed by an owner of a local ramen restaurant (in nearby Sakura Mall Tomioka) as a representative ramen of Fukushima Hamadori coast (other famous Fukushima ramen is Kitakata ramen from Aizu region). There might be also sake brewed from Tomioka rice and other rare and unique souvenirs.

 

 

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Yavianice
26 minutes ago, Grue said:

Tatsuta-Tomioka was reopened in 2017 so not that recently.The sticker is due to the construction of a new J-Village station which opened in April, 2019 together with the complex itself. J-Village would be the starting place of Olympic torch relay in 2020.

That’s still recent. I meant it more in the sense that, since I went there the last time, it wasn’t open.

 

27 minutes ago, Grue said:

There's no Okuma station, this is (probably) Ōno station. Photos of its construction are pretty hard to find compared to Futaba station so thanks for posting one. Another interesting "excluded" station is Yonomori station which was famous for azalea bushes planted on the slopes to the side of the tracks, I wonder if they'll replant them..

Yes. Ono Station in Okuma town. Obviously the station was not accessible, but there is a large „welcome to Okuma“ sign next to it. Hence. I regret the error.

 

29 minutes ago, Grue said:

 Considering many residents work for TEPCO (there's also another plant Fukushima Daini in Tomioka) I doubt that. I have read mostly positive comments about it from those who visited it.

This is not what the local, non TEPCO affiliated guide told me. The power plants are highly criticized by the original non-TEPCO affiliated residents for being constructed here but not directly providing for the region (besides economic bustle from TEPCO engineers living here) since the power is sent directly to Tokyo. And now because of a lack of oversight and safety measures the original residents are stuck with the mess or unable to return home, besides having a trauma from the triple disaster (losing livelihood, their home, most of the town and their friends which some had to leave behind to perish because of evacuation orders). These problems are all being blamed (mostly) on TEPCO, and the museum is being criticized for it and for framing the disaster in a too “we couldn’t help it” light to which residents do not agree.
 

 

39 minutes ago, Grue said:

I also managed to ride this train from Tomioka to Iwaki, it makes only two round trips on this route per day. It was previously used as Joban line limited express Hitachi between Iwaki and Sendai. Apparently it has a feature where some seats can be rotated to face the row of seats behind them, too bad I didn't know about this at the time.

As far as I’ve noticed on my trip the seats weren’t any different from other Japanese express trains that also have rotating seats?

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Sacto1985

I wonder has JR East mentioned when will they open the entire Jōban Line between Iwaki and Sendai? I believe the open sections south of Sendai are ready to accommodate the Hitachi limited express train when that resumes running.

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Yavianice
1 hour ago, Sacto1985 said:

I wonder has JR East mentioned when will they open the entire Jōban Line between Iwaki and Sendai? I believe the open sections south of Sendai are ready to accommodate the Hitachi limited express train when that resumes running.

 

March 2020. Just in time for the olympcs. http://annx.asianews.network/content/jr-east-plans-reopen-entire-joban-line-march-2020-92774

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