10 Mars 2016
March 9, 2016
By YOSUKE FUKUDOME/ Staff Writer
TAMURA, Fukushima Prefecture--The once-thriving industry of log production for shiitake mushroom farming remains virtually nonexistent in Fukushima Prefecture after the 2011 nuclear disaster contaminated extensive mountain areas.
A year before the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami triggered the triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant on March 11, 2011, the prefecture produced logs for cultivating shiitake totaling 47,800 cubic meters, the third largest volume among Japanese prefectures.
But radioactive fallout from the nuclear accident meant that shiitake log production in the prefecture dwindled to about 1 percent of the pre-disaster level in 2014, which is having a serious impact on local industry.
In the Miyakoji district of Tamura, located about 20 kilometers inland from the crippled nuclear power plant, the lumber industry shipped around 200,000 logs annually before the 2011 disaster.
“More than 80 percent of this area’s land is covered by forests, and we cannot think of any other business opportunities that don’t involve forestry,” said Shoichi Yoshida, a 60-year-old executive of the Fukushima Central Forestry Association.
While the evacuation order covering an eastern strip of the district was lifted in 2014, radioactive levels of trees in the district remain above target levels, and the resumption of shipments is still nowhere in sight.
However, local forestry workers still routinely cut down oak and other trees, which are more than 20 years old, to maintain the mountain area’s capability of producing quality logs.