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information about Fukushima published in English in Japanese media info publiée en anglais dans la presse japonaise

Why has slogan signboard been removed?

March 27, 2016

Fukushima town remains empty, but nuclear slogan disappears



March 27, 2016 (Mainichi Japan)

FUTABA, Fukushima (Kyodo) -- The clock at a train station here still points to 2:46 p.m., the time when the massive earthquake occurred on March 11, 2011, triggering devastating tsunami.

The town, which is home to part of Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s radiation-leaking Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, remains empty as all residents had to evacuate due to high levels of radiation following the nuclear accident triggered by the natural disaster five years ago.

At a gymnasium in Futaba, fallen ceiling panels were left without being cleared. Everything is covered with dust.

Just outside the gymnasium, there used to be a slogan which appeared frequently in media reports in the past five years. The signboard reading "Nuclear power: the energy for a bright future," has turned into an ironic reminder of how Japan had blindly worshipped nuclear energy's safety.

In December last year, the slogan was removed from the signboard by town authorities. The town explained that the signs had become "decrepit" and they could fall, according to Yuji Onuma, a Futaba resident who has evacuated to Ibaraki Prefecture near Tokyo.

Onuma, 40, is the one who created the slogan in 1988 when he was in the sixth grade. Back then, he was commended by the town mayor and felt "proud." Onuma recalls that he used to pass under the signboard every day on his commute to work.

But since the disaster and ensuing nuclear crisis, he started to feel "ashamed." Every time TV footage showed the slogan and the abandoned town as its background, Onuma says the conflicted feelings got worse.

Onuma then thought that he had to "deal with it once and for all." He asked the town to keep the signboard as it is to remember the nuclear accident, even though the request could see him face ridicule in the community.

On March 17 last year, however, the town assembly decided to remove it. Earlier in the month, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Futaba. Town officials trimmed grown tree branches to welcome the premier, which made the sign even more visible.

Onuma opposed the removal, collecting some 7,000 signatures for his cause. In June, Mayor Shiro Izawa decided to keep the removed signboard at the town hall, but Onuma's request that it remain in its original position was denied. The signboard itself was taken away on March 4 this year.

Continuing to show the slogan "may have been inconvenient for (the government's plan to) resume idle nuclear reactors," said Onuma.

"The town put priority on the elimination of the slogan rather than cleanup of the debris" that still remains on the streets in Futaba, he added.

The town's no-go zone is eerily silent. The only things that hint of the life that was once there are blinking traffic lights.

At an elementary school's gymnasium, red-and-write curtains hang on the walls, probably for a graduation ceremony that had been planned in March five years ago.

A radiation detection device placed next to a thermometer in the school yard showed radiation levels of 2.141 microsieverts per hour -- some 10-times the level the government expects in decontaminated areas.

Construction works to boost the quake-resistance of the school building had been finished the year before the earthquake and tsunami occurred. "The building survived the quake, but the works were in vain because of the nuclear accident," said Onuma.



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