Twelve years after the Fukushima disaster, the citizens of the region are determined to recover tourism and preserve their ancestral traditions. Iwasawa Beach, once a popular surfing spot, reopened last year, and surf lovers have returned to the sea. Kentaro Yoshida, a surfer who runs a hotel near the beach, hopes that surfing will bring tourism back to the area. Local authorities continue to carry out weekly water tests, and official data shows almost zero radiation. However, some experts and citizens are concerned about the discharge of treated water from the nuclear plant into the Pacific Ocean.
The local surfers have been actively involved in cleaning up and rebuilding the beach, hoping for a brighter future for their spot. They are working hard to bring surfing back to the crest of the wave, as it can prevent reputational damage to the area caused by the discharge of treated water. Additionally, they want to assure people that the sea is safe.
Further into the region, we travel to Shirakawa, where we visit a pottery workshop belonging to Shinichi Yamada. This kind of pottery originated 350 years ago in Soma, one of the hardest-hit regions of the disaster. Despite their location just a few kilometers from the nuclear plant, the artisans did not lose faith in maintaining this ancient tradition. Some of them have already returned to Soma, while others, like Shinichi, hope to return soon.
Finally, we visit the Iwaki Yumoto Onsen, one of the oldest hot springs in Japan. Its hot springs are rich in minerals, have been emanating for over 1,300 years, and feed the many ryokan in the town. Since the disaster, Yoshio Satomi, the owner of ryokan Furutakiya, has worked tirelessly to revitalize the area and attract tourism. Yoshio strives to build a relationship of trust with the people by being truthful about the situation. His ryokan is not only the perfect place to heal and relax, but also to learn from the resilience of the Fukushima people and contribute to their efforts.
In conclusion, despite the disaster’s impact, the Fukushima people are resolute in their efforts to promote tourism and preserve their cultural heritage. While challenges remain, from the surfers to the artisans and hot spring owners, they embody the region’s spirit of perseverance and determination.