English signs along National Road No. 114 on the border between Namie and Kawamata in Fukushima Prefecture
English signs tell tourists to stay away from Fukushima plant
July 4, 2018
NAMIE, Fukushima Prefecture–English signs now appear along roads in Fukushima Prefecture to prevent curious, thrill-seeking or simply ignorant foreign tourists from entering areas of high radiation.
The central government’s local nuclear emergency response headquarters set up 26 signs at 12 locations along the 70-kilometer National Road No. 114 and elsewhere starting in mid-April. The signs carry straightforward messages in English, such as “No Entry!”
In September, a 27-kilometer section of the road opened in Namie’s “difficult-to-return zone” near the crippled Fukushima No. 1 power plant for the first time since the Great East Japan Earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster in March 2011.
The road is mainly used by construction vehicles involved in rebuilding projects and dump trucks transporting contaminated soil to intermediate storage facilities.
Motorists can use the reopened section, but they are urged to refrain from stopping or venturing outside their vehicles. Pedestrians and motorcyclists are still forbidden from the area because of the high radiation levels.
But an increasing number of people from abroad are visiting the area, some to snap photos, according to Fukushima prefectural police.
Many have gotten out of their vehicles or entered the “no-go” zone by motorbike or foot.
Prefectural police asked the central government for help to deal with the trespassers.
“When police questioned foreigners who were taking photos in the difficult-to-return zone, they said they did not know that entering the area was prohibited,” a police official said.
Officials also wanted to avoid any confusion from the signs with technical terms, such as “difficult-to-return zones,” which are the areas most heavily polluted by radiation that remain essentially off-limits even to residents.
An official of the Cabinet Office’s nuclear disaster victim life assistance team, which developed English messages, said they decided to use simpler expressions, such as “high-dose radiation area,” for the signs.
The signs have already produced a positive effect.
“A foreign motorcyclist came here the other day, so I told the person to return by pointing to the English signboard,” said a security guard who monitors the Namie-Kawamata border zone at the Tsushima Gate.
Tourists told to stop taking selfies in Fukushima nuclear disaster zone
Tour guide Shiga and a tourist check radiation levels at Joroku Park, near TEPCO’s tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Namie town
4 July 2018
Authorities in Fukushima are installing warning signs in English telling thrill-seeking tourists not to stop their cars or pose for selfies in areas that still have dangerously high levels of radiation.
Seven years after the disaster at the prefecture’s nuclear plant, the government’s nuclear emergency response office has placed 26 signs along a 45-mile stretch of National Road 114 and a number of smaller roads in areas designated as “difficult-to-return” for local residents, the Asahi newspaper reported.
One road through the town of Namie was only reopened in September and is primarily used by construction vehicles and lorries removing contaminated waste and debris to landfill sites.
Motorists are able to access the roads, but authorities have installed signs after tourists were spotted getting out of their cars to take photos. Pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists are still banned from entering the restricted zone.
The signs read “No Entry!” for motorcycles, mopeds, light vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians, while others warn of “High-dose radiation area” and advise “Please pass through as quickly as possible”.
Fukushima police said they were forced to appeal to the government for help because of the rising number of incidents involving tourists who were unaware that getting out of a vehicle transiting the zone is still prohibited.
The areas that still have levels of radiation that would be harmful to human health lie to the north-west of the Fukushima nuclear plant and were under the plume of radioactivity released when a series of tsunami destroyed the cooling systems of four reactors in March 2011.
Local residents are permitted to return to their homes for brief, closely supervised visits, but the government admits that despite efforts to decontaminate the region, it will be many years before they are able to return on a permanent basis.
Long considered one of Japan’s most unspoilt and beautiful prefectures, Fukushima is today trying to rebuild a reputation among foreign and domestic tourists. A number of other travel firms are now offering tours to some of the towns most severely damaged as a result of the magnitude-9.1 earthquake, the tsunami it triggered and the nuclear disaster.