DATE, Fukushima Prefecture–Kenichi Hasegawa’s home videos and photos do not contain the usual fare. They show cows heading for slaughter, villagers bidding farewell, and men in protective suits roaming the village.
Hasegawa said he bought a single-lens reflex camera and a camcorder immediately after the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami triggered the accident at the nearby Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in March 2011.
“I have to keep records for the sake of posterity,” said Hasegawa, a 60-year-old dairy farmer.
His home village of Iitate in this northeastern prefecture was once filled with edible wild plants in spring, mushrooms in autumn and wild boar hunts in winter.
But that peaceful life in the mountains came to an abrupt end when the nuclear accident spewed radioactive substances over the village.
Eight members of four generations in Hasegawa’s family once lived together. They are now separated in four households.
Hasegawa lives with his wife in temporary housing in Date, Fukushima Prefecture.
Driven by the will to persevere, Hasegawa has published two books and a photo collection, in addition to a 70-minute documentary film he released in autumn. He has been to various parts of Japan, Germany and South Korea to give about 200 speeches about the plight of the village.
His photos feature scenes of the departure of his 50 dairy cows, some for a slaughterhouse and others for new owners; his empty cow barn; villagers evacuating Iitate; dilapidated farmland; and the radioactive cleanup work that continues to devour huge expenses.
Hasegawa plans to soon publish his second collection of photos, which will document changes in the village and the travails of villagers following the nuclear accident.
Nearly three years after the nuclear disaster started, an increasing number of Iitate villagers are yearning for land to live on and houses to live in. Hasegawa has acute concerns about the policy line of the village government, which sets return as a foregone conclusion.
The farmer says he believes Iitate’s villagers will fall apart unless a temporary, replacement village is built soon.
“I don’t want others to experience what we have undergone,” Hasegawa said in his characteristic, hoarse voice. “It’s enough that we have had to go through it.”
He said his foremost desire was to be able to live with all his family members under a single roof.