There is controversy in Japan over tourist visits to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear site.
For now only media tours are allowed, but some locals who survived the tsunami that followed a magnitude nine-earthquake five years ago want the nuclear power plant to be a centre of so-called ‘dark tourism’.
The head of the group behind the idea, Hiroki Azuma, said, for now, opposition is too strong: “Most Japanese simply are not capable of supporting or even understanding that it is possible to turn a major disaster into something that will bring people over, or that building a museum that would show the facts of the disaster can provide a good lesson for future generations.”
He added: “I believe the Fukushima nuclear disaster is a problem not only for Japan but for all humanity. It is quite important for people all over the world to know how big the Fukushima nuclear disaster was and what kind of harm it has caused.”
There is a Fukushima tourism centre in Japan’s capital Tokyo. It is staffed by people from the region and sells food produced there which has been checked to make sure it is safe.
The tourism centre staff are divided about tourism.
Some support the idea of showing visitors the aftermath of what happened.
Yoichi Murakata, who was evacuated from a town near the Fukushima plant right after the disaster, agreed with preserving the memories for posterity.
“Having experienced the disaster, I agree with ideas of the project that people from Tokyo and other areas try to preserve what remains there,” he said, adding he welcomed more visitors to understand how the nuclear disaster has destroyed their towns and communities.
But centre worker Mariko Matsumoto doesn’t think it should be commercialised: “I don’t believe we should be employing the word tourism to that region.”
So, unlike Chernobyl in Ukraine, scene of a 1986 nuclear reactor disaster, the Fukushima plant will not be an official tour site though there are visits voluntarily run by locals.
Ironically Hiroki Azuma, the man behind the plan for Fukushima to become a major tourist destination, organises tours taking Japanese people to Chernobyl.
Azuma believes poor understandings of what reconstruction means for Fukushima have prevented people from even considering his project, even though he says his proposal would mean more people visiting the region.
Though Fukushima has been rated as the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl at the maximum level seven by the International Atomic Energy Agency, many experts agree that the radioactive fallout from Fukushima was minimal compared to Chernobyl.
While too early to say, a Fukushima Medical University report concluded it was unlikely that radiation exposure caused by the 2011 disaster had caused any thyroid cancer and other adverse health risks for the immediate inhabitants.