Mark Byrnes is a former senior associate editor at CityLab who writes about design and architecture.
A district inside the city of Tamura is letting people back in for the first time since 2011.
Residents of Tamura's Miyakoji, a neighborhood 12 miles from Fukushima's nuclear power plant, were allowed to return home this week for the first time since the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdown on March 11, 2011.
Over 160,000 people in surrounding towns were evacuated after the disaster. According to Reuters, one third of them still live in temporary housing while the Japanese government proceeds with $30 billion worth of decontamination work. According to the Associated Press, evacuees receive $1,000 a month from the government and a one-time $9,000 payment for moving back to their home once their town is declared safe.
The reopening of the district is seen by some as a return to normalcy. One Tamura resident who works for a non-profit helping with the city's recovery efforts tells the AP, "people want to go back and lead proper lives, a kind of life where they can feel their feet are on the ground." But not everyone is on board. Kitaro Saito, a local who doesn't think it's safe to move back tells Reuters, "relatives are arguing over what to do," adding, "the town will be broken up."
Radiation levels in selected spots around Miyakoji, according to February's official readings, ranged from as low as 0.11 microsieverts per hour to 0.48 in February. For comparison, central Tokyo yesterday measured 0.034 microsieverts per hour.