Fukushima fallout: Resentment grows in nearby Japanese city

Sun Aug 31, 2014 6:15pm EDT
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By Mari Saito and Antoni Slodkowski

IWAKI Japan (Reuters) - Like many of her neighbours, Satomi Inokoshi worries that her gritty hometown is being spoiled by the newcomers and the money that have rolled into Iwaki since the Fukushima nuclear disaster almost three and a half years ago.

"Iwaki is changing - and not for the good," said Inokoshi, 55, who echoes a sentiment widely heard in this town of almost 300,000 where the economic boom that followed the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl has brought its own disruption.

Property prices in Iwaki, about 60 km (36 miles) south of the wrecked nuclear plant, have jumped as evacuees forced from homes in more heavily contaminated areas snatch up apartments and land. Hundreds of workers, who have arrived to work in the nuclear clean-up, crowd downtown hotels.

But long-time residents have also come to resent evacuees and the government compensation that has made the newcomers relatively rich in a blue-collar town built on coal mining and access to a nearby port. Locals have stopped coming to the entertainment district where Inokoshi runs a bar, she says, scared off by the nuclear workers and their rowdy reputation.

"The situation around Iwaki is unsettled and unruly," said Ryosuke Takaki, a professor of sociology at Iwaki Meisei University, who has studied the town's developing divide. "There are many people who have evacuated to Iwaki, and there are all kinds of incidents caused by friction."


Residents across Fukushima prefecture hailed the first wave of workers who arrived to contain the nuclear disaster in 2011 as heroes. Cities like Iwaki also welcomed evacuees from towns closer to the meltdowns and explosions.   Continued...

A view shows the Izumitamatsuyu temporary housing estate, where 200 former Tomioka town residents have evacuated to, in Iwaki, Fukushima prefecture in this November 8, 2013 file photo.    REUTERS/Sophie Knight