Images of temporary housing where many must live with inconvenience and a mountain of bulk bags full of radioactive soil – these are all photographs taken by 73-years old Mr. Toru Anzai after the 2011 March TEPCO Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster forced him to evacuate from his home of many years in Iitate, Fukushima.
Mr. Anzai started photography as a hobby when he was in his twenties, at a time when film cameras were still in their heyday. He recalls being especially fond of taking landscape photographs, capturing beautiful rural scenes or the sun rising from in between mountains.
“I’m not a professional, but I never wanted to miss an opportunity for a photograph, so I always had my camera with me. I even took it with me to work sites with heavy machinery, so sometimes my precious camera ended up getting broken.”
Those fond days when he was able to enjoy his hobby, capturing on film the landscapes that caught his imagination, were brought to an abrupt end.
No more photographs
Mr. Anzai himself was not hurt during the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami and subsequent Fukushima Nuclear disaster. Immediately after the accident, he joined search efforts to locate missing persons and saw with his own eyes a townscape completely transformed by the earthquake, and the unrecognisable bodies of victims as they were recovered from underneath buildings and rubble.
“Has anyone… has anyone… seen Granny?” The voices of family members desperately searching for missing loved ones haunted his ears.
“I always had my camera with me. And I knew that I should be taking pictures to keep a record of what was happening, but I just wasn’t able to bring myself to photograph what I saw.”
From that day, Mr. Anzai became unable to take photographs in the way that he had. Every time he picked up his camera, the scenes he saw during the rescue efforts, the destroyed townscape and the heartbreaking calls of people searching for family members, came rushing back, and his hands would freeze.
Three months after the disaster in June 2011, Mr. Anzai evacuated to Fukushima city from his house which was located 35 kilometres from the nuclear power plant. At the time, he thought that he would eventually be able to return home, however the radiation pollution was worse than imagined, and he ended up living in temporary housing for more than seven years. The temporary housing lacked facilities and he was often unwell due to the stress of living there. Overwhelmed by daily struggles, he stopped taking photographs.