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Aftermath of Japan Tsunami

Does Fukushima Pose a Risk to Japan Travelers?

by Robert Schrader on March 15, 2018

When the Fukushima tsunami and earthquake occurred back in 2011, many people began pontificating about the safety of travel in Japan. This is ironic for a number of reasons, namely that Japan’s earthquake preparations are so comprehensive that not a single building fell due to the tremors themselves.

Speculation intensified once news of the Fukushima nuclear disaster broke, however, and while fear about a future Fukushima earthquake or tsunami has gradually let up, many people continue spreading lies about the safety of Japan in the context of Fukushima. It’s my hope that this blog post will help separate fact from fiction.

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What Actually Happened in Fukushima?

Chances are you’ve seen a Fukushima radiation map circulating around social media, but do you know that it’s probably fake? The fact is that while a certain amount of contaminated wastewater has leaked out of the plant since the original disaster, reports of measurable radiation traveling across the Pacific are as fake as fake news gets.

So, what actually happened? Well, after the Great Tohoku Earthquake (also known as the Fukushima earthquake), the resulting tsunami caused three nuclear meltdowns inside reactors of the Fukushima Daiichi Plant—the sheer force of it disabled the emergency stop-gap mechanisms that should’ve prevented such an eventuality.

Although radiation spread throughout Japan by air and water, in addition to the minimal amount of wastewater leaked into the ocean, experts estimate that Fukushima’s overall environment impact was only a small fraction of what the 1986 Chernobyl incident caused.

Places to Visit in Fukushima

Whether you’ve thought to travel to Fukushima or simply want an answer to the question “where is Fukushima?,” there’s a lot to know about this part of Japan. Located in the Tohoku region of northern Honshu, Fukushima is a somewhat unsung prefecture of Japan, lacking in major tourist attractions in spite of being scenic and worth a spot on your Japan trip, if you have the time of curiosity.

As far as the specifics of what to see in Fukushima? City-wise, Fukushima prefecture is home to Fukushima city itself, as well as Iwaki, Shirakawa and Aizu-Wakamatsu, which is home to a castle that dates back to the late 16th century. Mount Bandai, for its part, is popular among Tohoku residents as a ski and onsen destination, while Lake Inawashiro is the fourth-largest is all of Japan.

Sound good? A better piece of news is that spending time in most of Fukushima prefecture does not carry more risk than being anywhere else in Japan (or the worst, for that matter) in the aftermath of the disaster. The best news, however, is that your tourism dollars…er, yen will help ensure the residents of Fukushima can continue recovering financially from the expensive recovery that will continue for years to come. So, decide what to do in Fukushima you like best, and set to planning your trip.

Fukushima Cleanup and Future

Finding information about the Fukushima status can be difficult, both because of fake news as mentioned above, as well as mismanagement of the clean-up (physically and in terms of PR) by plant owners and Japanese nuclear authorities. To be sure, while residents of the North American west coast are more likely to see debris from the tsunami (or just ocean plastic in general) washing up on their shores, radioactive contamination of groundwater is a legitimate concern for residents of Fukushima and surrounding prefectures.

One silver lining of the Fukushima Daiichi radiation aftermath is that it’s forced Japan to invest more in renewable energy sources—only 11 of Japan’s 54 nuclear reactors have come back online since 2011, which has left a significant energy deficit. Fossil fuels, unfortunately, have also helped closed this gap, although the Tokyo Electric Power Corporation (TEPCO, the authority responsible for the plant) has assumed responsibility for the cost of importing excess oil and gas.

Is It Safe to Travel to Fukushima?

The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster will have lasting impacts on Japan’s ecology, economy and psychology, but does not pose a threat to tourists and other short-term visitors. While it’s never a bad idea to educate yourself on the reality of a particular situation, take care to avoid alarmist nonsense and other Fukushima fake news as you learn about the facts of the Fukushima incident. Depending on your travel preferences, it might even make sense to visit Fukushima prefecture itself on your next trip to Japan, so long as you have this Fukushima Japan guide handy.

About The Author

is the author of 201 posts on Japan Starts Here. Robert created Japan Starts Here so the web would have a beautiful hub of Japan travel information and inspiration. He also runs the popular website Leave Your Daily Hell.


Japan Starts Here is information—and inspiration—for all your trips to Japan. My name is Robert and I'm happy you're here!


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