Retrace our steps

Hiroyuki Igari lives in Iwaki City (40 km south of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant) and runs a café with his wife. Most of his close friends used to live in the off-limits zones. He is at a Japanese restaurant which was managed by his childhood friend. This restaurant is located 500 meters from the coastline, 9 km from the nuclear plant and close to Tomioka Station.

What would happen if the nuclear evacuees all returned home at once? At times, almost all the 80,000 nuclear refugees forced to evacuate areas near the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant have felt compelled to return to their homes, schools and businesses.

When they did so, they struggled to recognize places once been so familiar to them. Damage from the earthquake and tsunami of March 2011, years of absence and the arrival of rodents had rendered the buildings practically unrecognizable.

We asked former residents or inhabitants from the Fukushima region as well as some actual property owners to join us inside the no-go zone and open the doors to these ordinary, but now unfriendly, places. Facing the camera, they were asked to act as normally as possible – as if nothing had happened.

The idea behind these almost surreal photographs was to combine the banal and the unusual. Against the backdrop of the historical nuclear accident, these images gain a real plausibility.