After people were evacuated from the danger zone surrounding the Fukushima nuclear meltdown back in 2011, one man returned for his dogs that he left behind. He knew the risks involved with entering the exclusion zone, but was firm in his decision. However, he soon found a whole town of abandoned and starving animals, which he now dedicates his life to feeding and looking after.
Back in March 2011, people were quickly evacuated following the Fukushima nuclear reactor meltdown, which was triggered by a sudden earthquake and tsunami. However, amidst the crisis and hurried evacuation from the 12.4-mile (about 20 km) nuclear exclusion zone in Fukushima, pets and livestock were left locked at home or in stalls.
While no one dares to go back to the radioactive area, one man, who is now contaminated by radiation, returned for his dogs, and it changed his whole life.
“Our dogs didn’t get fed for the first few days. When I did eventually feed them, the neighbors’ dogs started going crazy,” Naoto Matsumura, 57, a retired rice farmer, told Vice.
“I went over to check on them and found that they were all still tied up.”
“Everyone in town left thinking they would be back home in a week or so, I guess.” But in turns out, the residents of Tomioka never returned, and the animals were left to fend for themselves.
“From then on, I fed all the cats and dogs every day. They couldn’t stand the wait, so they’d all gather around barking up a storm as soon as they heard my truck. Everywhere I went there was always barking. Like, ‘we’re thirsty’ or, ‘we don’t have any food.’ So I just kept making the rounds.”
Matsumura, known as “guardian of Fukushima’s animals,” decided to live alone to take care of the animals in Tomioka, six miles from the Fukushima Daichi nuclear power plant and within the 12.4-mile nuclear exclusion zone.
When he first returned to his town, he found scores of animals already dead from starvation. But, he’s made it his mission to help the animals that have survived.
“I was scared at first because I knew the radiation had spread everywhere,” Matsumura said of his feelings when he first went back home.
“The next thought in my head was that if I stayed too long, I’d end up with cancer or leukemia.”
“But they also told me that I wouldn’t get sick for 30 or 40 years. I’ll most likely be dead by then anyway, so I couldn’t care less.”
He feeds the remaining 50 cattle, pigs, cats, dogs, and even two ostriches every day.
“The longer I was with the animals, the more I came to see that we were all still healthy and that we would be OK.”
To protect himself, he eats and drinks food and water imported from safe areas. Matsumura is the last man standing in his town of Tomioka, and his extraordinarily noble sacrifice has touched countless hearts. May his story be shared far and wide, for this “guardian of Fukushima’s animals” has truly contributed to people’s faith in humanity!
Photo Credit: Facebook | Naoto Matsumura, Guardian of Fukushima’s Animals.