This past March 11 marked the second anniversary of the earthquake that devastated Japan, triggering the explosion at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant which caused a massive leak of radiation.
The human toll of the disaster has been well documented, but there’s another population victimized by the fallout, and that’s the animals abandoned in the radioactive exclusion zone.
But there’s one man who hasn’t forgotten these animals, and he’s 55 year-old Naoto Matsumura, also known as “Radioactive Man.”
Because he is being bombarded with as much as 17 times the amount of radiation a normal person is, and because for a while he was eating meat, vegetables, and fish that were contaminated by radiation, as well, some researchers at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency wanted to run some tests on him. “When I went down and let them look me over, they told me I was the ‘champion,’” he said, meaning he had the highest level of radiation exposure in Japan. “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’s called the “guardian of Fukushima’s animals” because of the work he does to care for the creatures abandoned by people in the rush to evacuate the danger zone.
Naoto initially fled south with his parents in the wake of the nuclear leak, but he ended up leaving them in Iwaki and returning to Tomioka. His reason for doing so was simple: he couldn’t abandon the animals that remained his family farm.
“I was scared at first because I knew the radiation had spread everywhere,” he told VICE back in 2013. “The next thought in my head was that if I stayed too long, I’d end up with cancer or leukemia. But, 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.”
Watch VICE’s documentary “Alone in the Zone” in the video below (Click the lower right link on the video for subtitles):