Neon pink and yellow banners flutter along the roadsides, their gentle flapping breaking an eerie stillness. The houses here are shut tight, the streets are nearly deserted, the fields that once sprouted rice, tomatoes and cucumbers are fallow.
Shigeo Karimata dons a hard hat and a mask and prepares to get out of his car.
“Some people say, ‘Oh, it looks like a festival!’” says the avuncular 62-year-old Environment Ministry worker. “Then they see the writing on the flags: ‘Decontamination Work in Progress.’”
A colleague pulls out a radiation-measuring machine. “0.29 microsieverts,” he says, looking at the...