The government is encouraging visits to the devastated areas to convince residents to return. About 70,000 people still live in temporary housing. Many still distrust the authorities, who claim it is safe to go home. Dark tourism is nothing new in Japan: The Aokigahara forest, a well-known tourist destination, is famous for attracting people who want to commit suicide.
Tokyo (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Fukushima has become the top disaster tourism destination, a mixture of voyeurism and the duty to remember.
Last year almost 100,000 people visited the cities hit by the terrible tsunami that killed thousands of people and caused nuclear meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.
The government claims that the area is now decontaminated, and that residents can return in complete safety.
Over the years, large numbers of visitors have come to the area, some on guided tours, meetings locals and taking a boat ride to see the devastated power plant.
The authorities have backed this trend, eager to show that "everything is back to normal" and thus convince the evacuees to return.
For now, there are more tourists than residents in places like Namie, a town declared safe in March 2017. Of the 21,000 residents who called it home before the disaster, only 700 have returned.
Overall, some 70,000 people are still living in temporary housing.
Still, not everyone is convinced about the effectiveness of the decontamination. Many mothers live in constant fear, taking their children to regular visits to check for thyroid cancer.
Such concerns do not seem to deter aficionados of dark tourism, people who like to visit places where tragic events were consummated like concentration camps, genocide sites or locations of natural disasters.
And Japan is not new to this kind of tourism. One example is the Aokigahara forest, also known as the Sea of Trees. Located to the north-east of Mount Fuji, it has become famous for its beauty and for attracting people who want to commit suicide.
The forest has had such a gripping effect on the world that it has been used as the backdrop of two recent Hollywood films: The Sea of Trees (2015) and The Forest (2016).