This touching story is about house pets and what happens when they are left behind after a catastrophe. And about a man who put his life on the line to save them.
Known as “the last man in Fukushima,” Naoto Matsumura is the only person who still lives in the strip of land known as the “Death Zone” outside the nuclear reactor in Fukushima. But the reason why he exposes himself daily to the radiation emissions from the ill-fated reactor is heart wrenching.
As the radiation from the catastrophe spread to the nearby areas around Fukushima, Matsumura returned to look for his farm’s animals. But on the way home he discovered something terrible in the surrounding area: dogs, cats, ducks, pigs, cows, a pony, and even ostriches.
They all wandered the empty streets of the ghost town where their owners had abandoned them during their escape before the catastrophe. Matsumura couldn’t bear to see the hungry, thirsty, and desperate animals in Fukushima. He knew that he could not leave them behind but what could he do? He was just a farmer. But then he made a fatal decision: he would return to Fukushima every day to feed the cats and dogs. Without regard for his own health and safety.
“They can hardly wait for when I come. So they come running as soon as they see my truck. No matter where I go, there’s always someone barking. As if they are saying ‘we are thirsty’ or ‘we have nothing to eat.’”
4 years later, Matsumura feeds the animals and himself with donations that he receives from all over the world. The people sympathize with his fate and those of the dogs and cats. Many of the animals can still be seen wearing the collars their owners gave them.
Thousands of animals have already died in agony in and around Fukushima: Matsumura has found skeletons of chained up dogs and the rotting corpses of thousands of chickens. “We were all abandoned by our government,” says Matsumura in an interview. “That’s why I’m staying here with the animals.” He wants to remain in the death zone to serve as a memorial for all those who could not save themselves.
By now, Matsumura has had a son, Naoki. Because he did not want to abandon the animals in the zone, he still visits them every day. He wants to live as an example for his son. But he does not know if he will ever be able to live with his son and his mother. For without him, the last residents of Fukushima would die. Matsumura is unable to stand by and watch that happen.
If you’d like to see pictures of his work in Fukushima take a look at this Slideshow:
Every day this man witnesses the untold amount of suffering of animals that still wait for their owners, even though they will never return. The fact that he still cares for these creatures, in such a highly dangerous situation, is more than remarkable. Share this article about a brave man whose love for animals knows no bounds.