Medical services are insufficient in the town with only one clinic operating at present. A supermarket opened in July last year, but its poor product lineup is forcing the woman and her husband to go shopping in a nearby city by car once a week.
Namie is close to Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, where an unprecedented triple meltdown occurred following the magnitude 9.0 earthquake and huge tsunami that hit mainly the Tohoku region including Fukushima on March 11, 2011.
“As much as nine years after the nuclear accident, many people now have their homes outside Namie,” the woman said. “It’s natural that we don’t have many children in the town.”
In 11 Fukushima municipalities where evacuation orders were set, the proportion of people actually living there among those registered as residents stood at 28% as of the end of January this year.
The share was lowest, at 8.6%, in Namie, followed by 13.2% in the town of Tomioka. All areas of Namie and Tomioka were subject to the evacuation orders. The highest proportion stood at 84.5%, in the city of Tamura, as only a part of the city was covered by the order.
A survey conducted by the Reconstruction Agency in fiscal 2018 showed that 50-60% of households that left Namie, Tomioka and Futaba after the nuclear accident have no plans to return. Of such households in Tomioka, 60.4% said they have already established their new foundations of life outside the town.
To lure back residents, affected municipalities are moving to beef up infrastructure, such as medical and commercial facilities. In addition, a robotics research and development base with the aim of establishing foundations for new industries and a hydrogen production facility are set to start operating within this year.
In early March, the evacuation orders will be lifted for some of high-radiation areas in Futaba, Tomioka and Okuma. On March, 14, the section between Tomioka and Namie stations of the Joban Line of East Japan Railway Co., will be brought back to service, with this marking the restart of operations on all sections of the line.
But it remains to be seen when the evacuation orders will be entirely lifted.
A senior official of a town where the evacuation order remains said, “Residents love the places they were born and grew up, but they also think that it’s impossible to return.”
“Things will start when the evacuation orders are fully removed,” the official added.