Heartbreaking: The abandoned animals of Fukushima

Yasusuke Ota - Tomioka Machi (Bulls)
Yasusuke Ota – Tomioka Machi
Some cows were roaming in the parking lot of Mega Electronic Appliances Store along Route 6. A bizarre scene we can hardly see in everyday life.

Fukushima’s disaster

A day after the tsunami damaged a nuclear reactor at Fukushima in Japan on 11 March 2011, inhabitants living within 20km of the power plant were forcibly evacuated. They had to leave their personal belongings as well as their household pets and farm animals behind. Three days later, there was a hydrogen explosion at the power plant, so that it became uncertain when the evacuees could return home again.

Photographer enters ‘No Go’ Area of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant

Just about two weeks later, Japanese photographer Yasusuke Ota (1958) was one of the volunteers who, at risk to his own life and carrying only animal feed and water, entered the ‘No go’ area stretching within 20 kilometres of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.

The animals of Fukushima

These volunteers had no clear idea what they would find, but they found themselves in hell on earth: cows still locked into their stalls, in desperate need of food and water. Other animals could free themselves but got stuck in bogs and ditches, situations from which they could not possibly save themselves. Pets had died at their posts waiting for their owners to return, or had died of hunger because they were chained to their kennel or trapped indoors. Other animals survived by eating whatever presented itself. Still, 18 months later, they were patiently and innocently waiting for owners who would not be able to return. 

What really happened

Two books have since been published of the photographs Yasusuke Ota took in Fukushima for about one year. This tragedy was for some reason not reported by the Japanese media at first, and the truth is that there has been no proper help given to these animals even after one and a half years. I felt I needed to inform the world and leave evidence of what really happened. So I started to take photos of this while going inside the zone on rescue, writes Ota.

About Yasusuke Ota

Yasusuke Ota (b. 1958) was born in Shiga Prefecture. He worked as a photographic assistant before becoming a cameraman for a production company. In 1991 he became a freelancer and joined The Photographic Society of Japan. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Yasusuke Ota worked in war zones in Afghanistan, Cambodia and the former Yugoslavia. He and his camera also infiltrated the nuclear power plant area in Taiwan.


Yasusuke Ota - Okuma Machi (Ostriches)
Yasusuke Ota – Okuma Machi
One ostrich escaped from the Ostriches Farm. Lucky that he’s an omnivorous animal, he’s living off on dried pet food that was left by volunteers inside the area.

Yasusuke Ota - Namie Machi (cat)
Yasusuke Ota – Namie Machi
His fur is entangled and you can see he’s lived in an extreme condition. However, his body was found after one month.

Yasusuke Ota - Odaka Ku (Dog)
Yasusuke Ota – Odaka Ku
“Minisama City. I named this miniature dachshund ‘Kurumi’ that stayed at a dike that was destroyed by the Tsunami. We tried to rescue her on several occassions, but her death was confirmed in September.

Yasusuke Ota - Namie Machi (pigs)
Yasusuke Ota – Namie Machi
On one hot July day, pigs that escaped from a pig barn were trying to cool themselves down in a small pool of water.

All images by Yasusuke Ota/huismarseille.nl unless otherwise noted.

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