Each year through the Getty Images Editorial Grants program, five photojournalists are awarded $10,000 each to allow them to tell powerful stories that may otherwise be left, untold.

In 2012, Kosuke Okahara was the recipient of one of these grants which he used to document the ongoing effects of the Fukushima Nuclear plant explosion.

It’s been 2 and a half years since the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear plant exploded on March 11th in 2011. After just 6 months, media coverage faded and there were less and less people talking about the disaster, especially in Tokyo where I live. Life returned to normal and there was almost no sign of the disaster in the capital.

Today, Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear plants are still in critical condition and people in Fukushima continue to be affected by the disaster. There is a big issue with contaminated water leaking in to the Pacific Ocean. At the voting event for the 2020 Olympic Games, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the contaminated water is contained within the port of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant. However, a few days later, the Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga Yoshihide said it is not blocked at all.

Since my first visit to Fukushima, which was only a few weeks after the explosion, I have visited the region almost monthly. The more I go back, the more I see that things are not changing.  After one year, I realized the need to come back to the region to keep document the ongoing effects.

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  • At a park in Fukushima city. The Geiger counter (measure of radiation) of photographer indicates 1 micro sv per hour. Photo by Kosuke Okahara.
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  • Miyakoji district of Tamura city. some 25km west of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear plant now facing the problem of being depopulated. Photo by Kosuke Okahara.
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  • A farmer in Tamura-city, next to the exclusion zone cuts the weed in his rice field where he might not be able to plant any longer. Photo by Kosuke Okahara.
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  • In Naraha town, trees grow like crazy as no one lives there and takes care of the farmland. Some parts have become like a jungle. Photo by Kosuke Okahara.
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  • Trees and greenery grows wild on the railway tracks in Naraha town. Photo by Kosuke Okahara.
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  • Momouchi station in Minamisoma. The station has been abandoned since the nuclear explosion. Photo by Kosuke Okahara.
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  • An abandoned Momouchi station. Photo by Kosuke Okahara.
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  • Takami and Noriko Ohara came to check their abandoned house in the exclusion zone. They used to run a small local shop but inside the house is damaged as no one took care of it. They said they would like to come back to live here but they are not hopeful it is possible. Photo by Kosuke Okahara.
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  • One of the radiation monitoring posts put around Fukushima. This one at an abandoned elementary school in Tamura city. Photo by Kosuke Okahara.
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  • Abandoned decontaminated waste in Naraha town. Photo by Kosuke Okahara.
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  • Baseball team members of Soma Noko high school practice inside of the gymnasium in Minamisoma. After the decontamination of their baseball field, they started practising outside although the radiation level is still relatively higher than the so-called "Normal Level" after the nuclear explosion. Photo by Kosuke Okahara.
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  • Former prime minister, Yoshihiko Noda's poster in Tamura city. Photo by Kosuke Okahara.
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  • An abandoned post. Photo by Kosuke Okahara.
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  • Farmers of Minamisoma cleans the farm land that was ravaged by the Tsunami. However, it is uncertain if they can restore their farm land again not only because of the sea water which devastated the land but also the radioactive substances that contaminated it. Photo by Kosuke Okahara.
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  • Water goes into the Pacific Ocean in Iwaki city. Some 40km south of crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. One of the biggest problems today is that contaminated water is leaking to the ocean from the nuclear plant. Photo by Kosuke Okahara.
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  • Stone lanterns in the shrine just a few hundred meters outside of the exclusion zone. Many are left in ruins since 2 and a half years ago when the Great Tohoku earthquake hit Japan. Photo by Kosuke Okahara.
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  • Mr.Sanbe, former resident of Tomioka town came to check his home which is located just outside of the exclusion zone during the season of cherry blossom. Photo by Kosuke Okahara.
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  • Buried tripods along the coast of Tomioka town some 5km south of crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. Photo by Kosuke Okahara.
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  • A seascape of Tomioka town. Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant is now having trouble dumping the contaminated water into the sea. Photo by Kosuke Okahara.
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With the support of the Getty Images Grant for Editorial Photography, I was able to continue visiting the region and documenting the aftermath of this disaster. There are some farmers and fishermen whom I keep seeing. Like the nature and landscape in Fukushima, their lives haven’t changed much but I feel it is important to keep documenting how life hasn’t changed too. To seek the true meaning of the disaster, one thing I found and focused on was that “unchange” is a true hardship for people.

The Getty Images Grant for Editorial Photography allowed me to pursue the initial aims of the project, to gather the fragments of this nuclear disaster in order to convey the story to future generations. Also, to make people in the future think what this disaster truly means for the region long-term.

Read about this year's Editorial Grant winners here.

About Kosuke Okahara

Born in 1980, Kosuke Okahara grew up in Tokyo, Japan and currently resides in Paris. His career began when he was studying for a degree in education and had the opportunity to travel to post-war Kosovo. The experience, which he recalls as "shocking," inspired him to purchase his first professional camera.

From the beginning, he has been pursuing stories based on the theme “Ibasyo” which, in Japanese, refers to the physical and emotional space in which one can exist. His key bodies of work have included subjects such as lepers in China and Nepal, drug related violence among youth in Colombia, suicide-prone self-injurers in his native Japan and most recently, nuclear disaster in Fukushima which is his on-going project.

He has been honored with several awards and grants including the W. Eugene Smith Fellowship, Joop Swart Masterclass of World Press Photo, PDN's 30 Emerging Photographers to Watch, Sony World Photography Awards, and Prix Kodak in France. Okahara's photos have also been exhibited in various venues including museums, galleries and international photo festivals.

He continues to shoot the stories that touch him.

Visit his website here

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