Reuters photographer Damir Sagolj went to Fukushima to cover the ongoing effects of the nuclear disaster that devastated the area in 2011. Coincidentally, his trip came just after Tokyo won its bid to host the 2020 Olympics.
Sagolj decided to ask locals what they thought of the Games coming to Japan. Their responses reflected both a desire to move past the disaster and a fear that Japan will neglect Fukushima's recovery as it focuses on 2020.
19 Sep 2013. Iwaki, Japan. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj
Aem Endo carries her surf board on her way to catch waves in front of anti-tsunami barriers on the closed Toyoma beach, south of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
Almost all the beaches in Fukushima prefecture have been closed since March 11, 2011, when an earthquake and subsequent tsunami triggered the world's worst nuclear disaster in 25 years.
"If I care too much I can't live my life. I love the sea, I enjoy it. I don't care about a little radiation," Aem said.
Asked about the 2020 Olympics, Aem was fully supportive: "Olympic Games in Tokyo 2020 is amazing news. Thumbs-up."
21 Sep 2014. Minamitsushima, Japan. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj
Buddhist monk Yokoyama Shuhu wears a Geiger counter - a small device that measures radiation - as he leads a funeral ceremony for a women who died as an evacuee at a cemetery in the evacuated town of Minamitsushima.
Shuho had to leave his temple because it is in the exclusion zone, and he now lives in Fukushima town. He comes back for brief visits, but only when asked by local residents, and mostly for funerals such as this one.
Asked about the Olympics, Shuhu said, "I think it's good we will have the Olympic Games. In seven years things will be cleaner around here. And fixed, I hope."
17 Sep 2013. Tomioka, Japan. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj
Naoto Matsumura stands in an empty street in the town of Tomioka, which he never left despite government evacuation orders. He still lives within the nuclear exclusion zone, alone except for his animals, including 50 cows, two cats, a dog and two ostriches.
Matsumura was more skeptical about the upcoming Games. "We have so many things to do before hosting Olympics. The Games can be anywhere. Why in Japan? And why not spend all that money on Fukushima?"
18 Sep 2013. Iwaki, Japan. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj
Kaori Suzuki stands in her office at the Iwaki Radiation Citizen Centre, a non-profit organisation that offers free thyroid examinations for children from the Fukushima area.
As the World Health Organisation (WHO) says children in Fukushima may have a higher risk of developing thyroid cancer after the Daiichi nuclear disaster, some mothers in the prefecture worry that local health authorities are not doing enough. Suzuki says she fears that the Olympics will cause the area to become neglected.
"I can say only one word - we, in Fukushima, will be forgotten. We should have not done something like this. The government is out of their mind."
18 Sep 2013. Iitate, Japan. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj
Mieko Okubo holds up a portrait of her father-in-law Fumio Okubo at their house in the abandoned town of Iitate. Fumio, a 102-year-old farmer, hanged himself in the house he lived in all his life after authorities' ordered residents to evacuate. Mieko, who lives outside the exclusion zone, comes back every other day to feed her father-in-law's dog and clean the house.
Asked about the 2020 Games, she thinks the timing is poor. "Honestly? They didn't have to run for Olympic games this time. They can spend that money on Fukushima. Many of my friends say the same - we are afraid to be forgotten because of the Olympics."
14 Sep 2013. Namie, Japan. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj
On one of his monthly visits to his abandoned home in Namie, just six kilometres from the failed nuclear plant, Kenichi Sato holds a football from his high school days. Sato is afraid the ball is contaminated with radiation and decided to leave it at home.
Kenichi and his wife Ryoko could see both sides of the argument for and against the Olympics. "In devastated areas, people are depressed. So, if a Japanese wins a gold medal, that will give more power to the people. But, at the same time they hope all the money won't be spent in Tokyo but on reconstruction in Fukushima also."