Meet Japan's most radioactive man and his animals

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 11 March, 2014, 9:39am
UPDATED : Thursday, 26 March, 2015, 4:30pm

The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant went into meltdown just 13 kilometres away from Naoto Matsumura's home. After being turned away from an overcrowded temporary shelter, he decided to take his chances back home in Tomioka city, Fukushima prefecture, and take care of his animals.

"I have two cats, one dog, one ostrich, one horse, 31 cows and four wild boars," Matsumura said proudly. Initially, he says he took animals that were left behind in his hometown, whose owners were told the evacuation of the city would be short-term.

At first it was just dogs and cats, but then the government announced a law to dispose of cattle, rather than letting them starve inside the evacuation zone.

"I asked, 'What are you doing?' and they replied, 'We are now going to kill all the cows.' I told them, 'Stop, I will take care of them.' And that's how I started collecting cows from all over," Matsumura said.

The radiation levels are dangerously high in his area, about 17 times higher than the normal level of background radiation. After being tested at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency he was told that he had the highest level of radiation exposure out of anyone in Japan, but wouldn't fall ill for another 30 or 40 years.

Matsumura was one of 15,000 people that stayed in Tomioka.

"I don't have any plans, but as of now all I can say is that the nuclear power plant is bad," he said. "If the disaster was only about the earthquake and tsunami, everyone could come back and reconstruction would be done by now.

"After the nuclear disaster, nobody wants to come back, especially the younger generation."

Matsumura now runs a charity with supporters taking care of animals left behind in the evacuation zone.