Two weeks ago marked the second anniversary of the nuclear disaster and subsequent evacuation of Fukushima, Japan defying the government-mandated evacuation orders and living by himself inside “The Zone” is 53 year-old Naoto Matsumara, a fifth generation rice farmer who returned to Fukushima not long after the disaster first unfolded. Vice Japan’s Ivan Kovac is director and editor of “Alone in the Zone”, a documentary that follows Naoto on his mission to care for the pets and livestock abandoned after the 2011 tsunami and subsequent nuclear meltdown.
Demolished ships lie strewn about near the fishing port of Minamisanriku town, in Miyagi prefecture, northeastern Japan, Feb. 23, 2012. The local fisherman's union says last year's tsunami wiped out 90 percent of local fishing boats.
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Last year's tsunami destroyed Tamiko Abe's house, and a year later, the 71-year-old (shown here March 5, 2012) still lives in temporary housing.
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Volunteers assist workers who are slicing and packing seaweed at a temporary processing yard set up on the Minamisanriku harborfront, March 8, 2012.
With a fierce yell and a resounding thwack, 13-year-old Japanese student Nanami Usui brings her bamboo sword down on her opponent.
By practicing Kendo, or Japanese swordsmanship, Usui is one of several students in the town of Minamisanriku who are rebuilding their confidence after last year's tsunami washed away their homes and shattered their hometown in the country's northeast.
Usui says she dreams of being a police officer, but she doesn't know yet where she wants to live and work.
The earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan on March 11, 2011, lasted for many terrifying minutes. But the multiple nuclear meltdowns that followed created an emergency that lasted for weeks and a legacy that will last for decades.
Here's how the event unfolded. The tsunami knocked out power to the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant. As a result, the cooling systems failed and three reactors melted down. Steam laced with radioactive material poured into the air. Water contaminated with radiation also flowed into the sea.
Members of the media, wearing protective suits and masks, visit the tsunami-crippled Fukushima nuclear power station during a press tour, in northeastern Japan's Fukushima prefecture, Feb. 28. Japan is marking the first anniversary of the March 11 tsunami and earthquake, which triggered the worst nuclear accident in the country's history.
Credit Franck Robichon / EPA/Landov
Koichi Kitazawa (shown here March 1 in Tokyo), former director of the Japan Science and Technology Agency, heads the independent commission that investigated the Fukushima accident. The commission concluded that the government, and not a nuclear power company, should bear primary responsibility for the nation's nuclear safety.
Credit Issei Kato / AP
The Unit 3 reactor at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, shown here on Feb. 20, 2012, was one of three reactors involved in the nuclear accident last year.
A year after suffering the worst nuclear accident in its history, Japan is still struggling to understand what happened at the Fukushima nuclear plant in the country's northeast.
Last week, an independent commission released a report arguing that Japan narrowly averted what could have been a far deadlier disaster and that the government withheld this information from the public.
A woman picks carrots on her farm as she explains her fears that no one will buy them since the radiation fallout in March 2011 in Fukushima, Japan. A year later, challenges persist for farmers in the region.
Credit Doualy Xaykaothao for NPR
Yoshiko Watanabe stands near where her roadside vegetable stand used to be in Kawauchi village in Japan's Fukushima prefecture.
The mountain village of Kawauchi lies partly inside the area deemed unsafe because of high levels of radiation in Japan's Fukushima prefecture. Chiharu Kubota uses a high-pressure water gun to hose down buildings there.
Radiation is still leaking from the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant, which suffered multiple meltdowns immediately after last year's earthquake and tsunami.