I read on the Guardian’s website that Google have posted street view images of Namie, a town in the evacuated zone that was contaminated by the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
The article didn’t explain whether the google cars which drove the streets of Namie snapping every few metres were drones, Google robo-cars or ordinary cars driven by daredevils who didn’t mind a bit of nuclear contamination. Here the car has snapped itself in a convex street mirror:
It’s very interesting to use Google Maps to have a look around Namie. Ask Google Maps for Namie, Fukushima Prefecture, Japan. Select street view.
The whole town is there, somewhat like the scene for a rather slow video game, and one can navigate through it, looking at this and that. Here are some screen shots.
As you can see, the natural world is starting to reassert itself. Every crack is full of weeds. Most of the buildings still look surprisingly intact, but here and there lines are starting to go off-vertical. The street looks unnaturally clean. In fact, this Japanese town after two years of neglect looks pretty much like any street in Muizenberg.
I found an area where the gardeners were keen topiarists.
These slow-growing cypresses have retained their form after two years.
Then there is the enigma of the cars. As you move around this totally unpopulated virtual world, there are quite a lot of them parked here and there. Have they been abandoned, or are they being used by people doing something (what?) in the forbidden zone. I also spotted a couple of cars on the road – a certain indication that someone is moving through.
When you go closer, the car is gone:
Who is it that drives about in a radioactive zone? Why?
Everywhere there are open garages, still full of stuff, cars, bikes, all lying as they were when the disciplined Japanese citizens departed. If this were South Africa, the place would long have been looted, the remains trashed.
Time in Namie has been displaced. The town is no longer aging in a supervised, human sort of way. Unpeopled, it has been left in the care of the natural world. I hope that Google updates these images, at least once per season.