April 18, 2011

Spring Cleaning at Fukushima Daiichi

There is no surer sign of spring than a cherry tree in bloom. Cherry blossoms are a tradition here in Pennsylvania, where I took this photo a few days ago. Pennsylvania’s flowering cherry trees originated in Japan, where the cherry blossom tradition goes back at least 1,700 years.

This week in Japan, the blossoms have probably extended as far north as Fukushima. The arrival of spring there this year is a bittersweet and surreal moment. For the first time in the city’s history, no one can see the cherry blossoms. No one is doing any spring cleaning. No one is there at all. The city had to be evacuated because of the unfolding nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant, and residents heard over the weekend that they may not be returning home until next year.