When Masayuki Kobayashi and Swastika Harsh Jajoo first laid eyes on the town of Futaba, Fukushima Prefecture, neither one of them had feelings of trepidation or pity. The question that crossed their minds instead was, “Why are outsiders only able to see this town through the lens of the Great East Japan Earthquake?”

Currently a senior-year undergraduate student at Tohoku University’s School of Engineering, Kobayashi, 22, first visited Futaba last summer as a participant of a walking tour hosted by local entrepreneur and town assemblyman Tatsuhiro Yamane. Kobayashi says he has always been one to travel, having lived in several places in Japan and once in India due to the demands of his father’s job.

“That experience taught me the value of community,” he says. “Whenever we moved, we had to find new people to talk to and live with.”