The region hit by the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl has a new backer.

"I'm now the biggest institutional investor in Fukushima," said Curtis Freeze, New Yorker, hedge fund head and former missionary.

The 53-year-old, who oversees $352 million as chief investment officer of Prospect Asset Management Inc., has taken big stakes in two of the prefecture's three banks, diverting much of his fund's assets into the bets. His goal is to get the lenders to do more to revive the battered economy — including by investing in solar.