FUKUSHIMA – Two beaches in Tohoku that were devastated by a massive tsunami in 2011 opened to the public for the first time in eight years Saturday, delighting people seeking relief from a spell of scorching summer heat.
“I’m happy to see this beach bustling again,” said Nami Aoki, a 48-year-old woman from the city of Fukushima who was visiting Haragamaobama beach in her hometown of Soma, Fukushima Prefecture, with her 9-year-old daughter. “I wanted my daughter to play in the sea where I would swim when I was little,” she said with a smile.
The beach would regularly attract between 30,000 and 50,000 visitors per season before the offshore quake spawned the tsunami that swamped the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, triggering a triple core meltdown.
Tests conducted by Soma authorities since 2015 have shown the amount of radioactive material in the water to be at a safe level.
Levees damaged by the tsunami have since been rebuilt and the debris from the disaster removed.
Haragamaobama is only the fourth of Fukushima’s 18 swimming beaches to reopen to the public since the three-way calamity.
In neighboring Miyagi Prefecture, Watanoha beach in Ishinomaki also reopened on Saturday for the first time since March 2011 — albeit in a different place: The tsunami moved its sands 700 meters west of its original spot.