For Mitsuhide Ikeda, finally being allowed to stay overnight in his own home — after more than a decade living in the next town — had long been on his mind.

"I'm finally back on this land," Ikeda, 60, said before a photo of his parents, who died during the years spent away from the family's cattle farm in the town of Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture.

On Dec. 3, the government allowed Okuma residents to stay overnight in parts of the town's restricted zone for the first time since the Great East Japan Earthquake in March 2011, to prepare for the lifting of the limits next year.