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As the 10-year anniversary of the March 11, 2011, quake-and-tsunami-triggered Fukushima nuclear disaster fast approaches, municipalities near the crippled atomic power plant in the prefecture are facing another daunting task: bringing residents back

But while the triple meltdown still casts a shadow over the area, farmers in the Tohoku region are working to shake off radiation-related rumors and the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, with a group in Fukushima pinning their hopes on an original rice brand developed there and others on the coast of Sendai working to restore a cooperative structure.

The school building that used to house Kesennuma Koyo High School, which was destroyed by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster and now part of a memorial museum in Kesennuma, Miyagi Prefecture, is pictured on Feb. 6. | KYODO
The school building that used to house Kesennuma Koyo High School, which was destroyed by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster and now part of a memorial museum in Kesennuma, Miyagi Prefecture, is pictured on Feb. 6. | KYODO

The anniversary also comes as local governments in the region battle apathy — and the ensuing fall in donations and paying visitors to key sites — as they seek to preserve the memory of the quake and tsunami, Kyodo reports.

The decline in visitors became particularly worrisome last year as the pandemic kept people away, and has prompted some experts to call for the central government to step in.

But sites memorializing the deadly disasters also face other troubles. Although Okawa Elementary School in Miyagi Prefecture — where more than 80 pupils and teachers lost their lives in the 2011 tsunami — is scheduled to open as early as April as a memorial, opinions remain divided among residents, with some bereaved families saying they cannot bear the sight of the building.

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