Naoto Matsumura, the guardian of animals in the desolation of Fukushima

A love of animals can be shown in many ways; volunteering to support initiatives in favour of animal charities and adoption are included in the ‘normal’ category, however there is an ‘exceptional’ category too. This comes to light when it becomes difficult to distinguish between love and self-sacrifice. This seems to be the case with Naoto Matsumura, renamed by the world media as ‘the guardian of Fukushima’s animals’; animals that live in the 12-mile exclusion zone that has been indelibly and irremediably marked by the nuclear disaster following the tsunami of 2011.

Before and after Fukushima: the life of Naoto Matsumura

The catastrophic events that occurred at Fukushima in March 2011 marked a dramatic turning point in the life of Naoto Matsumura. The Tōhoku earthquake and subsequent tsunami knocked out the power supply and cooling systems at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant causing three of the four reactors to go in to meltdown leaking radiation to the surrounding area. The government ordered an immediate evacuation of the local population including former construction worker Matsumura. Tens of thousands of people left their homes and pets during the mandatory evacuations thinking they would return soon to collect them, but this didn’t happen. From this point on, the ‘other’ life of Naoto Matsumura began. Determined not to leave the animals in the desolated area he began to secure food for their survival. Matsumura disregarded concerns over his health; in fact, he says tests show he is ‘completely contaminated’. The damage caused by the radiation might not materialise for several years however, by which time, he says, he’ll most likely have died of old age.

Naoto Matsumura and his animals: the fight against nuclear power

Now fifty-five years old, Matsumura loves the animals that he cares for; he assures freedom to the independent ones and more to attention all to the animals that want to live with him. Cattle, pigs, hens, dogs, cats and an ostrich animate the life of Naoto Matsumura who doesn’t hide his indignation for all that has happened since the disaster. In a recent interview with CNN, he said: “I’m full of rage. That’s why I’m still here. I refuse to leave and let go of this anger and grief. I weep when I see my hometown. The government and the people in Tokyo don’t know what’s really happening here. We must decontaminate this area or this city will die. I’ll stay here to make sure that this is done and because I want to die in my hometown.”