15 Mars 2018
March 15, 2018
SEVEN YEARS AFTER: Gas station a beacon of hope for deserted Fukushima town
THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
FUTABA, Fukushima Prefecture--A gas station here that opened more than a century ago is proving to be a vital lifeline for construction projects that could eventually revive this deserted town.
Dateya, established during the Meiji Era (1868-1912), is just 3.5 kilometers from the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
But it was forced to close because of the nuclear accident in 2011.
It only reopened last June after being given special permission to operate along National Route 6 through which convoys of trucks travel daily as construction work continues on an interim storage facility for contaminated materials and the tentatively named Futaba interchange along te Joban Expressway.
The gas station is located in a no-entry zone that is designated by the central government as a "difficult-to-return zone" for former residents due to high radiation levels.
Before the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami disaster that triggered the nuclear accident, selling and delivering heating oil to local residents accounted for almost all of Dateya's sales in wintertime.
Its current sales are only one-third of pre-disaster levels as there is no demand for heating oil in a town where all the residents are still living as evacuees.
Selling and delivering fuel to the construction sites accounts for 80 percent of Dateya's sales.
It stays open even after dark so truck drivers and construction workers can refuel their vehicles.
Still, uppermost in the mind of 42-year-old Tomonari Yoshida, Dateya's fifth-generation owner, is “when we will be able to deliver heating oil again.”
“We are grateful that people from all over Japan who have no special links with our town have come here to help with the construction work," Yoshida said.
"Most of them work while separated from their families. We local people also need to do our best.”
(This article was written by Tetsuro Takehana and Shigetaka Kodama.)