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Heroes You Should Know: Naoto Matsumura

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On March 11, 2011 Hell visited Japan;  a devastating earthquake, followed closely by a massive tsunami, and then the meltdown of the reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.  Thousands of residents evacuated the area as the Japanese government established a 12.5 miles “exclusion zone” around the power plant to protect people from radiation exposure.

 

In the town of Tomioka, seven miles from Fukushima, 51 year-old construction worker Naoto Matsumura and his parents fled south to his aunt’s.  But she turned them away, fearing radiation contamination.  And when they reached the refugee camps and found them overcrowded and under-supplied, Naoto decided to go home to check on his animals.

 

What he found was a town of animals, waiting for their owners to return.  And since none did, Matsumura began making the rounds.  As he did, he found more and more creatures desperate for food and care, and he knew he could not leave.  Although the government has ordered him out of the exclusion zone, he refuses.

 

Nicknamed “Radioactive Man”, Matsumura knows the toxic levels of radiation he’s absorbed over the last four years will eventually kill him but believes caring for the animals of his town is worth the sacrifice.

 

He lives without electricity, running water, or human neighbors as the sole resident of his abandoned town and relies on food and water from outside the exclusion zone, along with monetary donations to support himself and his animals.

 

When he is not caring for the dogs, cats, cows, ducks, chickens, pigs, ostriches, and horses of Tomioka, Matsumura speaks to media about conditions in his town.

 

And just last month, four years after the nuclear disaster, the government declared that it was finally safe for the residents of Tomioka to return to their homes.

 

If they do, they will find one defiant man and a town full of animals who are alive because of his compassion for all creatures great and small.

 

And in a place that was given up for dead, that’s an incredible witness to life.

 

Naoto Matsumura is a hero you should know.  And I’m Dr. Ross Porter.

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