Kawamata Town in Fukushima Prefecture, Japan

It’s so much fun running in new places! I like getting up and out early and discovering how this new-to-me community wakes up and says Good Morning! to the world. It’s especially great here in Kawamata where four breathtaking mountain ranges hug the valley. Even before 5am, elderly men and women are walking their dogs and tending their gardens along the Hirose and Isazawa Rivers.

Around every bend, I find an invitation – and so much beauty in nature’s surprises.

Clearly an invitation to a trail run!

I brake for tadpoles on lily pads.

Another invitation! This one to climb…

Waiting at the top of the stairs…

Kawamata is not an evacuation zone, but public Geiger counters keep track of radiation levels round-the-clock, and there is radiological clean-up happening here – especially on the mountainsides where contamination is highest. The problem is the poison doesn’t stay high in the mountains. Soil erosion – especially after heavy rains – can bring the Cesium into backyards, rice paddies, vegetable gardens and water sources.

One of the official government geiger counters in Kawamata.

Kawamata is right next to Yamakiya, an evacuated village where we are filming SON OF SAICHI. The reading of 0.150 microsieverts of radiation per hour translates into 13.9 millisieverts of radiation per year. The International Commission on Radiological Protection recommends a dosage limit of one millisievert per year from all sources of radiation, which puts this measure at nearly 14 times higher. Many believe that if the government were being honest and doing the right thing, this area would be evacuated, too.

But besides the Geiger counters, there is really no sign that anything is out of the ordinary here. Life seems normal. Sulky, uniformed teens walk to school; the favorite lunch place is too packed by noon to get a seat; and a huge grocery store called Happy Foods recently came to town. Despite the risk, despite the fear, they carry on.

[The carry on theme is big in the song that’s on every one of my playlists this trip: “Welcome to the Black Parade” by My Chemical Romance]

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