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Former Elementary Students Retrieve Belongings after 13 Years; Fukushima Prefectural Town Still Designated as Diffuclt-To-Return

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Mitsuki Suzuki visits her elementary school to retrieve her school bag in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture, on Saturday.

OKUMA, Fukushima — Former pupils of an elementary school in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture, visited on Saturday to pick up their school bags and other items that remained following the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake.

About 80 people along with their family members visited Kumamachi Elementary School to retrieve their belongings that had remained uncollected for 13 years. The school is located in a part of the town that remains designated as a difficult-to-return zone following the nuclear accident triggered by the disaster.

The school grounds were overgrown with weeds and the classrooms in a cluttered state. It was as if time had stood still.

Visits to retrieve personal belongings have taken place at schools in other difficult-to-return areas, including Futaba in the prefecture. Kumamachi Elementary School, which had 333 students before the disaster, is the only school located on the site of an interim nuclear waste storage facility, which holds decontaminated soil. The Okuma town government and others arranged the three-day visit through Sunday because the school building has deteriorated.

Radiation levels were measured for all returned items to ensure they were safe.

Mitsuki Suzuki, a 23-year-old company employee from Sendai, who was in the fourth grade at the school in 2011, was among the visitors on Saturday. “I remembered my school days and how I liked drawing,” she said.

Suzuki picked up her school bag and recorder, saying: “I want to treasure them.”