Photo/IllutrationEnglish signs along National Road No. 114 on the border between Namie and Kawamata in Fukushima Prefecture (Taro Kotegawa)

NAMIE, Fukushima Prefecture--English signs now appear along roads in Fukushima Prefecture to prevent curious, thrill-seeking or simply ignorant foreign tourists from entering areas of high radiation.

The central government’s local nuclear emergency response headquarters set up 26 signs at 12 locations along the 70-kilometer National Road No. 114 and elsewhere starting in mid-April. The signs carry straightforward messages in English, such as “No Entry!”

In September, a 27-kilometer section of the road opened in Namie’s “difficult-to-return zone” near the crippled Fukushima No. 1 power plant for the first time since the Great East Japan Earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster in March 2011.

The road is mainly used by construction vehicles involved in rebuilding projects and dump trucks transporting contaminated soil to intermediate storage facilities.

Motorists can use the reopened section, but they are urged to refrain from stopping or venturing outside their vehicles. Pedestrians and motorcyclists are still forbidden from the area because of the high radiation levels.

But an increasing number of people from abroad are visiting the area, some to snap photos, according to Fukushima prefectural police.

Many have gotten out of their vehicles or entered the “no-go” zone by motorbike or foot.

Prefectural police asked the central government for help to deal with the trespassers.

“When police questioned foreigners who were taking photos in the difficult-to-return zone, they said they did not know that entering the area was prohibited,” a police official said.

Officials also wanted to avoid any confusion from the signs with technical terms, such as “difficult-to-return zones,” which are the areas most heavily polluted by radiation that remain essentially off-limits even to residents.

An official of the Cabinet Office’s nuclear disaster victim life assistance team, which developed English messages, said they decided to use simpler expressions, such as “high-dose radiation area,” for the signs.

The signs have already produced a positive effect.

“A foreign motorcyclist came here the other day, so I told the person to return by pointing to the English signboard,” said a security guard who monitors the Namie-Kawamata border zone at the Tsushima Gate.