Photo/IllutrationVacancies are noticeable at a public cemetery recently built in Futaba, Fukushima Prefecture, on Aug. 12. (Yosuke Fukudome)

  • Photo/Illustraion

FUTABA, Fukushima Prefecture--Evacuees are making brief visits to a new cemetery in this town deserted after the Fukushima nuclear disaster to pay respects to their ancestors during the Obon holidays.

The graveyard, which houses 258 plots, is located in Futuba, a town most of which is designated by the government "difficult-to-return" zone, and evacuees need a permit to visit.

The town, which co-hosts the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, built it in response to requests by evacuees to be able to offer prayers with a sense of security.

Katsuko Hayashi, 71, came to the site with her husband and daughter on Aug. 12, and conducted a ritual cleaning of a gravestone before offering flowers and prayers.

She said she was relieved that her family grave, which was on a planned construction site for storing decontaminated waste temporarily, was relocated to the new cemetery.

Hayashi's family home is also on the construction site, where black plastic bags filled with waste are piled high.

After the outbreak of the nuclear crisis following the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami in March 2011, Futaba residents were immediately ordered to evacuate.

Evacuees whose homes and family's graves are located in the planned construction site, as well as in mountainous areas with high radiation levels and areas affected by the tsunami, have requested the construction of the cemetery.

Currently only 33 of the 258 plots at the public cemetery have a headstone.

“I wonder if more headstones will eventually be built here,” Hayashi said, looking around the mostly vacant site.