Meet the modern-day, post-apocalyptic Dr. Doolittle. Naoto Matsumura lives right inside the Fukushima evacuation zone in the town of Tomioka, just 10 miles from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. The reason he’s stayed in the poisoned region post-nuclear meltdown is so that he can take care of all the abandoned cows, pigs, dogs, and cats.
By all accounts, Tomioka is the apocalypse now: deserted, layered in radioactive dust, buried debris. But the devastation is most evident in Matsumura’s gruesome descriptions of what he’s encountered since — and what he continues to discover. Dogs and cats left to die slowly and agonizingly of starvation. Caged birds with withered feathers. An emaciated cow and her calf, crying weakly in a corner of a barn.
The way that Matsumura lives is nothing short of amazing — and terrifying. All other people have abandoned this radiation-loaded region, so he seldom gets any contact with any creature that doesn’t have a tail or hooves. Matsumura lives without running water and electricity, and he only leaves Tomioka when he needs to buy more food for the hundreds of animals that he cares for.
Matsumura is the ultimate crazy cat lady, and he may pay the ultimate price for his kindness: Long-term exposure to high levels of radiation like those in Tomioka means an almost-certain death. Already, tests show that Matsumura’s body is “completely contaminated” with radiation poisoning.
Matsumura could certainly be labeled many things, from soft-hearted humanitarian to kooky loner to totally and completely insane. But despite what people may think of him, you have to admit: He’s earned the hundreds of furry friends he’s made over the past year.
- Hero for the animals of Fukushima, DogTime
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