Living with the Fallout


Yuji Ohashi has spent his life on the edge of disaster: he contracted hepatitis from a blood transfusion for his hemophilia and had his leg amputated after a fall.

When his father took ill eight years ago, Ohashi reluctantly assumed the presidency of Fukushima City natural bread company Ginray, despite health worries and his ambition to write children’s books.

After the March earthquake, Ginray was one of the few food suppliers that remained operational, serving long lines of hungry people and baking around the clock by car headlight with no electricity.

Just as he has learned to accept his medical condition and his responsibilities, Ohashi believes that Fukushima must learn to live with the radioactive fallout from the meltdown of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. Like others here, the disaster has strengthened his commitment to Fukushima, even as Ginray struggles to stay in business amid public concerns about food contamination.

Uncanny Terrain is a documentary about organic farmers facing Japan’s nuclear crisis, and an online community fostering dialogue on food safety, sustainable agriculture, alternative energy and disaster response. Please keep the conversation going by spreading the word or making a tax-deductible donation.

Harvest Time in Fukushima


Just as the U.S. State Department announces that it’s safe to be here, it’s time for us to leave. We conclude our 20 weeks living and working among the organic farmers and food producers of Fukushima, a week after the State Department narrowed its travel advisory against visiting the area around the power plant from 80 kilometers to the Japanese government’s 20-kilometer evacuation zone.

Seven months since the beginning of the crisis, Japan stumbles toward recovery. Evacuated communities are being reopened near the nuclear plant, even as many efforts to decontaminate land are proving ineffective. With a number of notable exceptions, testing of rice and vegetables is showing much less contamination than was expected based on results in Chernobyl. Researchers investigate the reasons for these levels, considering the differing composition of Japanese soil, particularly certain minerals and bacteria that may remove radioactive cesium or prevent plants from absorbing it—bacteria that may thrive in organically cultivated land.

But the food testing regime is still sporadic, and no amount of lower test results will be sufficient to convince much of the public that Fukushima food is safe to eat. The organic farmers here toil to repair their land using natural methods (land that many of their families have tilled since before the U.S. was a country), to grow their food as free as possible of radionuclides, and to accurately communicate the condition of their produce to consumers. Constantly exposed to background radiation and inhaled particles in their fields, as well as from food and water, the farmers rank with cleanup workers in the groups at greatest risk of suffering health damage.

We will edit the film in Chicago through the fall and winter, and return to Japan next March to cover how the farmers weathered the seasons and how they fare as they prepare to plant again, a year after the disaster. In the meantime, we still need your support to cover the costs of postproduction. Please spread the word and if you can please make a tax-deductible donation to the project.