Google Japan has announced that it is now possible for Google Maps users to access street view images of Namie, a coastal town in Fukushima that was severely affected by the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami before being completely evacuated when the nearby Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant went critical.

The search engine giant announced earlier this month that it would send its specially adapted Street View camera car through the town, receiving mixed responses. On the one hand, people would be given a rare look inside a town that it is now forbidden to enter. On the other, the images would serve as a painful reminder of the events that took place there two years ago, as well as bringing former residents tantalizingly close to the places in which they once lived and worked but were forced to flee in a moment’s notice.

Taking a virtual tour of this ghost town, we find grocery stores, banks and convenience stores–hubs of activity right up until the day of the earthquake–sitting silent and dusty. Weeds grow unchecked between pavement slabs while broken glass, roof tiles and bricks lie the road where they fell when the ground shook. Turning onto the town’s main street, the road stretches on into the distance without a soul in sight. Pavements remain cracked and broken while a single white car sits in the local elementary school parking lot, abandoned by its owner. Outside the station, a place that trains no longer pass through, bicycles stand beneath the corregated tin roof of a parking area, presumably left there on the morning of the disaster by their owners as they made their way to work or school, not thinking for a moment that they would never be returning to collect them.

namie station

These images satisfy a morbid yet entirely natural human curiosity. With Namie declared unsafe to enter due to high levels of radiation, former residents are left with little more than a few on-screen arrows to click on to scroll through the images and move around a digital version of a place they once called home. Google’s photographs are at once a tremendous luxury that no generation before has been afforded and a constant reminder of what can happen when humankind fails to remain in control of its own creations.

Namie 2

namie shot

The 360-degree images can be viewed in the usual way by visiting Google Maps Japan and searching for Namie Machi. While we genuinely believe that it is something that is important for people to witness, we can’t for a second recommend spending too long in this shell of a formerly bright and happy seaside town.

Source: IT Media (Japanese)

Images via Google Maps