The Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011 was caused by a major earthquake. The ensuing meltdown has led to hundreds of deaths and other calamities that will impact the region for decades to come. To help protect Japan’s citizens, there’s a 12.5 mile “exclusion zone” surrounding the plant. With the exception of cleanup crews and scientists, no one is allowed inside. However, one brave man, Naoto Matsumura, has been breaking this rule since the disaster. He’s been dubbed “Radioactive Man” by reporters and many people in his native land think he’s completely insane. The 55-year old former construction worker not only spends time in the exclusion zone, he lives there. Why? Because he wants to take care of all of the local animals that were abandoned by their owners after the area was evacuated.
In 2011, he returned to the zone shortly after the meltdown to retrieve the animals on his family’s farm but decided to stay when he realized that so many others needed his help too. He was outraged after discovering that area farmers had left over a hundred cows to die in their barns. Matsumura soon realized that if he didn’t do something to care for the region’s critters, no one would. He now spends his days traveling around the zone caring for everything from kittens to pigs and even an ostrich or two. He’s also freed countless animals that were left chained up in backyards or trapped behind fences. Since there’s more of them than Matsumura can handle, many of the animals now freely roam through the zone. He feeds the ones that can’t take care of themselves.
Supporters have also nicknamed him “The Guardian of Fukushima’s Animals” and their donations and support help him care for as many of his furry friends as possible. He’s also consulted with medical authorities about the consequences of his admirable but incredibly dangerous job. As he told Vice in 2013, “They told me that I wouldn’t get sick for 30 or 40 years. I’ll most likely be dead by then anyway, so I couldn’t care less.”