(Reuters) - On a cold day in February, Takuto Okamoto guided his first tour group to a sight few outsiders had witnessed in person: the construction cranes looming over Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.
Seven years after a deadly tsunami ripped through the Tokyo Electric Power plant, Okamoto and other tour organizers are bringing curious sightseers to the region as residents who fled the nuclear catastrophe trickle back. Many returnees hope tourism will help resuscitate their towns and ease radiation fears.
But some worry about drawing a line under a disaster whose impact will be felt far into the future. The cleanup, including the removal of melted uranium fuel, may take four decades and cost several billion U.S. dollars a year. "The disaster happened and the issue now is how people rebuild their lives," Okamoto said after his group stopped in Tomioka, 10 kilometers (6.21 miles) south of the nuclear plant. He wants to bring groups twice a week, compared with only twice a month now. Electronic signs on the highway to Tomioka showed radiation around 100 times normal background levels, as Okamoto's passengers peered out tour bus windows at the cranes poking above Fukushima Daiichi.