ByKristin Lai, writer at
MP Staff Writer, cinephile and resident Slytherclaw // UCLA Alumna // Follow me on Twitter: kristin_lai
Kristin Lai

We talk a lot here on Moviepilot about superheroes and the actors who play them, but sometimes it's better to focus on everyday people who make the world a better place.

In the wake of the tsunami that hit the northeast shores of Japan in 2011, the cooling system of the Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant broke down leading to the biggest nuclear meltdown since the Chernobyl Disaster in 1986.

The town of Tomioka was within Fukushima's 12.5 mile exclusion zone, meaning that everyone was given orders to evacuate the area. Out of the estimated 15,000, who lived in Tomioka, only one citizen has remained following the evacuation orders. Here is his story:

Meet Naoto Matsumura, the man who stayed behind.

Initially, the fifth-generation rice farmer, Naoto Matsumura, left with his family, when told to evacuate the area. But he soon realized that he had reason to stay in Tomioka. He felt he needed to save and tend to all of the animals left to die after the tragedy that devastated the lives of many.

Matsumura told Vice, “I had no choice but to stay, I couldn’t leave the animals behind. They needed to be fed.”

He came back to feed his dogs and realized how many more animals needed his help.

A few days after the evacuation Matsumura realized that his dogs hadn't been fed, or tended to. When he finally got to them, he noticed that his neighbor's dogs hadn't been taken care of either.

In his interview with Vice, Matsumura stated that people from Tomioka thought that they would only be gone for a week or so, so they left their animals chained up for their return. But when it was clear that no one was allowed back, he had to take action.
"From then on, I fed all the cats and dogs every day. They couldn’t stand the wait, so they’d all gather around barking up a storm as soon as they heard my truck. Everywhere I went there was always barking. Like, ‘we’re thirsty’ or, ‘we don’t have any food.’ So I just kept making the rounds.”

Before he was able to get to them, Matsumura estimates over a thousand cattle died from starvation and neglect.

With donations from supporters, Matsumura is able to feed and care for the surviving animals of Tomioka.

He willingly puts the animals' safety above his own.

When he first returned to Tomioka, Matsumura was (naturally) scared of the radiation that had spread across his city. According to BBC, he now "refuse[s] to think about it."

Knowing full and well the risk of cancer, leukemia, and other radiation-caused illnesses, the longer he stayed with the animals, the more he became committed to staying behind, even if it meant living with only the company of animals.

Although he's been formally warned to leave the exclusion zone by the government, Matsumura rarely leaves. He will leave on occasion to speak on behalf of his community and animals he cares for.

He knows he may be in for a long wait

While there have been a few studies hopeful that Fukushima's radiation damage is mostly superficial, it doesn't look like those who are currently living as refuges will be able to return home anytime soon to rebuild their lives or take care of these animals.

Although this might not seem like the most promising outlook, Matsumura is standing steadfast to his cause and keeps a positive outlook on his future in Tomioka. When speaking to Vice he said, “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."

Naoto Matsumura's dedication to these animals, and his strength in standing up for all of those who couldn't, makes him truly heroic.

To read more about Naoto Matsumura's incredible story, check out his Facebook page, website, and the various articles and videos about him featured on Vice, BBC, and Buzzfeed.


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