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Google Maps a Japanese Nuclear Ghost Town

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Two years after the the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 11, 2011, and the following tsunami and nuclear disaster, a large area around the failed Fukushima nuclear plant is still considered an exclusion zone. Namie, a small city just north of the nuclear power plant, was evacuated shortly after the quake, and its 21,000 townspeople have been unable to return since, leaving it a ghost town. At the invitation of local officials, Google recently deployed its camera-equipped vehicles to Namie to create a street view map of the deserted town so residents can see their abandoned homes, and the world can witness the remains of the disaster. On Google's Map blog, Namie's Mayor Tamotsu Baba said, "Ever since the March disaster, the rest of the world has been moving forward, and many places in Japan have started recovering. But in Namie-machi time stands still... Those of us in the older generation feel that we received this town from our forebears, and we feel great pain that we cannot pass it down to our children." I've collected some of the scenes captured by the Google Maps crew below, a glimpse into an otherworldly landscape a few kilometers north of the Fukushima nuclear plant. [33 photos]

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The empty shell of the tsunami-damaged Tanashio meeting house stands in Namie town, Japan, just north of the failed Fukushima nuclear power plant. Google recently sent its Street View team into Namie, still within the nuclear exclusion zone, to document the empty streets and fields, deserted now for more than two years. See this on the map. (© Google, Inc.)
The empty shell of the tsunami-damaged Tanashio meeting house stands in Namie town, Japan, just north of the failed Fukushima nuclear power plant. Google recently sent its Street View team into Namie, still within the nuclear exclusion zone, to document the empty streets and fields, deserted now for more than two years. See this on the map. (© Google, Inc.)
The roof of a collapsed house, damaged by the 2011 earthquake, lies partially in a road in Namie, Japan. See this on the map. (© Google, Inc.) #
Bicycles sit abandoned in a parking lot near Namie's train station. See this on the map. (© Google, Inc.) #
Plants have grown undisturbed for two years, and are beginning to encroach on the streets. See this on the map. (© Google, Inc.) #
A jumble of stones lie in a cemetery just a few hundred feet from the shoreline. The stones and surrounding buildings were swept up by the massive tsunami two years ago. See this on the map. (© Google, Inc.) #
The now-empty Ukedo fishing port, formerly filled with 140 fishing vessels. See this on the map. (© Google, Inc.) #
A partially-collapsed business in Namie leans heavily on a vending machine. See this on the map. (© Google, Inc.) #
Fishing boats and mountains of debris are piled near the shore, as cleanup efforts remain incomplete. See this on the map. (© Google, Inc.) #
A structure collapsed onto a Namie street. See this on the map. (© Google, Inc.) #
Abandoned apartment buildings, and an empty parking lot, with weeds growing from every crack. See this on the map. (© Google, Inc.) #
Smashed pieces of boats lie on and near the empty shell of a structure on Ukedo harbor. See this on the map. (© Google, Inc.) #
The Google Street View car catches its reflection in a mirror near an overgrown residential driveway in Namie. See this on the map. (© Google, Inc.) #
A smashed vehicle sits rusting against a sea wall on Ukedo harbor. See this on the map. (© Google, Inc.) #
A heavily-damaged structure on Ukedo harbor. See this on the map. (© Google, Inc.) #
A collapsed building beside an empty restaurant, in Namie. See this on the map. (© Google, Inc.) #
One of the few still-standing structures near namie's waterfront. See this on the map. (© Google, Inc.) #
Debris strewn along the roadside, near Namie's Pacific shoreline. See this on the map. (© Google, Inc.) #
A shattered house stands alone among a field of debris and empty foundations, in an area badly damaged by the tsunami. See this on the map. (© Google, Inc.) #
A roadside memorial near Namie's shoreline. See this on the map. (© Google, Inc.) #
A partially-collapsed structure knocked over a wall, trapping the Volkswagen in Namie. See this on the map. (© Google, Inc.) #
The wreckage of tractors and other vehicles line a road near Namie's shore. See this on the map. (© Google, Inc.) #
Most roads in Namie lead to dead ends, either due to earthquake damage, or to enforce the imposed exclusion zone. See this on the map. (© Google, Inc.) #
Another collapsed house on the streets on Namie. See this on the map. (© Google, Inc.) #
Smashed vehicles lie strewn about in the fields near Namie's shore -- left where the tsunami dropped them two years ago. See this on the map. (© Google, Inc.) #
Fishing nets and other debris spills out of the empty Ukedo meeting house. See this on the map. (© Google, Inc.) #
Crows line a small damaged bridge over the Ukedo River, on the north side of Namie. See this on the map. (© Google, Inc.) #
An abandoned tractor, partially overgrown. See this on the map. (© Google, Inc.) #
The exterior of Ukedo Elementary School, heavily damaged by the tsunami. The school's 92 students were able to evacuate before disaster struck. See this on the map. (© Google, Inc.) #
A hand-washing station, just inside Ukedo Elementary School. See this on the map. (© Google, Inc.) #
On the second floor of Ukedo Elementary School, long-abandoned computer monitors have become perches for sea birds seeking shelter, who have smeared the screens with droppings. See this on the map. (© Google, Inc.) #
Writing on a blackboard inside Ukedo Elementary School says "I love Ukedo Elementary School. I'll definitely return!" See this on the map. (© Google, Inc.) #
A banner for the 2011 graduation ceremony remains inside the damaged Ukedo Elementary School gymnasium. See this on the map. (© Google, Inc.) #
Standing atop the Ukedo Elementary School, looking south, one can make out a few tall structures in the distance, belonging to the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant, a few kilometers to the south. See this on the map. (© Google, Inc.) #

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