Townspeople in Tomioka, Fukushima Prefecture, used to take pride in a 2.5-kilometer stretch of 300 cherry trees that reached full bloom and created a ceiling of blossoms every April at Yonomori Park.
Before the massive quake last year, around 15,000 lived in the town. But now Naoto Matsumura, 52, is the only resident. He stayed on in the town where he grew up even after the whole of the town was included in the exclusion zone on April 22 as a result of the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant.
On March 11 last year, when the earthquake struck, he was operating a road paving machine at a construction site on the Joban Expressway. He lost contact with the site supervisor and came home driving a truck alone on a road roughened up by the quake.