It's hard to believe that the Tohoku earthquake and subsequent devastating tsunami in northeast Japan happened over 10 years ago. But a new exhibition at the Royal Geographical Society has brought together six celebrated photographers to examine the lasting legacy of the earthquake, tsunami and subsequent nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.


This exhibit captures how, over ten years after the events of 2011, large areas of land remain uninhabitable. It also explores how efforts to decontaminate the region continue. The exclusion zone is slowly shrinking and as evacuation orders are lifted, residents are being incentivised to return home. So far, few people have chosen to do so. One village found that only a third of its residents chose to return, and more than 70 per cent of those people were over the age of 65.

The exhibition runs until the 23 December 2021 at the Royal Geographic Society, London. You can also view more images online at the 'Picturing the Invisible' website.

We bring you some images from the exhibition that show some of these recovery efforts in action.

The spiral shore

Fukushima Nuclear Disaster
A deserted beach within the Fukushima exclusion zone. Photo by Lieko Shiga
Fukushima nuclear disaster
An old couple from the coastal village of Kitakama, Japan, hold a dead tree taken from a nearby forest. The 2011 earthquake killed 60 residents of this small village. Photo by Lieko Shiga

A Mirror on the Other Side, Maquette

Fukushima Nuclear power plant
A daguerreotype (an early photography process) of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, partially obscured by powerful waves. Photo by Takashi Arai

Restricted residence

Restricted Residence Fukushima Nuclear disaster
A thermal image of cattle in the exclusion zone around Fukushima. These cattle are too contaminated to be used in farming or sold for food, but the farmer who owns them refuses to allow them to be put to sleep. Photo by Giles Price
Thermal image of residents from Fukushima Nuclear disaster
A man carrying a camera is photographed in the exclusion zone using a thermal imaging camera. Photo by Giles Price


Footprints Fukushima nuclear disaster
Radioactive footprints of residents of Fukushima, imaged using autoradiography. Photo by Masamichi Kagaya

Nuclear Samurai

Young Samurai on horseback nuclear disaster
Taken during the resumption of the Soma Nomaoi festival after the 'triple disaster' in Fukushima, this photo from Thom Davies' 'Nuclear Samurai' series challenges us to think about how the young people of Fukushima, torn as they are between pride in their historical greatness and the various prohibitions imposed on them by the persistent presence of radioactivity, envisage their future. Photo by Thom Davies

Take a look at some of our other galleries:


Fukushima abandoned radioactive cars in field
Abandoned cars in a field in the Fukushima exclusion zone, 2016. Photo by Rebecca Bathory
Fukushima nuclear waste sealed and bagged
Bags of irradiated soil piled up in the Fukushima exclusion zone, 2016. Photo by Rebecca Bathory

Founded in 1830, the Royal Geographical Society is the professional body for geographers in the UK.


James CutmorePicture Editor, BBC Science Focus

James Cutmore is the picture editor of BBC Science Focus Magazine, researching striking images for the magazine and on the website. He is also has a passion for taking his own photographs