In late March, the town of Tomioka, situated just five kilometers from the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, was opened to the public for the first time since Japan's east coast was shattered by an earthquake and tsunami in 2011. Rehabilitation efforts have only just begun, and those who once called the town home are forbidden from staying there overnight. Traffic thins to a trickle as you approach Tomioka, and government workers wearing white sanitation masks wave cars through at the edge of town. The streets and buildings are deserted, a desolation that is made still more disconcerting by the hush that drapes the town like a pall. There is only the chitchat of a cleanup crew eating lunch by the side of the road; an abrupt announcement over invisible loudspeakers instructing any visitors to leave by three o'clock; the quiet pop of gravel as our car slowly rolls down the abandoned streets; the call of a crow and the heavy flap of its wings. This is Tomioka:

Bags of irradiated top soil

All photos by Ryu Spaeth.