Published March 28, 2013
Google Street View is giving people a rare glimpse of Japanese ghost town Namie which was left abandoned after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami sparked a nuclear disaster that has left the area uninhabitable.
The eerie images taken by Google's fleet of camera-equipped vehicles show concrete rubble littering streets with abandoned shops and homes shuttered after the double disaster.
In one a ship sits stranded on a stretch of dirt flattened when the powerful tsunami hit the coastline.
Google's technology pieces together digital images and allows viewers to take virtual tours of locations around the world.
Now it is taking people inside Japan's nuclear no-go zone for the first time, where the city's 21,000 residents have been unable to return to live since they fled the radiation spewing from the ruptured Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant two years ago.
Koto Naganuma, 32, who lost her home in the tsunami, said some people find it too painful to see the places that are now out of their reach.
"I'm looking forward to it. I'm excited I can take a look at those places that are so dear to me," she said. "It would be hard, too. No one is going to be there."
Namie mayor Tamotsu Baba said memories rushed back when he saw images shot by Google.
"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," he said. "We want this Street View imagery to become a permanent record of what happened to Namie-machi in the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster."
Street View was started in 2007, and now provides images from more than 3,000 cities across 48 countries, as well as parts of the Arctic and Antarctica.