When the Fukushima nuclear plant melted down 10 years, 160,000 residents were told to avoid radiation risk by rapidly escaping the city. However, it seems only 159,998 residents listened.
The other two decided to remain. Why? Because they couldn't bear the thought of all the abandoned pets starving. Living within the 12.5-mile exclusion zone around the damaged reactor, the two men, unrelated to one another, both live alone while taking care of countless stray animals that were left behind when the evacuation order was given.
57-year-old Sakae Kato has 41 cats who live with him in his home in the mountains, along with a stray dog he adopted named Pochi. Kato says he will stay with his cats and ensure they are comfortable all through their lives. His kindness isn't limited to the animals he has adopted, as he's taken to feeding other animals, including wild boars - considered pests by the government.
Naoto Matsumura left the city at first, but returned shortly afterwards for his own animals. Once returned, the now 55-year old realized that everyone else’s pets and livestock were still there and hadn't eaten for several days. After it became clear no-one was coming back to the neighborhood, he went around unchaining dogs from trees, letting cows out of their barns, and feeding anything that needed it, earning him the moniker the ‘Guardian of Fukushima’s Animals’. Today, he's still taking care of a wide menagerie of animals, including pigs, cats, dogs, deer, ponies, ostriches, and cows.
According to scientists from JAXA, the Japanese national space agency, Matsumura is also the “champion” - the most irradiated man in the country. Despite this, they’ve advised him it will likely be 30-40 years before radiation begins to wreck his body, a timeline which will see him “likely dead by then.”
Until that day, he funds the feeding of the local animals through donations on a website he made via infrequent solar power, as he lives without electricity or running water.
Living in Fukushima is still technically illegal, and police have ordered them both to leave the area. Yet, they are not remotely bothered by the government’s demands, and both plan to stay there with their animals, come what may.