In late March 2013, 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.

In the early months of the town's rehabilitation efforts two years ago, those who once called Tomioka home were forbidden from staying there overnight. Traffic thinned to a trickle as you approached, and government workers wearing white sanitation masks waved cars through at the edge of town. The streets and buildings were deserted, a desolation that was made still more disconcerting by the hush that draped the town like a pall.

There was 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 rolled down the abandoned streets; the call of a crow and the heavy flap of its wings. This was Tomioka:

Bags of irradiated top soil.

(All photos by Ryu Spaeth)