Ōkuma, Fukushima

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Ōkuma Town Hall
Ōkuma Town Hall
Flag of Ōkuma
Official logo of Ōkuma
Location of Ōkuma in Fukushima Prefecture
Location of Ōkuma in Fukushima Prefecture
Ōkuma is located in Japan
Coordinates: 37°22′55″N 140°57′30″E / 37.38194°N 140.95833°E / 37.38194; 140.95833Coordinates: 37°22′55″N 140°57′30″E / 37.38194°N 140.95833°E / 37.38194; 140.95833
 • Total78.71 km2 (30.39 sq mi)
 (29 February 2020)
 • Total10,287 [1]
Time zoneUTC+09:00 (Japan Standard Time)
– TreeMomi fir
– FlowerNashi pear
– BirdBlack kite
Phone number0120-26-3844
AddressShimonogami Ōno 634, Ōkuma-machi, Futaba-gun, Fukushima-ken 979–1308
WebsiteOfficial website

Ōkuma (大熊町, Ōkuma-machi) is a town located in Fukushima Prefecture, Japan. In 2010, the town had a population of 11,515.[2] However, the town was totally evacuated in the aftermath of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster and residents were permitted return during daylight hours from May 2013. In April 2019, parts of the town were deemed to have been successfully decontaminated, with residents allowed to return to these areas.

As of 1 March 2020, the town had an official registered population of 11,505 in 4235 households, however this number is due to the municipality continuing to keep track of its residents despite them having been evacuated elsewhere throughout the country. The actual population resident in the town was 2578 people.[3] The total area of the town is 78.71 square kilometres (30.39 sq mi).[4]


Ōkuma is located on the Pacific Ocean coastline of central Fukushima. Ōkuma lies in the center of the Hamadōri region of Fukushima, bordered to the west by the Abukuma Highlands and to the east by the Pacific Ocean. It is set between the cities of Namie and Futaba to the north, Tamura to the west, and Kawauchi and Tomioka to the south. The town is the site of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.

Mt. Higakure (日隠山, Higakure-yama), with a height of 601.5 metres (1,973 ft), is within the city. The Kuma River (熊川, Kuma-gawa) also flows within the city.

Surrounding municipalities[edit]


Per Japanese census data,[5] the population of Ōkuma grew steadily over the past 40 years until the nuclear disaster.

Historical population
1920 5,790—    
1930 6,401+10.6%
1940 6,044−5.6%
1950 8,760+44.9%
1960 8,206−6.3%
1970 7,750−5.6%
1980 9,396+21.2%
1990 10,304+9.7%
2000 10,803+4.8%
2010 11,515+6.6%


Ōkuma has a humid climate (Köppen climate classification Cfa). The average annual temperature in Ōkuma is 12.1 °C (53.8 °F). The average annual rainfall is 1,329 mm (52.3 in) with September as the wettest month. The temperatures are highest on average in August, at around 24.1 °C (75.4 °F), and lowest in January, at around 1.5 °C (34.7 °F).[6]


Early history of the area[edit]

The area of present-day Ōkuma was part of Mutsu Province. While historical records are unclear, it is believed that the area of present-day Ōkuma was ruled by the Shineha clan beginning in the mid-12th century. Later, during the Sengoku period, in December 1492 the Sōma clan defeated the Shineha clan, and the area transferred to the Sōma clan's control.[7][8]

During the Edo period, the Kumagawa Post Town (熊川宿, Kumagawa-juku) was established along the Iwaki-Sōma Road (岩城相馬街道), also referred as Coastal Road (浜通り Hamadōri), in the area of present-day Ōkuma. The Iwaki-Sōma Road connected the region to Mito in the south and Sendai in the north. Modern-day National Route 6, which runs through Ōkuma, generally follows the same route as the Iwaki-Sōma Road.[9]

Creation of the municipality[edit]

In 1888, the national government passed the Municipal Government Act (市制町村制, Shi-sei Chōson-sei), and in accordance with the act, on 1 April of the following year the villages of Ōno (大野村, Ōno-mura) and Kumamachi (熊町村, Kumamachi-mura) were inaugurated as parts of the district of Shineha (標葉郡, Shineha-gun).

On 1 April 1896, the Shineha district merged with the district of Naraha (楢葉郡, Naraha-gun) to become the present-day district of Futaba. Over a half a century later, on 11 November 1954, the villages of Ōno and Kumamachi merged to form the present-day town of Ōkuma.

From coal mining to nuclear power[edit]

Beginning during the 1870s, coal mining became an integral part of the economy of the Hamadōri region. This continued through the beginning stages of Japan's post-World War II rapid economic growth period, leading Fukushima Prefecture to lag behind the country as a whole in industrial and economic development. In the tail end of the 1950s, the prefecture began promoting electricity generation as a way to alleviate the economic problems on the horizon from the impending closure of the coal mines.

On 30 September – 22 October 1961 the town councils of Futaba and Ōkuma, respectively, unanimously voted to invite Tokyo Electric Power Company to build a nuclear power plant on the border of the two towns.[10] In September 1967 construction began on unit one of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. By October 1978, units one through four, which are on the Ōkuma side of the plant, had been commissioned. Units five and six (on the Futaba side) were commissioned by March 1979.[11]

2011 Tōhoku earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster[edit]

On 11 March 2011 the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami occurred. The earthquake and tsunami caused severe damage to Ōkuma, especially devastating coastal areas. The tsunami hit and flooded the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, located on the Pacific coast of Ōkuma, and set off the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. By the following morning, the Japanese government had ordered residents to evacuate to outside of a 10 km (6.2 mi) radius of the power plant. Many residents were evacuated to the nearby city of Tamura, among other cities.[12]

Shortly thereafter Ōkuma set up a temporary town office in the Tamura City General Gymnasium (田村市総合体育館, Tamura-shi Sōgō Taiikukan). The temporary town office was later moved on 3 April to Aizuwakamatsu. Ōkuma residents had scattered to about 20 evacuation centers located in the cities of Tamura and Kōriyama and the towns of Miharu and Ono, and by 30 April approximately 1,800 residents had expressed the desire to also move to Aizuwakamatsu.[13]

On 10 December 2012 Ōkuma modified the areas of the town under evacuation orders and permitted residents of select regions of the town to return to their homes. Within the first 19 days 104 residents returned, however other residents of Ōkuma, like some other communities in Fukushima, are "starting to come to terms with a sobering realization: their old homes are probably lost forever, and they must start anew elsewhere."[14]

As of 2015, the town is aiming to develop a forested area for living by 2018.[15] The seaside area of the town, which was once heavily populated, will be turned into a nature reserve.[16]

In April 2019, parts of Ōkuma were deemed safe from further radiation contamination.[17] The BBC reported that around 50 people were scheduled to move back.[17]


Ōkuma has three public elementary schools and one public junior high school operated by the town government, and one public high school operated by the Fukushima Prefectural Board of Education. The operation of all schools remains suspended indefinitely.




International relations[edit]


  1. ^ "大熊町民の被害・避難状況 – 大熊町公式ホームページ". www.town.okuma.fukushima.jp.
  2. ^ Satoshi Narita (5 August 2011). "統計Today No.41: 被災3県(岩手県、宮城県及び福島県)の沿岸地域の状況" (in Japanese). Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications Statistics Bureau. Retrieved 7 May 2012.
  3. ^ 大熊町の避難状況 (in Japanese). Ōkuma-machi. 4 April 2020. Retrieved 4 April 2020.
  4. ^ "Ōkuma official home page" (in Japanese). Japan: Ōkuma Town.
  5. ^ "Fukushima (Japan): Prefecture, Cities, Towns and Villages – Population Statistics, Charts and Map". www.citypopulation.de.
  6. ^ "Okuma climate: Average Temperature, weather by month, Okuma weather averages - Climate-Data.org". en.climate-data.org.
  7. ^ 武家家伝_標葉氏 [Samurai Family History: Shineha Clan] (in Japanese). 戦国武将の家紋. Retrieved 26 June 2012.
  8. ^ Fujiwara, Ichirō (1 December 2011). 相馬の歴史講座 [Lecture on Sōma History] (in Japanese). Sōma City. Retrieved 26 June 2012.
  9. ^ 百街道一歩の岩城相馬街道 [A Step on a Hundred Roads: Iwaki-Sōma Road] (in Japanese). 3 September 2011. Retrieved 26 June 2012.
  10. ^ 横須賀正雄 (1968). 東電・福島原子力発電所の用地交渉報告. 用地補償実務例 第1 (in Japanese). 日本ダム協会: 60–61.
  11. ^ "Fukushima Daiichi Information Screen". Icjt.org. Retrieved 8 May 2012.
  12. ^ 【覆された備え11】再避難 強いられ分散 所在確認 今も続く (in Japanese). The Fukushima Minpo newspaper. 29 April 2012. Retrieved 8 May 2012.
  13. ^ 東日本大震災特報 写真特集 (in Japanese). The Fukushima Minpo newspaper. 31 March 2011. Retrieved 8 May 2012.
  14. ^ Tabuchi, Hiroko (11 March 2013). "Uprooted by Tsunami, Church's Flock Regroups". The New York Times. Retrieved 25 March 2013.
  15. ^ "大熊町、2018年度の居住再開めざす 時期の表明は初".
  16. ^ "2013 Interim Report" (PDF).
  17. ^ a b "Fukushima nuclear disaster: Abandoned town allows first residents home". BBC News. 10 April 2019.
  18. ^ "Council Sister City". Bathhurst Regional council. Retrieved 2 February 2014.

External links[edit]