Though the area’s clubs are located a mere 200 meters from the coast in Iwaki City, impacts from the tsunami that rushed ashore following the 9.0-magnitude earthquake of March 11 were minimal. Damage to storage tanks and pipe networks utilized by water suppliers, however, forced all the clubs to close down.
An ongoing concern to businesses is fear of radiation stemming from the meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, which is operated by Tokyo Electric Power Co.
On most evenings, Onahama‘s flickering neon lights attract quite a number of male customers in search of a little relaxation.
“It’s as busy as ever,” says a soapland employee. “We’ve even got working girls from Tokyo commuting up to here on the weekends.”
A local who frequents such establishments says that love hotels are frequently at full capacity. “The ‘delivery health‘ (out-call) joints are being forced to refuse a lot of customers,” says the regular.
Buffeting the resurgence is the battalion of workers who arrived in Fukushima after the accident to decommission the plant.
“On the weekends, workers who have accumulated a lot of stress come out to play in a big way,” says a member of the municipal government. “As a result, sales at restaurants are way up.”
This prosperity has come at a cost. “The area was once known as a popular location for couples to venture out on dates,” says a 40-year-old male who lives in the area.
That is no longer the case.
In September of 2012, a group of four men attacked a couple inside a car parked along the coast of Nagasaki. “The group thrust knives at the couple and demanded money,” says an investigator. “They got 30,000 yen, and he guy got roughed up.”
The perpetrators in the assault were later found to have been employees at a construction company in Kanagawa Prefecture.
The investigator continues to say that disreputable people have entered the prefecture since work began to decommission the plant.
Since the incident, local residents have increasingly viewed outsiders with a discriminatory eye, and the problems have escalated.
“They’ve got criminal records or they are yakuza members,” says the aforementioned 40-year-old, in referring to employees working at the plant. “They build up stress through work and then they just go off.”
The local resident goes on to say that he has heard of a number of problems that have unfolded in the pleasure quarter fronting JR Iwaki Station, including the confinement of a “snack” hostess and random incidents that have resulted in bloodshed.
According to Fukushima Prefectural Police, there have been 63 arrests or incidents involving plant workers through June of last year.
“A sense of security has become lost since the accident,” says the 40-year-old.
Source: “Shinsai kara 3nen Fukushima no riaru: fukko baburu ga umanda hikari to kage nigiwa fuzoku-gai Onahama,” Yukan Fuji (Apr. 1)