For Tokue Hosokawa, tending to the horses on his family's 100-year-old farm in Fukushima is not only his livelihood, it's a labor of love. He continues to care for them despite radiation levels that have made living in the area a health risk since the earthquake and nuclear disaster of 2011.
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Though Hosokawa's village of Iitate was initially deemed safe by officials, weeks after the Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant explosion, evidence of contamination prompted city officials to evacuate the town's population. Hosokawa was told to terminate his potentially contaminated horses and livestock and leave the area, the Guardian reports, but he refused.
"Just after the accident one of the horses gave birth. When I saw that foal get to its feet and start feeding from its mother, I knew there was no way I could leave," he told the Guardian.
At the time, his farm was home to 130 horses and several cows that appeared to be free of contamination. According to photojournalist Kazuma Obara's blog, the now 62-year-old sent his wife and daughter to a safer location and remained close to the prefecture so he could feed the animals.
"I have lived with horses since I was a child. So horses are my family," he told Kazuma. "I can accept culling, if these horses have infectious disease. But they are fine. This is totally unacceptable."
He was reportedly able to relocate more than 80 of the horses, but couldn't find anyone to care for the others in the mostly deserted prefecture. Hosokawa continues to tend to the 30 horses that remain.
“To be honest with you, I have almost reached the limit to give up," he told members of the 'After The Earthquake' project, which documented accounts from people dealing with the quake's aftermath . "But I can’t leave the horses behind. They have helped our family [for] generations. How can I abandon them? I’m ready to die with my horses here."