Image: Kunio Shiga
Hiro Komae  /  AP
Kunio Shiga, a farmer in Minami Soma, on Friday greets the first people he has seen since the tsunami.
By
updated 4/9/2011 1:10:50 AM ET 2011-04-09T05:10:50

The farmhouse sits at the end of a mud-caked, one-lane road strewn with toppled trees, the decaying carcasses of dead pigs and large debris deposited by the March 11 tsunami.

Stranded alone inside the unheated, dark home is 75-year-old Kunio Shiga. He cannot walk very far and doesn't know what happened to his wife.

His neighbors have all left because the area is 12 miles (20 kilometers) from the crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant — just within the zone where authorities have told everyone to get out because of concerns about leaking radiation.

No rescuer ever came for him.

When a reporter and two photographers from The Associated Press arrived at Shiga's doorstep Friday, the scared and disoriented farmer said: "You are the first people I have spoken to" since the earthquake and tsunami.

"Do you have any food?" he asked. "I will pay you."

Shiga gratefully accepted the one-liter bottle of water and sack of 15-20 energy bars given to him by the AP. With Shiga's permission, the AP notified local police of his situation.

On Saturday, a police official in charge of missing persons called the AP to say Shiga had been rescued and taken to a shelter. The official, who did not give his name because he is not authorized to speak to the media, said Shiga was expected to be fine.

Story: Japanese struggle with blackouts after latest quake

Shiga had said Friday that he was running out of supplies and food. He was unable to cook his rice for lack of electricity and running water. His traditional, two-story house is intact, although it is a mess of fallen objects, including a toppled Buddhist shrine. Temperatures at night in the region have been cold, but above freezing.

The Odaka neighborhood where he lives is a ghost town. Neighboring fields are still inundated from the tsunami. The smell of the sea is everywhere. The only noise comes from pigs foraging for food.

Local police acknowledged they have not been able to check many neighborhoods because of radiation concerns.

As radiation from the Fukushima nuclear plant has fallen in recent days, however, the police have fanned out inside the evacuation zone to cover more areas.

PhotoBlog: Inside Kunio Shiga's home

On Friday, they were busy searching for bodies two miles (three kilometers) from Shiga's farmhouse.

Hundreds of police, many mobilized from Tokyo and wearing white radiation suits, pulled four bodies in an hour from one small area in Minami Soma. They had found only five bodies the previous day.

The AP crew, which had been watching the police search, later broke away to see if it could find any residents living inside the evacuation zone. Some construction workers directed them to a part of town where some houses were intact.

The farmhouse where Shiga's family has grown vegetables for generations is at the end of a long mud- and rubble-covered road blocked by fallen trees and dead and decaying animals.

The journalists spotted the relatively undamaged house about 500 yards (meters) away. Unable to drive on the road because of the debris, they navigated the rest of the way on foot, sometimes crawling over large branches.

Shiga was seen wandering in front of his house but went inside. The journalists went to greet him.

He said he spent his lonely days since the disaster sitting in bed in his dark home and listening to a battery-powered radio. A scruffy beard covered his face.

"The tsunami came right up to my doorstep," he said. "I don't know what happened to my wife. She was here, but now she's gone."

Shiga said he was aware of the evacuation order but could do nothing about it, since he is barely able to walk past the front gate of his house. His car is stuck in mud and won't start.

Although Shiga moved to a shelter, he had said Friday that he was not sure whether he really wanted to.

"I'm old and I don't know if I could leave here. Who would take care of me?" he said, staring blankly through his sliding glass doors at the mess in his yard.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Japanese town turns to YouTube for help

Photos: After Japan's earthquake and tsunami - week 8

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  1. A radiation measuring instrument is seen next to some residents in Kawauchimura, a village within the 12- to 18-mile zone around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, on April 28. Most residents of Kawauchimura have evacuated in order to avoid the radiation, but some remain in the area of their own accord. (Koichi Kamoshida / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. A brazier heats the house of Masahiro Kazami, located within a 12-mile radius of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, April 28. (Koichi Kamoshida / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Volunteers help clean a cemetery at Jionin temple in Ishinomaki, Miyagi prefecture, northeastern Japan, on April 29. Many volunteers poured into the disaster-hit region at the beginning of the annual Golden Week holiday. (Hiro Komae / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Japanese government adviser Toshiso Kosako is overcome with emotion during a news conference on April 29 in Tokyo announcing his resignation. The expert on radiation exposure said he could not stay on the job and allow the government to set what he called improper radiation limits for elementary schools in areas near the tsunami-damaged Fukushima nuclear plant. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Fuel rods are seen inside the spent fuel pool of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant reactor 4 on April 30. (Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. A volunteer girl from Tokyo works to clean the debris of a house in Higashimatsushima, northern Japan, on April 30. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Farmer Tsugio Sato tends to his Japanese pear trees in Fukushima city, May 1. He said he expects to harvest the pears in October. Farmers and businesses face so-called "fuhyo higai," or damages stemming from the battered reputation of the Fukushima brand. (Hiro Komae / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Members of Japan Ground Self-Defense Force in protective gear receive radiation screening in Minamisoma in Fukushima prefecture, after searching for bodies at an area devastated by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. (Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Ruriko Sakuma, daughter of dairy farmer Shinji Sakuma, rubs a cow at their farm in the village of Katsurao in Fukushima prefecture on May 3. Thousands of farm animals died of hunger in the weeks following the quake. (Yoshikazu Tsuno / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
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Timeline: Crisis in Japan

How events have unfolded since a 9.0 earthquake struck northeast Japan, triggering a deadly tsunami and nuclear power disaster.

  1. Image: The wave from a tsunami crashes over a street in Miyako City, Iwate Prefecture in northeastern Japan
    Ho / Reuters
    Above: Timeline Crisis in Japan
  2. Interactive Japan before and after the disaster

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