Though Ouchi says she does not know how long she will stay in the rented house she found last October, one thing she is sure of: Although her husband still works part time at the nuclear plant that went into meltdown following the tsunami last March, she will not be returning to live in Okuma, her village.
"I've seen a documentary about Chernobyl," she says. "Nobody lives there, and that was 25 years ago."
Ouchi's situation is similar to those of the 78,000 people ordered out of an "exclusion zone" stretching 12 miles from the reactors. Nor is the future much clearer for the other 264,000 people displaced by the earthquake, tsunami, and wider concerns about radiation. Officials up and down the battered northeastern coast say that complications of finding safe land and sufficient funds mean it could be five years or more until they are rehoused.
"I can't think about being here for five years," exclaims Chikako Nishihara, a grandmotherly physiotherapist whom the authorities have squeezed with her husband into a tiny prefabricated housing unit in the city of Iwaki. "We just live day to day."
The barracks-like compound is the sixth place Mrs. Nishihara has laid her head since she and her husband left their home in Tomioka, next door to the nuclear plant, last March 11 for a series of schools, gyms, and relatives' homes. Now their plans are on hold until the government decides whether their village can be made habitable or until TEPCO, the plant operator, compensates them.