Fukushima potter goes home ten years after disaster

Dust and rubble is most of what's left of Toshiharu Onoda's old pottery studio in Fukushima, Japan.

Onoda is a thirteenth-generation potter of Oborisoma-yaki, known for the high-pitched singing sound made when kilns are opened, and the glaze cracks.

On March 11, 2011, Onoda had just finished loading his kiln when a massive earthquake struck close to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, and changed his life forever.

"The kiln in front of me started clattering and everything inside just suddenly shattered on the ground when the earthquake happened. It was the first time I went through such a terrifying experience. I couldn't move at all even if I tried to run away."

Within hours Onoda and some two dozen other potters were forced to evacuate and leave their life's work behind, as nuclear reactor buildings exploded, spewing radiation across the area where their families had lived and worked for over 300 years.

Ten years later, Onoda has returned to the town of Namie in Fukushima.

But, Onoda says, everything about the town - and its pottery - has changed.

Half of his fellow potters have quit, and some 80% of the town still remains off-limits due to high levels of radiation.

Even the clay and glaze which once gave their wares a distinctive blue-green sheen can no longer be gathered and processed there.

But despite all the loss he has experienced, Onoda has forged on.

"I would like to pass Oborisoma-yaki, a tradition with a history of more than 300 years to the next generations. That is my goal. I hope that it could be carried on by as many people as possible."

Onoda still hopes to reopen his own studio in Namie one day.

But for now, him and Namie's other remaining potters will work at a new showroom set to open soon, where they will sell their wares, teach, and continue keep the spirit of Oborisoma-yaki alive.