3 YEARS LATER: Meet The Fukushima Children Who Play Outside For 15 Minutes A Day

Fukushima radiation indoor childrenKim Kyung-Hoon/ReutersChildren play in an indoor playground in Fukushima.

Three years ago today, Japan saw a trifecta of catastrophes beginning with the Tohoku earthquake, then a devastating tsunami, and finally the second-worst nuclear accident in history.

What followed is one of the largest and most ambitious cleanup efforts ever.

Families still fearful of radiation exposure have kept their children indoors for much of their short lives. One mother at an indoor Koriyama playground was overheard telling her child, “try to avoid touching the outside air,” Reuters reports.

The 9.0-magnitude earthquake struck Japan's northeast coast and set off a tsunami that swelled to more than 65 feet. The wall of water knocked out the cooling systems at the nearby Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, causing a meltdown of three reactors.

Japan's Fukushima disaster echoed 1986's Chernobyl as more than 100,000 people were evacuated to shelters.

Residents were screened for radiation exposure at pop-up testing centres and warned not to give babies tap water due to radiation leaking from the plant.

A month later, more than 70 schools opened for the first day of class since the disaster. In this photo, a girl waits outside her classroom at Shimizu elementary.

Here students walk by a geiger counter, a tool used to measure radiation, a new accommodation for daily life after the nuclear Fukushima disaster.

'Some mothers told me that their children born after the nuclear crisis have almost never played outdoors,' wrote photographer Toru Hanai.

According to the World Health Organisation, there is a higher possibility of some children in the region developing thyroid cancer as a result of radiation exposure. Here a doctor examines a 5-year-old girl at a clinic in temporary housing complex.

Indoor playgrounds like this one were built for families who refrain from playing outside because of concerns about nuclear radiation.

Cities closest to the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant recommended that children up to 2 years old not spend more than 15 minutes outside each day. Here Nao Watanabe, 2, plays in a ball pit at an indoor playground.

Children age 3 to 5 should limit their outdoor time to 30 minutes or less.

An annual survey by Fukushima's Board of Education found that children in the area weighed more than the national average in virtually every age group.

The cause seems to be a lack of exercise and outdoor activity.

Next month, researchers expect to see the first traces of the Fukushima radiation in the United States.

You've seen the children of Fukushima ...

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