A new shopping complex opened Tuesday in the town of Naraha, Fukushima Prefecture, nearly three years after the government's evacuation order following the 2011 nuclear disaster was lifted.
The public facility, dubbed "Kokonara Shotengai," consists of 10 shops including a supermarket, a bakery and a barber's shop.
The Chinese character meaning "laughter" was used as part of the name as a way to encourage and inspire returning residents.
The new shopping complex is adjacent to emergency public housing, a medical institution and a childcare center. It replaces a makeshift shopping district located elsewhere in the town.
Local residents welcomed the latest development in their hometown.
"I'm so glad that the opening day has come. I have been waiting for this for so long," said 78-year-old Hisako Ishiyama, who, until March, lived in the city of Minamisoma.
Ishiyama previously had to travel by train or in her friend's car to neighboring towns just to shop.
"Life will be easier," she said after buying items such as a sliced raw tuna for dinner.
Evacuation orders and advisories were issued for some areas in Fukushima following the disaster. Naraha was the first on which the government lifted the evacuation order for a municipality whose entire population was ordered to evacuate in September 2015.
Most of Naraha lies within a 20-kilometer radius of the crippled nuclear plant, where three reactors experienced meltdowns after a massive earthquake and tsunami hit the eastern Japan in March 2011.
As of the end of May, 3,343 of 7,046 registered residents have returned to the town.