Planet Fukushima (2017)
The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster released radioactive substances, which created a number of“hotspots” across the prefecture of Fukushima, where the spatial radiation dose is concentrated. In the aftermath of the disaster, the radioactive clouds, “plumes,” were created. The weather at the time brought these clouds towards the northwest from the nuclear plant (towards the inland areas), creating the “hot spots” as a result. Fukushima was extensively damaged. My hometown, the City of Date (approximately 60 km northwest of the nuclear plant), was no exception. In areas only a few kilometers away from my parents' home, many people had to voluntarily evacuate, even though they were not designated as restricted area. Most of pictures in this work were taken in the path over which the radioactive plumes had travelled.
At first, I had a hard time understanding the seriousness of the accident because the radioactive substances are not visible. One day, however, something happened when I was going to my hometown by taking the train which had just been reconstructed since the disaster. It had just stopped raining, and with the pleasant joggle of the train, I watched the greenery with raindrops passing by from the car window. An old man in rain boots was standing and holding the handrail, waiting to get off the train. His bald head had only a few hairs, which were fluttered by the wind of an electric fan on the train. Then some emotions sprung up in me because seeing the old man matched with my visual memories of my deceased grandfather and the mountains and forests that he curved out. My heart ached for knowing that the mountains would never be the same again. It was a moment where I felt, in addition to a sense of great loss, a sense of extreme fear that I had never felt before. This visual experience also seemed to me like a metaphor that describes the future of a train with never-opening doors that is separated from the external world. I still vividly remember that the familiar scenery looked drastically different for me.
Ever since then, I have had a vision that has three layers: foreground, middle-distance, and background. These layers could be described as three different dimensions. For example, humans are in the foreground and scenery exist in the background. Humans and scenery used to exist together in the same dimension, however, now they are separated because of the foreign object, the radioactivity. Furthermore, the invisible middle-distance is going to continue to linger in between us humans and scenery.
My grandfather passed away around 20 years ago without having to experience the disaster, which might be described as fortunate. Would he have imagined this disaster? He was a patient and quiet a northern countryman, and he lived out his life through cultivating the lands that had been passed on for generations. After World War II, the town was rapidly modernized with a large-scale energy modernization, which he might have felt happy about. The four-wheel drive that can go in rough mountain roads must have been dependable for him as his leg was physically disabled because of infantile paralysis. Moreover, I wonder how he felt when he heard the jaunty sound of a chainsaw, cutting off the big trees he had grown. The mountains, however, are now thick and devastated as people no longer even go in there. Looking from afar, it seems like nothing has changed, but the trees are covered with ivy, and pests are swarming all over, and bears and wild boards come down outside of the mountains. Not just my grandfather, but who could have ever imagined this future? How would my grandfather and other diseased people feel if they had been able to see the current state of the mountains and the town scenery? Furthermore, I have no choice but to think about future people after I die.
As I consciously feel the space that is separated from the external world, I have recently realized, after seven years, that each person has different perceptions of time. It could be faster or slower, longer or shorter, intermittent, or even going back to the time before the disaster. The fact that people have different perceptions of time implies that people also have different understanding of the disaster. The types and degrees of damages of the disaster also impact the perceptions of time, depending on the person, such as farmers, reconstruction workers, those living in temporary housing, children, or parents of the children, and also depending on the region, such as coast towns where the damages of the tsunami are visibly greater or inland areas where the damages of the radioactivity are greater. How people feel towards time and the disaster varies obviously not just for people in Fukushima but for people elsewhere. Specifically in the space of Fukushima, however, I cannot help feeling that the invisible foreign object is uniquely affecting how the people in Fukushima perceive time.
Time is an accumulation of every single moment where Fukushima exists as a place that contains all elements in the foreground and the background, divided by the middle-distance. As I was taking photos with that in mind, I suddenly felt like looking at Fukushima from a higher perspective and even looking at the blue earth from far, far away.
An Excerpt from the text of the photo exhibition “Planet Fukushima”, Nikon Salon Ginza, December 6-13,2017
Codicil : in Planet Fukushima , the presence of ( humans in the near view), (radioactivity in the middle view), and (scenery in the distant view) are captured separately in one picture. On the other hand, The Circle means ( humans in the near view), (fences in the middle view), (animals in the far view). In a sense these two works are a pair of works.