From atomic bombings to nuclear disaster: director turns camera toward Fukushima

February 12,2012
The Mainichi Daily News

(Mainichi Japan)

Restaurant operator Hiromi Sato, third from left, speaks to the camera during filming for a new documentary. She says she was unable to leave an area in Fukushima close to the crippled nuclear plant because she kept two dogs there.

Director Hidetaka Inazuka, known for his documentary on the late double atomic bomb survivor Tsutomu Yamaguchi, has turned his attention toward Fukushima Prefecture, covering the prefecture in a new film on people exposed to radiation from the crippled Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant.

The 61-year-old filmmaker’s new work is titled "Fukushima 2011: Hibaku ni Sarasareta Hitobito no Kiroku" (Fukushima 2011: Records of people exposed to radiation). It follows survivors of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki who are now living in Fukushima, as well as the people facing radioactive contamination of their hometowns. The film is due to be screened across Japan from mid-March. It will also be shown at the Los Angeles Japanese Film Festival in April.

One subject of the new documentary is a man in his 80s who survived the atomic bombing of Hiroshima at an army barracks in the city.

"Even when there were explosions at the nuclear power plant I didn’t feel scared. I’ve been hit by a bombing before, and it’s 30 kilometers (from my place to the nuclear plant)," he says.

After the war, the man took up dairy farming, but the nuclear disaster triggered by the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami forced him to abandon his business.

"I had 46 cows, but I sold them off for 800,000 yen. I can get by for a year or two, but there’s no telling what’s in store after that. I think about my children and grandchildren every day," he tells the camera.

In April last year, Inazuka visited the United States for a screening of his documentary "Twice Bombed: A Legacy of Yamaguchi Tsutomu." The film traces Yamaguchi’s activities speaking about surviving the atomic bombings of both Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Yamaguchi died in 2010 at the age of 93. The documentary was well received in the United States, but after the outbreak of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, Japanese people in the U.S. complained that the effects of radiation were not being properly communicated in Japan.

Hearing such complaints, Inazuka recalled the words of Yamaguchi: "The world in which people live must be nuclear-free. We can’t prevent (nuclear) accidents with current technology. If we don’t become nuclear-free, the downfall of mankind will draw closer."

In May last year, Inazuka visited Fukushima Prefecture, and he focused his camera on the people in the municipality of Iitate before the whole village was evacuated, as well as on people in the city of Soma and other areas where many were killed by the March 11, 2011 tsunami. The film covers people’s efforts to restore and revitalize their hometowns, where bonds between families and communities have been severed as a result of the disaster.

Included in the film is 69-year-old Hiromi Sato, a restaurant operator in the city of Minamisoma.

"My neighbors starting leaving, and everyone sent me emails saying ‘get out of there’ so I started to get scared," she says. "But I didn’t want to live in a shelter." She reopened her restaurant after the "Golden Week" string of public holidays in May 2011.

"There are various circumstances among the people who stay, those who leave, and those who return," Inazuka says. "I want to cover the people who are confronting the issues of life wholeheartedly."

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