Fukushima Project (2012-)
Visiting Fukushima since the triple disasters of March 11, 2011, I have created 3 photographic series and 1 movie so far.
Memory of the Land, Prayers in the Wind (Movie, 2018)
(Collaborative project with Masaru Nakajima)
This is a slide-show movie I created in collaboration with Masaru Nakajima.
Since the Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11, 2011, I have been taking photographs of Fukushima. From within a wide area affected by the disasters, I focused on Fukushima, for the prefecture was literally hit by triple disasters, namely earthquake, tsunami and nuclear power plant accidents. The aftermath is not simple and the way to reconstruction is not straightforward. Feelings of the residents are also complicated from loss of their beloved people and houses and other properties, as well as from loss of the land and sea, on which they depended their living as farmers and fishermen. But people had to continue to live. Though surrounded by desperate situations, they struggled between hope and fear.
Inspired by my photographs, Masaru Nakajima, an experienced composer working mainly in TV field, offered a proposal for collaboration. I was also moved by his music and we clicked as soon as we started to talk about what we could do together. Masaru went to Fukushima by himself for field recording and thereby enriched his imagination. He also asked a local singer to sing traditional songs, which are featured in this movie. He felt as if he had recorded memories of the land and prayers in the wind, a phrase which has become the title of the movie. Whatever happens, the land keeps memories and the wind brings prayers. This happens all over the world.
“Memory of the Land, Prayers in the Wind” was thus born. As a work flow, Masaru created a fabulous piece of music of about 10 minutes and then I selected images and made a slide show. I used 55 images in total. We regard this movie as a narrative brought to life through music and photography.
In Silence and In Sorrow (2015)
This series entitled "In Silence and In Sorrow" consists of the photographs I took in evacuation zones in 2013 and 2014. Some places are located on the coast and within several kilometers from the exploded nuclear power plant. Others are small mountainous villages, and although they are more than 40 km away from the nuclear power plant, the radioactive particles were carried by wind and fell all over them.
After more than 2 years had passed, these zones had slowly but steadily fallen into ruin. In these photographs, we see things and places once beloved by people and now abandoned. I cannot stop myself from feeling the fragility of human existence and eschatological overtones as a result of human arrogance of trying to control the nature, blindly believing in their technologies.
I printed these photographs on Japanese traditional hand-screened paper called "Kamikawasaki-washi" from Nihonmatsu, Fukushima Prefecture. It has a history of over 1000 years, but now there are only three craftspersons. They do all the process by themselves from growing paper mulberry in their own field. I decided to use this special paper, for I expected that a certain kind of reaction might happen between the photographs of Fukushima and the paper of Fukushima. The results were more than I had expected. Every time I printed, I got different results with a kind of improvisational nature. With this help. it seems as if the photographs were to talk by themselves.
Prayer in Stricken Land (2013)
This is the second part of my Fukushima project. I took these photos between May 2012 and April 2013. In this series entitled “Prayer in Stricken Land,” I have focused on Minami-souma City, a small seaside town located to the north of the exploded nuclear power plant. It is really a special place, for it was literally devastated by triple disasters, namely earthquakes, tsunami and nuclear crisis. People lost a lot of things from families and friends to houses and jobs.
While the aftermath is still shocking, what has been more impressive to me in this stricken land has been that local people are very religious and the act of praying is rooted deeply in their life. Each community has its own shrine, which plays a core role to tie people together. This is perhaps a reason for their cooperativeness and a source for their community resilience.
In particular in Minami-souma, largely due to the long stable reign throughout the medieval ages, old religious traditions and practices remain intact. So, in the second year after the disasters, remaining people have restarted them in hope for restoration. They are trying to confirm their unity to overcome the hardships.
Desperate situations still continue. Praying is not simple. But people are struggling supported by one another, between hope and fear.
Lost in Fukushima (2012)
Even sea gulls stopped to gather at the fishing port hit by the highest tsunami this time. During the spring tide, sea water entered into the depth of the low land areas and fantastic fog lay thickly above them. On the other hand, in a mountainous village, where all the villagers evacuated for fear of the hazardous influences of the nuclear power plant accidents, rice fields dried up in May, although they normally shine like mirrors in this season. In summer, they were covered by grasses and no one could tell where rice fields and footpaths ought to be.
I heard the voices of the things lost and being lost.
The new year began, and in the seaside town, where recovery measures were taken particularly quickly, their remains were totally removed and vacant land spread as far as I could see and the voices still rose out of nowhere. The mountainous village, where everything was covered with snow, it seemed peaceful as if they had been just waiting for the coming of the spring, but in fact, old houses and small huts as well as sheds for animals started to show their weakness and fall into ruin, probably getting tired of waiting for their masters.
When we lost them, we were lost by them at the same time. We are lost.
The feeling of absolute emptiness between the two sides cannot be talked about together with hope for tomorrow and cannot be compensated for by anything. Trapped by this feeling, people lose any sense of gravity and time and we are just at a loss what to do and where to go.
In this series , I would like to look at extreme loneliness, despair and grief, from which people cannot easily escape after a catastrophic incident like Fukushima.