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Hiroshima man’s anime sheds light on Fukushima nuclear project

The protagonist of the anime “Fukushima Genpatsu Hajimari Monogatari: Toge” (The prologue to the Fukushima nuclear power plant: Mountain pass) lives in temporary housing following the 2011 nuclear accident. (Provided by Machimonogatari Seisaku Iinkai)

May 3, 2022

Hiroshima resident Hidenobu Fukumoto was astonished when he learned there was once a plan to build a nuclear power plant in his hometown, the first city devastated by a nuclear bomb.

He discovered the shocking news by chance while visiting Fukushima Prefecture, which suffered its own nuclear disaster in 2011, as a “kamishibai” picture card show artist.

“I was stunned,” said Fukumoto, who has produced about 170 kamishibai titles based on the accounts of residents affected by the disaster. “I decided to face up to the new fact about Hiroshima I discovered during my visits to Fukushima.”

Fukumoto, 65, has created a 57-minute anime exploring why Fukushima Prefecture ended up hosting a nuclear plant. It tells the story through the eyes of residents who evacuated from their hometowns following the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant accident.

“I realized how all these events related to atomic bombing and nuclear plants led to the promotion of nuclear power,” he said. “I’ll be glad if it (the anime) helps the people of Fukushima stop blaming themselves for benefiting from the nuclear plant and set themselves free from the accusing stares of people around them.”

The anime, titled “Fukushima Genpatsu Hajimari Monogatari: Toge” (The prologue to the Fukushima nuclear power plant: Mountain pass), portrays a man in his 60s who was born in 1949 in Okuma, a town in Fukushima Prefecture that co-hosts the now-stricken plant.

When Japan’s economy begins booming following the period of postwar poverty, the protagonist enters a university in Tokyo and enjoys his college life.

The story illustrates the major events leading up to the construction of the nuclear plant in Fukushima Prefecture at a time when people in Japan were suddenly blessed with material wealth.

In 1953, U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower called for the peaceful use of nuclear power during his “Atoms for Peace” speech at the United Nations. In response, exhibitions were held in Hiroshima and elsewhere to champion the cause.

In 1954, the tuna fishing boat Daigo Fukuryu Maru and other vessels were contaminated by fallout from the U.S. hydrogen bomb test at Bikini Atoll. Six years later, Fukushima Prefecture announced its bid to host a nuclear plant.

In one scene from the anime, a girl asks her mother lying on a bed at the Hiroshima Atomic-bomb Survivors Hospital to take her to an exhibition on the peaceful use of atomic energy when she recovers.

Another scene shows young people in Fukushima leaving their hometown to seek jobs, while long-term residents are split over whether the prefecture should host a nuclear plant.

When the protagonist eventually returns home in Okuma and sees a massive nuclear plant standing in the town, he is left speechless.

The anime then fast-forwards to 2011, when the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami triggered the triple meltdown at the plant.

“The move to promote atomic power prevailed globally under the pretext of the peaceful use of nuclear energy, overshadowing even the destruction of Hiroshima brought on by the atomic bomb,” the protagonist said while living as an evacuee at the end of the story. “Ordinary people like us could do nothing about it.”

Hidenobu Fukumoto, right, and Yu Sato, who holds a picture book of Fukumoto’s anime “Fukushima Genpatsu Hajimari Monogatari: Toge” (Miki Morimoto)

Fukumoto, who works as a “kamishibai” picture card show artist under the name of Teppei Ikumasa, said he wrote scripts and drew illustrations for the anime based on his interviews with people in Fukushima.

He began creating the work after hearing from a Fukushima resident that there was a plan to build a nuclear plant in Hiroshima.

Fukumoto heads Machimonogatari Seisaku Iinkai (Town story production committee), a Hiroshima-based group that uses kamishibai and other tools to pass on local culture to the next generations.

Following the 2011 nuclear disaster, he visited the affected areas to listen to what residents had to say. 

He learned about the Hiroshima nuclear plant plan from an Okuma resident who was working as a storyteller using Fukumoto’s kamishibai.

Fukumoto found an article online that said U.S. Congressman Sidney Yates proposed constructing a nuclear plant in Hiroshima in 1955.

Yu Sato, 20, a sophomore at Hiroshima City University who helps with Fukumoto’s kamishibai project as a volunteer, confirmed Yates’ original remarks by searching the congressional records kept in the Library of Congress’ online database.

“I have introduced today a bill to construct in the city of Hiroshima, Japan, through the cooperative efforts of the Governments of the United States and Japan, an atomic power reactor dedicated to the advancement of peace and progress by producing power for industrial purposes,” reads the transcript of the speech, which is also given in the anime.

STORY HITS HOME

Fukumoto’s kamishibai project has struck a chord with many Fukushima residents who experienced the nuclear disaster.

Yoko Oka, 61, who lives in Fukushima city as an evacuee from Namie, Fukushima Prefecture, met Fukumoto at a gathering place for people living in temporary housing in Kori in the prefecture in summer 2014.

Oka has been performing kamishibai with him both at home and abroad since then.

Yoko Oka, right, and Hisai Yashima perform an original “kamishibai” about Fukushima in Namie, Fukushima Prefecture, in December 2020. (Yusuke Noda)

She said she still remembers what Fukumoto told her: “I want you to tell people exactly what you went through and how you felt at the time. Only those who experienced the disaster can do that.”

Oka said her impression of Hiroshima, devastated by the 1945 atomic bombing, changed after the 2011 nuclear accident.

“I began imagining how hard it was to bring the city exposed to radiation back to what it is now,” she said. “I was shocked to learn from this anime that there was a plan to build a nuclear plant in Hiroshima.”

Kinue Ishii, 70, who also performs kamishibai with Oka as a member of a storytelling group, said people can think deeply about the nuclear accident by learning why the nuclear plant was built in Fukushima.

“I want people to imagine themselves becoming victims of a nuclear accident by watching this anime,” Ishii said.

Hisai Yashima, 56, another member of the storytelling group, said she hopes the anime will help raise awareness of what led to the construction of the nuclear plant because people from outside Fukushima often ask her why the prefecture approved the plan.

The package of an anime DVD and a 16-page, A4-size picture book costs 2,000 yen ($16). For more details, visit the production committee’s website: https://matimonogatari.iinaa.net) (Japanese only).

(This article was compiled from reports by Miki Morimoto and Yusuke Noda.)

https://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/14604129

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May 9, 2022 - Posted by | Fuk 2022 | ,

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