nuclear-news

The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry Fukushima Chernobyl Mayak Three Mile Island Atomic Testing Radiation Isotope

Comic tale of aging bar hostesses with social punch

I am surprised that this article was published on Yomiori Shimbun (Japan News), usually a pro-government media, with biased information.
This sentence must have escaped the censoring eyes of their editor.
I particularly like the: “Like Chihama, Arata comes from Fukushima Prefecture, where her parents’ home was destroyed in the Great East Japan Earthquake. Brazil in the past and contemporary Fukushima begin to look very similar, in the sense that “those affected are not told the truth.”
ghhjkkl.jpg
June 10, 2019
This week’s manga Sono Onna Jilba (Jitterbug The Forties)
By Shinobu Arima (Shogakukan)
Arata Usui has a job dealing with customers in a major supermarket chain store when she is transferred to the stockroom, out of sight. This was inevitable, as she is already past 40 and no longer young. Still single, with no boyfriend and no savings, she lacks confidence. One day, Arata is surprised to see a help-wanted notice for bar hostesses in the entertainment quarter of town. The criteria: women 40 or older! Is this some kind of a mistake? Mustering her courage, she opens the door to the Bar Old Jack & Rose, a watering hole aimed at senior citizens in which the average age of the hostesses is 70. Mesmerized by a world completely different from her own, she begins a side job as a trainee hostess under the alias of Arara. She soon learns about the legend of Jilba, the founder and inaugural manager of the bar.
“Jitterbug The Forties” is a comedy with cheering messages for an aging society, played out by lively bar hostesses who seem almost supernatural. The story starts out in such an atmosphere, which in itself is entertaining enough. But readers are taken to a much deeper level. As the hostesses recount their pasts, an alternative postwar history emerges that we have never been told. This transforms it into a work that offers a completely different impression.
Jilba, born Chihama Hoshi, emigrated to Brazil from Fukushima Prefecture. One thing that I learned from this manga was that immediately after the end of World War II, Japanese immigrants in Brazil were divided into two groups regarding the outcome of the war. One group, the “kachi-gumi” (the victors), blindly believed the false information that Japan defeated the United States. This group far outnumbered the other group, the “make-gumi” (the defeated), which believed that Japan lost. Conflicts between the groups eventually led to terrorist attacks, and there were scams targeting immigrants hastily trying to return to “victorious” Japan. Chihama, who loses her husband and children amid the chaos, arrives alone in a Japan that is little but burned-out ruins. She gathers women in similar dire straits and opens the bar. This is the other story line told in “Jitterbug The Forties.”
Like Chihama, Arata comes from Fukushima Prefecture, where her parents’ home was destroyed in the Great East Japan Earthquake. Brazil in the past and contemporary Fukushima begin to look very similar, in the sense that “those affected are not told the truth.” Quite impressed, I realized just how much of a hard-hitting, socially aware work this actually is at its core.
Even so, “Jitterbug The Forties” never loses its balance as a comedy, impressively maintaining a cheerful disposition over five volumes right up to its conclusion. “Jilba” is Japanese-English, originating from the American social dance known as the Jitterbug. No matter how arduous your past was, sweep it away with song and dance. Regardless of your age, life is not to be thrown away. This is a masterpiece that resonates with a powerfully encouraging message to all generations.
Ishida is a Yomiuri Shimbun senior writer whose areas of expertise include manga and anime.
Advertisements

June 17, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , , | Leave a comment

A Clean-up Worker’s View Inside Fukushima’s Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant

1.jpg

Ichi-F is rich in detail and strikingly perceptive in analysis, and yet it oddly supports the nuclear industry even as the radiation continues to take its toll.

Kazuto Tatsuta’s account of his work experience at the massive clean-up project at Fukushima’s Daiichi nuclear plant is remarkable on many levels.

The plant—known as Ichi-F for short—was the one which experienced three nuclear meltdowns in the wake of the destructive earthquake and tsunami of 11 March 2011. Since that disaster, a large-scale clean-up effort at the nuclear plant has been underway, simultaneous with broader reclamation and recovery efforts in the surrounding regions that were devastated by the triple disaster.

Tatsuta’s (the name is a pseudonym) true identity remains unknown, but he claims to have been a middle-aged temp worker with a bit of manga illustration background who got himself hired by a subcontractor doing clean-up work at Ichi-F. After he completed his initial work assignment, he returned to Tokyo and began producing manga accounts of the recovery effort. The manga were a smash hit, rapidly consumed by a public still riveted by the disaster and starved for accurate information about what was going on in the still tightly-controlled recovery zone. Between government propaganda on the one hand and activist/media sensationalism on the other, Tatsuta’s manga offered a refreshingly different take on the situation at Ichi-F. He largely avoids politics, simply depicting the day-to-day experience of workers in the recovery effort.

Tatsuta’s work—finally compiled and translated into English—is hard to categorize as a manga. It’s deeply technical, offering layout sketches of the site, detailed explanations of the nature of the work and equipment that’s used. It’s also deeply perceptive in its analysis of the work relationships at the site; almost the equivalent of sociological fieldwork.

It’s sometimes been categorized as a ‘slice of life’ manga; that manga genre which concentrates not on literary technique or telling an exciting story, but on depicting some aspect of real life experience for the elucidation and empathy of readers.

But it’s more than that. Tatsuta’s work described itself as a ‘labour diary’ in the original Japanese version; the English translation calls it “a worker’s graphic memoir”. The terms ‘labour’ and ‘worker’ are important here: the work verges on offering a new genre, a sort of proletarian or working-class manga. This is reflected in Tatsuta’s apparent determination to identify himself and his colleagues as workers. It’s an identity he aims at in opposition to those who would label them either as heroes or as gullible and exploited; as villains or victims. He struggles to assign his colleagues a sense of agency in their work. They’re not heroes, but they’re not slaves either. They’re everyday guys (he depicts an almost exclusively male recovery project) going about their jobs with dignity, pride, and an essential sense of humanity. They care about doing a good job (a uniquely Japanese fastidiousness evident in their focused teamwork), yet eagerly grab the opportunity for a casual nap behind a radiation shield whenever they can.

Fukushima Daiichi isn’t really some terrifying place full of negligent, unsafe conditions where people are practically forced into slave labor,” he argues in an interview included in the American translated collection. “The folks working there are all just ordinary old guys, most of whom are locals from Fukushima, and the rest coming from all over the country to help. That’s what I want you to know.”

There is a proud albeit masculinist tradition in Japan of the ‘day labourer’—those workers who showed up at big city hiring sites seeking manual labour jobs in the pre- and post-WWII era. A tradition nearing extinction in the ‘90s, it was reborn in the age of the Internet, which managed to precaritize employment not just in manual labour but in all fields of endeavor. Cell phones and Internet terminals became the new hiring site, and precarious labour extended to even skilled and professional jobs. The nuclear clean-up work Tatsuta engaged in is the direct descendant of this lineage of precarious employment. Unfortunately, he doesn’t dwell on the fact, instead chosing to normalize and shrug off the broader social implications of his precarious livelihood as an unemployed man in his late 40s.

2.jpg
An Eye for the Everyday

Tatsuta has an eye for the every day, and the importance it plays in humanizing his subjects—the complexity of needing to use the toilet while wearing a radiation suit, or the difficulty of organizing bath-time in an overpopulated rental unit housing a dozen workers. There’s the beauty of a sunrise breaking over the horizon as they come off a late-night work shift, and the awkwardness of his boss prepping him what to say during a ‘surprise’ safety inspection to come later that day.

His account would indeed be a remarkably working-class, proletarian manga, at least insofar as it depicts in profound detail the experience of working-class life among the precariously employed at the nuclear plant, except for the fact that it lacks any deep political analysis. His structural analysis is first-rate; he breaks down in precise detail the complex work relationships at the plant. But he offers little in the way of judgment, and what little opinion he does offer is startlingly ambivalent. Yes, they’re precariously employed, even exploited in some ways, but he shrugs it off—they’re everyday guys, and that’s the way life goes. His commentary suggests this lack of judgment is the unique strength of his approach in this manga, but it can equally be seen as irresponsible prevarication.

He argues that what he presents is the honest portrayal of workers’ attitudes, apparently trying to forestall his critics. But a shrug in the face of precarious employment is hard to accept as honest and down-to-earth; it reeks of political immaturity. He also offers a broader progress narrative and refreshing though this may be in the context of Fukushima, the world has rightly become cynical of progress narratives.

When I started work, there was a police checkpoint at the intersection next to J-Village… Just about anything within 20km of Ichi-F was an off-limits protected zone. As the zone shrinks, the evacuation orders are slowly removed, but by bit…The lots for sale, which I showed you before, now feature new buildings under construction. You still see those black bags of contaminated dirt and protective green sheets, but there are also more and more fields and paddies replanted Rather than giving credence to the boilerplate “No path to the future,” “sluggish recovery” narratives, why not lend an eye to those areas which are recovering, slowly but surely?.. Nothing will happen that can be worse than what already happened.

Well, that’s the big question now, isn’t it?

Privatization, Profit, and Precarity

Tatsuta’s account may not be inherently critical of the nuclear industry, at least not on the basis of health and safety—he goes to great length to argue that radiation and its hazards are as controllable as any workplace hazard, and that the clean-up and recovery effort is actually proceeding quite well—but his narrative offers indirect yet profound criticism of the industry from a labour rights perspective. He illustrates a complex and privatized network of contractors and subcontractors engaged in the clean-up effort, which his work reveals as inefficient, greedy and deceptive (if not outright dishonest).

This is most clearly demonstrated in his efforts to obtain work in Fukushima. Back in Tokyo, he initially applies to several contractors, and despite offers of work—some of which sound so solid that he quits part-time jobs in preparation for his departure to Fukushima—only to be left hanging, or to discover that the companies have gone out of business and disappeared. When he finally does receive an offer that takes him to Fukushima, he and his co-applicants are left hanging for weeks while they wait for the subcontractor to be offered a gig. During this time, they are accumulating debt for their company-provided food and lodgings and other obligatory expenses that will be deducted from their pay, if they ever get any. They are eventually transferred to other lower-paying jobs as an interim measure while the company awaits a hopeful contract for nuclear or tsunami cleanup. Meanwhile, their lodgings are inadequate as well: ten or more men crammed into a single family living space, with a single bathroom.

Eventually, the subcontractor gets a contract, and Tatsuta gets to do the sort of work he came to do. But the shenanigans he experiences while waiting for that work reveals the inefficient and most likely corrupt sort of schemes that are the inevitable byproduct of such a convoluted and privatized system. Tatsuta may scoff at the health risks of the nuclear industry, but he’s quite open about the shortcomings of the industry from a labour rights perspective.

The thing is, he’s open about its shortcomings but isn’t actually critical. His reaction is to shrug off the complicated and bloated layers of the project. His attitude is one of the most perplexing things about the entire book. His analysis of the layers of subcontractors, and the sociological challenges this presents to workers trying move up within the system (as he observes through first-hand experience, trying to upgrade jobs by switching between companies has an eerie resemblance to pulling off a drug deal), comprises first-rate anthropological fieldwork. It’s a brilliant synthesis and analysis of the political economy and structural organization of the clean-up effort. And from any objective perspective, it’s appalling: a morass of inefficiency and corruption. Yet he concludes his brilliant and penetrating analysis with a cheery send-off:

People might think that the many-layered subcontracting system is problematic, but it’s how we maintain the cleanup efforts. It ensures local hiring and props up the economy here. That’s not to suggest that the system is ideal, but you can say that about almost any place in Japan…

What is that supposed to mean? How is the reader supposed to interpret his take? Is he so unaware that he doesn’t realize that he’s just described an incredibly inefficient, wasteful and corrupt system, with brilliant clarity? Does he simply not care? Are his final comments to be taken as a form of defeatism verging on nihilistic insouciance? Is he simply a prodigal yet immature analyst? Or on the other hand, is he hiding his true colours, pretending to be blasé or even on the side of the nuclear industry subcontractors, while laying out the system in damning enough detail so as to allow readers to draw their own conclusions?

3.jpg
Working-class Machismo

It’s hard to tell how Tatsuta situates himself in this work. On the surface, he situates himself in the working-class, but in an almost over-the-top way. He doesn’t just work at Ichi-F for a job; he actually comes to love the work. Despite the fact that it’s hot, physically grueling and demanding precarious shift-work for low pay, he seems to become addicted to it. He earnestly misses it when he’s back in Tokyo working on his comics, and eagerly jumps at any opportunity to return. Is this macho bravado? Would he, for that matter, be as gleeful at the prospect of being recalled to work at the site if he didn’t have a ready exit visa in hand whenever he wanted, in the form of his alter-ego as a rising manga star?

It is, of course, hard to say. But what is true is that the precarity of the men’s labour is ultimately sacrificed in the narrative, subsumed to Tatsuta’s effort to demonstrate the casual, if occasionally courageous, indifference of Ichi-F workers to their unusual work environment. Radiation exposure is reduced to numbers on a scale, and the men’s primary concern becomes how to reduce their daily exposure not so much for health reasons but rather so that they can extend their paid work at the site. Employees are only permitted to accumulate a certain amount of radiation exposure each year, and once they reach their annual limit they’re laid off and sent home to wait for the chance of a gig the following year, once their exposure levels have dissipated and reset. The narrative is profoundly successful at challenging broad-based fears of radiation exposure: the workers toil away, quite confident that kept within reasonable levels radiation exposure is nothing to worry about. Be that as it may, a job that lays off workers in order to preserve their health from the daily radiation they experience is a form of precarious and exploitative labour regardless of whether the radiation is dangerous or not.

Tatsuta strikes back at his critics, depicting his working-class comrades as everyday guys doing their best under difficult circumstances: hard-working, stoic, dedicated and determined to persevere. He resists efforts of journalists and activists to depict the work as unduly dangerous, or evil, or complicit in hiding truths from the public. They’re no different from any other group of hard-working labourers, he argues. But in his efforts to demonstrate this, Tatsuta’s narrative achieves the dubious success of glamourizing and normalizing precarious labour.

Tatsuta has kept his identity hidden, he says, because he continues to seek work at Ichi-F (at the same time as he cultivates careers in manga and music), and he doesn’t want to compromise his company and colleagues. He implies that he wouldn’t be hired for any more gigs at Ichi-F if it became known who he was. But really, it’s hard to say whether that’s the case. Regardless of his intentions—which he professes to be neutral; neither to promote or oppose the nuclear industry but simply to depict his first-hand experience as a worker—the fact is that his depiction does a tremendous service for the industry by portraying the experience and hazards of life at a recovering nuclear plant as normalized, everyday, routine and controllably safe (so long as one forgets that the reason they’re working there is that the plant experienced three unexpected meltdowns in the first place). This is quite a boon for the nuclear industry, whether he intends it as such or not. His analysis of work relationships are less positive, but he accompanies them with a cheery slap on the back: “the folks working there are all just ordinary old guys” and “you can say that about almost any place in Japan”.

The result is a worker’s manga that’s rich in detail, strikingly perceptive in analysis, and yet winds up siding with the bosses. Not quite the proletarian manga, but a remarkable demonstration of what working-class manga could be. And a thoroughly fascinating read, either way.

4.jpg
http://www.popmatters.com/column/a-clean-up-workers-view-inside-fukushima-daiichi-nuclear-power-plant/

1a.jpg

Ichi-F: A Worker’s Graphic Memoir of the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant

Kazuto Tatsuta

(Kodansha Comics)
US: Mar 2017

Amazon

June 7, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , | Leave a comment

Manga convey realities of living in Tohoku disaster areas

jllmùù.jpg

Although words of praise poured in for Kazuto Tatsuta’s manga about the Fukushima nuclear disaster, some comments said he was a spy for Tokyo Electric Power Co.

The artist, who went to great lengths to show the true situation around TEPCO’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, scoffed at the notion.

“As for nuclear power generation, I have never taken stances of ‘promotion,’ ‘opposition’ or ‘neutral.’ I just wanted to convey the changes of the place (at the nuclear plant) in real time,” he said.

His manga series, “Ichiefu Fukushima Daiichi Genshiryoku Hatsudensho Rodoki” (1F; Records of labor at Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant), was one of several that started after the triple disaster struck five years ago.

Some of them initially offered messages of encouragement to the disaster victims. But they gradually changed to depict the realities of the situation in the northeastern Tohoku region and the disaster victims’ extraordinary experiences.

Tatsuta’s series, carried in the weekly magazine Morning, was based around the sites of demolition work at the nuclear plant.

He was working at a company of an acquaintance near Tokyo when the Great East Japan Earthquake struck on March 11, 2011. Tatsuta looked for a job in areas affected by the disaster, and ended up working at a rest station of the nuclear plant as an employee of the sixth-layer subcontractor in June 2012.

In 2013, Tatsuta started “Ichiefu” to show the daily lives of workers at the plant.

His work drew much attention and acclaim. But some said the artist was underestimating the dangers of nuclear power generation. The series ended in October 2015.

Yoko Hano depicted the daily post-disaster lives of a different group–senior high school students in Fukushima Prefecture.

She started the serialized manga “Hajimari no Haru” (Spring as a beginning) because she also wanted to convey the truth. The comic is currently carried under the title of “Happy End?” in the Monthly Afternoon magazine.

Hano, who is from Nishigo in Fukushima Prefecture, now lives in Shirakawa, also in the prefecture.

“From the time immediately after the outbreak of the disaster, I saw false information from the media that was slipshod in confirming facts,” she said. “A person in my neighborhood was cornered by the situation caused by the disaster and committed suicide. I thought that unless accurate information is offered, our local communities will be destroyed.”

The protagonists in her manga learn about agriculture. They vow to reconstruct their hometowns and start taking action despite being shaken by nuclear accident.

“Here (in Fukushima Prefecture), there are many themes I should tackle throughout my life. I think that people who are making a living with jobs related to expression and speech should migrate to Fukushima,” Hano said.

In the serialized manga “Gogai! Iwate Chaguchagu Shinbunsha” (Extra edition! Iwate Chaguchagu newspaper company), the protagonist is a female reporter with a local newspaper in Iwate Prefecture.

Its creator, Aruto Asuka, who lives in Ichinoseki in the prefecture, began to carry the manga in the comic magazine Be Love, published twice a month, in 2009. Initially, it focused on the people, seasonal traditions and industries of the prefecture.

Then, the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami struck in 2011.

The manga now features the reality of the prefecture that was hit hard by the disaster.

Ichinoseki, an inland area, escaped serious damage. However, “that produced big conflicted feelings in my mind,” Asuka recalled.

In a special edition titled “Sanriku no Umi” (Sea of Sanriku), which was carried in the third volume of the book version of the manga, the protagonist visits the coastal district of Koishihama in Ofunato, Iwate Prefecture, for news coverage, and meets a young fisherman and his wife again.

The wife is pregnant but hesitant to give birth because of her feelings for a relative who lost her child and other family members in the disaster.

“I also have feelings of guilt about the fact that I am alive without suffering from any damage,” Asuka said. “I will not forget the various feelings of people (in the affected areas).”

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201604010061.html

 

April 1, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , | Leave a comment