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Fukushima city to remove statue clad in radiation protective gear

29 aug 2018 sunchild removal.jpg
Children on Aug. 3 pose in front of Kenji Yanobe’s Sun Child statue in Fukushima city.
August 29, 2018
FUKUSHIMA–Fukushima city will remove a large statue of an injured child wearing a yellow hazmat suit after complaints rolled in that the artwork grossly exaggerates the damage from the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
“It is difficult to keep displaying a controversial work of art as a symbol of reconstruction,” Fukushima Mayor Hiroshi Kohata said on Aug. 28.
The 6.2-meter-tall Sun Child statue, weighing about 800 kilograms, was created by contemporary artist Kenji Yanobe, 52, a professor at the Kyoto University of Art and Design.
The statue, which was installed on Aug. 3, is supposed to represent hope for reconstruction from the disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant that started after the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami hit the Tohoku region on March 11, 2011.
The Sun Child, staring out toward the sky, holds a hazmat helmet in his left hand and has scars and bruises on his face. A Geiger counter embedded in the statue’s chest is set at zero.
A civic group donated the statue, which depicts the hopes of a “future free from the nuclear disaster,” to the city.
After the city government set up the statue at a facility that provides information about radiation and has playground equipment, it received nearly 60 complaints from residents.
One noted that a radiation counter reading of zero is impossible even in nature.
Another complaint said,” (City residents) didn’t have to wear radiation protective gear at the time of the disaster so that (hazmat suit) could lead to misunderstandings.”
From Aug. 18 to Aug. 27, the city conducted a questionnaire covering 110 visitors to the site of the statue. Seventy-five of the respondents demanded the removal or relocation of the statue, compared with 22 who wanted the statue to remain.
Kohata acknowledged a lack of consensus-building before the Sun Child was erected.
Sculptor Yanobe also accepted the city’s decision to remove his artwork.
“We came to the conclusion that we should stop displaying the statue if it torments people,” he said. “Even after the statue is removed, I want to talk to residents. I am currently coordinating my schedule (to visit Fukushima).”
Maki Sahara, 46, director of a Fukushima-based NPO that spreads information about protection against radiation, criticized the government’s handling of the statue.
“The city was too hasty in deciding to set up the statue and to remove it,” Sahara said. “The Sun Child could have triggered discussions on radiation among residents. What a shame that the city spoiled the chance.”
Yasuko Araki, chief curator at the prefectural museum, which displays a one-tenth scale model of the Sun Child, said it has received no complaints.
But she said the city government was ill-prepared.
“Viewers’ impressions of works of art at the museum differ from those that appear in public spaces,” she said. “The city should have devised ways to explain the process of creating the Sun Child.”
(This article was compiled from reports by Morikazu Kogen, Hikari Maruyama and Hiroshi Fukatsu.)

September 3, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , | Leave a comment