Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Mr. Hata and The Festival of the Dead

All has been quiet on my social media front.  This often happens when I find myself in the depths of the edit suite working on a new film.  Over the next couple of months I will be sharing about a new feature documentary film for which I am currently overseeing the post-production, and it is by far the strangest film I have worked on to date...

In the meantime, I did find time to (briefly) escape from the edit suite for about 36 hours over this past weekend for the Obon holiday (Festival of the Dead).  Last year,  I spent the Obon holiday with a friend who was documenting the festivities for television (Part 1 HERE, Part 2 HERE, Part 3 HERE and Part 4 HERE).

This year was very different as I marked the holiday with Mr. Hata's family in Fukushima.  I first wrote about Mr. Hata when I reunited him with his son 30 after years (STORY).  When he died, I wrote THIS entry and then when he was buried, I wrote THIS one.

As this was the first Obon since he died, I felt it was important to pay my respects at his grave and to spend time with Mrs. Hata and her family.  

After visiting Mr. Hata's grave, I posted the following photos on Twitter:

Friday, June 17, 2016

Mr. Hata, a postscript: 49 days later

Yesterday, as is Buddhist tradition, Mr. Hata's burial took place 49 days after his death.  Held in a forest deep in the countryside of Japan, it was one of the most unusual burials I have ever had the honour of attending.  A description with accompanying photos is HERE.

In April, I shared about the honour I had in reuniting a dying man with the son he had not seen in 30 years.  I published a photo-documentary about their reunion called "Mr. Hata and T" (story and photos HERE).

Three weeks to the day after being reunited with his son, Mr. Hata died peacefully in his sleep.  I collected some thoughts, photos and words of condolences in a post-script HERE

Thank you all so very much for sharing in Mr. Hata's story, for your kind words of support and condolences, and for sharing about how his story has affected you personally.  May we carry with us the lessons he has left with us as we continue on our journey of life.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Surprises and Symposiums

In June 2013, my film 'A2-B-C', about children living in Fukushima (WEBSITE), was awarded at the World Premier in Germany (STORY).  After a world tour of over 25 festivals and several awards later, the film came home to Japan, and the following spring enjoyed what would eventually turn out to be a 6-week residency at the PolyPoly Higashi Nakano theatre in Tokyo ahead of a country-wide cinematic release (STORY).  After the last screening at the cinema in Tokyo ended with a bang (STORY), 'A2-B-C' then went on to have a second life in so-called "private screenings", also called "four-walling", until all distribution for the film was abruptly and unceremoniously cancelled in March of last year in a move that was seen as some as an attempt at censorship (STORY).  Six months later, the private screening process was re-established, and the film could once again be seen in Japan (STORY).  

Last autumn, I had the honour of attending and speaking at several of these screenings, although with my recent filming and editing work, including the follow film to 'A2-B-C' (STORY), I have not been able to attend a screening of the film for several months.  Yesterday, there was screening of 'A2-B-C' in Tokyo, and although I was not scheduled to attend, I decided to surprise both the audience and the organizers by showing up moments before the film ended.  The organizers were shocked to see me, but welcomed me warmly and asked me to speak to the audience before the post-screening discussion.  It was an honour to speak to the audience, and share with them about the filming I have been doing in Fukushima in the more than three years since filming on 'A2-B-C' finished.

In the evening, I attended a symposium about affects on human health and Fukushima.  One of the presenters, Dr. Ushiyama, is one of the founders of the 311 Thyroid Cancer Family Group (STORY), and for even those who have been studying the problems in Fukushima since the beginning, the symposium was filled with eye-opening information based on research from Chernobyl and the testimonies of patients and families in Fukushima and Northern Tochigi.

with Dr. Ushiyama and my assistant Rei following the symposium

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Going Global

Shortly after I posted my interview with the first young person with thyroid cancer in Fukushima to speak out two weeks ago (STORY), I accompanied AP reporter Yuri Kageyama (TWITTER) to Fukushima where I introduced her to the young woman. Yuri's story, "Woman breaks silence among Fukushima thyroid cancer patients" was published by the AP yesterday (read HERE) and was included in their "The Big Story", "Top News", and "10 things to know for Today" sections.  If this doesn't shake things up, I don't know what will...

The AP also sent out THIS powerful Tweet:
A few hours after the article was published, I received a message with an interview request from Mike Woods at Radio France Internationale English Service.  I was at a dinner meeting, so I excused myself to go outside.  While standing on a street in Tokyo on my iPhone, the interview was recorded in a sound booth in France- a great example of using technology for good.  The interview is HERE (3 min).

I am so grateful to the AP and reporter Yuri Kageyama for helping to share this brave young woman's story with the world.

Thank you all so very much for your support and encouragement.


Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Three screenings, three countries

I am extremely honoured to have screenings of my films in several countries this week!

On Wednesday (May 25) the Korean film festival DMZ DOCS is holding an encore screening of my film '-1287' (WEBSITE) for "family month" (May) at 20:00 (INFO). I was honoured to receive the First Prize in the Asian Competition at the 2015 edition of the festival (STORY).

On Friday (May 27), my documentary 'Dying at Home' (WEBSITE), which was commissioned by NHK World, will be screened at 20:00 during a special event organized by NHK WORLD at the 2016 Nippon Connection Japanese Film Festival in Frankfurt, Germany (INFO).  I have had the honour of attending two previous editions of Nippon Connection; in 2013 when I received the Nippon Visions Award for my film 'A2-B-C' (STORY) and in 2015 when I received the Audience Award for Best Feature Film for my film '-1287' (STORY).

And on Saturday (May 28), '-1287' will be screening in the touring section of the Taiwan International Ethnographic Film Festival (INFO) in Taoyuan.  I was honoued to have my film 'A2-B-C' screened in the 2013 edition of TIEFF (STORY) and also to attend last year's main festival with '-1287' (STORY).
Thank you all so much for your encouragement and continued support of my work.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Young woman from Fukushima speaks out 原発事故当時15歳女性の証言


For each of the last four days, I have published a part of an interview I filmed with a brave, young woman from Fukushima about her diagnosis of thyroid cancer.  Following are some details about the interview as well as some data for reference.  Part 1 of the interview can be viewed by clicking the following link, while the entire four-part interview can be seen HERE.

This interview was filmed on February 12, 2016, in Fukushima Prefecture. The young woman was 15 at the time of the nuclear meltdown in Fukushima, and we are releasing this interview with her permission. She is one of the 166 Fukushima residents aged 18 or younger at the time of the nuclear disaster who has been diagnosed with or suspected of having thyroid cancer (as of February 2016).

Fukushima residents who were 18 years old or younger at the time of the nuclear accident have been asked to participate in the free and voluntary thyroid ultrasound examination which is part of the Fukushima Health Management Survey. However, 18.8% of this age group were not tested in the 1st round of testing.* The final results for the 2nd round of testing are not yet complete, however, every year the number of children participating in the official thyroid examinations is decreasing. In fact, the number of children who have not participated in the 2nd round of testing is currently 50.7%**  For those young people aged 18-21 (as of April 1, 2014) and who were living in Fukushima at the time of the nuclear accident, 74.5% have not yet taken part in the voluntary thyroid ultrasound examination.**

This young woman’s reason for speaking out is to motivate the families of children who have not yet received the thyroid ultrasound examination to do so.

Below is a summary of the main points of the young woman’s story:
1) She often gets tired easily after undergoing surgery for thyroid cancer.
2) She sometimes feels emotionally unstable after the surgery.
3) She has no medical doctor with whom she can talk comfortably.
4) She does not want other Fukushima children/ adolescents to develop thyroid cancer.
5) She wants young residents in Fukushima to undergo regular thyroid checkups, so that thyroid cancer cases may be detected early.
6) She is anxious about the possible health implications on her future children.
In sharing her story about a topic which has become increasingly difficult to talk publicly about in Japan, she faces inherent risks which may include those to her work, community life and personal relationships, and I therefore ask that her privacy is respected. It is after careful consideration following the recording of this interview, I have decided her story should be released for the following reasons:
Points 1) and 2): Fukushima Medical University insists that thyroid cancer is not a disease that is deadly, and therefore residents in Fukushima do not have to worry even if they are diagnosed with thyroid cancer. However, this young woman’s story clearly demonstrates that the postoperative conditions of patients are not that simple. Post-operative patients are likely to experience various physical and emotional difficulties even after they have survived thyroid cancer.

Points 3): Doctors at Fukushima Medical University are not forming a comfortable relationship with the patients on whom they operate, which is a significant problem in terms of doctor-to-patient relationships. It is even more problematic when it is taken into account that most of the patients are young and therefore require intensive medical and emotional follow-up care.

Points 5): She is sending a strong message to young Fukushima residents that they should continue receiving regular thyroid checkups.
My hope is that her courageousness in speaking out will encourage others to do so as well.

May they never be forgotten.
May we all work together to support them.
And may this great tragedy never again be repeated.

Ian Thomas Ash


  1. 彼女は甲状腺がんの手術以降疲れやすくなった。
  2. 彼女は手術以降、精神的不安を感じることがあった。
  3. 彼女には気軽に相談できる医師がいなかった。
  4. 彼女は他の子ども達が自分と同じ甲状腺がんを患ってほしくないと思っている。
  5. 彼女は福島に暮らす若者に、病気を早期発見し適切に処置するために、県が行う甲状腺検査を受診してほしいと思っている。
  6. 彼女は将来子供を持つとき、その子の健康への影響に不安を感じている。
原発事故・甲状腺がんについて公に話すことが難しい空気になってる中、このインタビューを公開することによって、彼女の仕事や家族、友人関係など日常生活に悪影響が及ぶ危険があります。 彼女のプライバシーを尊重してくださいますようお願いします。




 福島県HP県民健康調査課 http://www.pref.fukushima.lg.jp/sec/21045b/

* 県民健康調査「甲状腺検査(先行検査)」結果概要【結果概要】

** 県民健康調査「甲状腺検査(本格検査)」実施状況 http://www.pref.fukushima.lg.jp/uploaded/attachment/151272.pdf

Monday, May 16, 2016

Fukushima: A Nuclear Story

Today I served as the MC for the Q&A following a screening of Fukushima: A Nuclear Story (WEBSITE) held at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan (event INFO).  It is always an honour to be asked by the FCCJ to serve in this capacity, particularly when the event is highlighting an issue related to Fukushima.

Fukushima: A Nuclear Story, which is narrated by Willem Dafoe and makes liberal use of Japanese-style animation, is described as "unique" at the top of the four pages of distributor-authored  notes handed to attendees as they entered the screening.  This is true both for the film and its writer/ star, Pia d'Emilia, an Italian journalist and 30-year resident of Japan.

with Pia d'Emilia during the pre-screening meeting
post-screening Q&A
A video of the Q&A has been posted to the FCCJ channel:

The highlight of the day was lunch in the FCCJ bar and a visit with friend and Chernobyl/ Fukushima researcher Tim Mousseau.  Tim is based at the University of South Carolina and was in Japan this week to continue his research in Fukushima before moving on to Chernobyl the week after next (with a trip back to America in between!).  We never know where in the world we are going to run into each other- we have bumped into each other at conferences in Japan, of course, but also in Singapore and Germany (twice!).  I highly recommend reading At Chernobyl and Fukushima, radioactivity has seriously harmed wildlife, one of Tim's latest papers (HERE).

with Dr. Timothy Mousseau
Professor of Biological Sciences, University of South Carolina