Monday, May 30, 2011

In the Radiation Zone: The Children of Minamisoma City, Part 4

I have just posted the last part of "In the Radiation Zone: the Children of Minamisoma", the behind-the-scenes footage of my new feature documentary.

I will let it speak for itself:


Anonymous said...

In his initial YouTube plea and recent interview the mayor states the government didn't even show up for a week and they had no info but to stay indoors. We recently interviewed him soi think it's a bit of a stretch to blame the mayor when he received little to no info from the central government or tepco. Of course the central government is going to say what they say but the mayor went as far as going on YouTube to get help and info for the town. Also the radiation readings there are no lower than Tokyo. So I would hope you make your documentary with responsible journalism rather than sensalising such a topic that has already crippled a town that wants nothing to do with nuclear power and to research and build green energy there per the mayors own words he is going to put the entire towns efforts into using the badlands for green energy... You can find me at @chris_Noland on twitter or on yoko onos imagine peace site.

Ian Thomas Ash said...

Chris, Thanks for writing.

Just to clarify, at what point in the trailer did I "blame the mayor"? He says in that clip the same thing that you are asserting, that the radiation levels are low enough for the children to play outside. Do you feel I have taken that out of context somehow? I think his plea for help on YouTube after the explosion was amazing and I know that he had a terribly difficult time in the days/ weeks following the meltdown. But that doesn't give him or anyone else the right to make economic decisions (however "green") to the detriment of the health of children.

The goal of using "the badlands for green energy" is fantastic. But before you start throwing picnics for the children, perhaps their health and safety could be considered first. Your assertion that "the radiation readings [in Minamisoma] are no [sic] lower than Tokyo" is unsubstantiated. Furthermore, as the power plant is as of yet NOT under control and still poses a danger, I don't believe that children should be living a mere 20 km from it. Do you have children, Chris? Most of the town officials that I interviewed had evacuated their children and grandchildren. I guess they are lucky to have such a great (tax-based) salary to have afforded them such an option.

Anonymous said...

Please clarify one thing — we know for certain that the towns around Japan's nuclear facilities get enormous payouts to keep quiet in the shadow of the plants. The NYTimes is reporting today about citizens in towns around the plant in Shimane receiving $600,000 per person over a decade. The towns around the Fukushima power plant just recently begged TEPCO to build reactors 5-8, in order to get more payouts.

Are we saying that Minamisoma was NOT one of the towns receiving large sums of money to neutralize opposition to the plants? If that's so, it's rare, and should be recognized. But is it true?

Ian Thomas Ash said...


Regarding payouts, I haven't asserted that Minamisoma hasn't received any payouts. I would suggest that the figures you are quoting sound rather high to be plausible. Also, I would suggest that the people actually living in these areas would not be the recipients of these large sums of money, even if their local or prefectural governments were.

In any case, however, the issue of payments and money is not my main focus. These would be decisions made between adults. I am concerned about the future of these children.

I agree that there were financial benefits to having the nuclear power plants. Let's suppose for arguments sake that there were payouts of $600,000 per person over ten years. Would that justify putting the lives of children in danger? What would be the price for your child's life?

Anonymous said...

Sorry Mr.Ian, my question was directed toward Mr.Noland. He suggested that the motives of the mayor in your video were unfairly judged. Often these days people talk about the big, bad government and the innocent people, and to an extent that is certainly true. But to a large extent, the people in these small cities and towns are responsible for their situation, because rather than reject nuclear power, they embraced the payout money that came with nuclear power. The New York Times today says this:

In 2009 alone, Tokyo gave $1.15 billion for public works projects to communities that have electric plants, according to the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. Experts say the majority of that money goes to communities near nuclear plants. And that is just the tip of the iceberg, experts say, as the communities also receive a host of subsidies, property and income tax revenues, compensation to individuals and even “anonymous” donations to local treasuries that are widely believed to come from plant operators.

And indeed it says that it added up to $600,000 for each fisherman in Kashima village. This means that the citizens of some (not all) of these towns were as responsible as their government in bringing this dangerous situation upon themselves.

It's easy for some in Japan to wave the peace sign and say that they have no control over what happens in our democracy. "It can't be helped" as they say. But that masks the truth.

Katsuyoshi Ueno said...

To anonymous commenters,
I think the point is the Fukushima crisis is not over. It's still threatening and/or harming the children's lives near the plant. In addition, Fukushima already had an enormous amount of radioactive fallout which won't disappear for decades.
In the NYT story, the failed candidate for mayor of Kashima describes a nuclear power plant as a "political power plant", and almost always, Japanese politics are not designed for impoverished people and their children.
From my understanding, Ian's focus is "are you willing to save (your) children from here?" and the mayor Sakurai seems to have no idea about that. He blindly follows the government's order like other bureaucrats.
In the radiation zone like Minamisoma and Iitate, speaking about politics is worthless now. Those children should have evacuated months ago...

Ian Thomas Ash said...

Katsuyoshi is right: my focus is simply on whether or not the children should be evacuated (I believe they should be). Of course there are political reasons why we got into this situation (money, etc), but we don't have time to worry about that right now. First, we need to think about the children.

I really appreciate this dialogue! I think that by questioning each other and talking things through, we can come up with a solution. Let's hope it is not too late...

Katsuyoshi Ueno said...

Ah, yes "they should be evacuated". (correction)

Anonymous said...

I wonder if your assertions are short sighted... of course, focus should be put on saving the children in Fukushima...

But to say that talking about politics now is useless... means that we should only try to fix problems once they are out of control. Isn't the whole point of this tragedy that 99% of us were NOT talking about this on March 10th? Isn't that the most important point?

Mr. Ueno, please don't think we're attacking Mr. Ian. On the contrary, except for Mr. Noland, it would seem that everything here supports Mr. Ian's work and ideas.

When I see Mr. Ian's work, however, the biggest impression I come away with, is that there are dozens of Minamisomas around Japan right now, that will either learn something from this tragedy, or not learn something. Why not worry about the children of Kashima too?

Ian Thomas Ash said...

I agree that we need to learn from the situation... that we need to figure out 'why' this happened in order to prevent it from happening again and to see what lessons can be learned so that towns in similar situations can be helped.

Certainly, I don't think such discussions are 'useless'. What I was trying to express was that there isn't time to figure out the exact figure of how much money each person was compensated (prior to the explosion) for living near the power plant.

Also, I am not only worried about the children of Minamisoma. I believe they are representative of the many children in towns which are being affected by radiation. These would include Iitate village (which I also visited) where the children were living in SHOCKING levels of radiation much higher than Minamisoma. Those children were not evacuated for TWO MONTHS after the explosion.

The town of Kashima (which you mention) is actually actually Kashima-ku, the nothern part of Minamisoma City, and we spent a large amount of time there filming the children.