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information about Fukushima published in English in Japanese media info publiée en anglais dans la presse japonaise


October 7, 2013


Cultural critic Azuma wants to turn Fukushima nuclear plant into tourist spot




Philosopher and writer Hiroki Azuma isn't joking when he pitches the possibility of turning the wrecked Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant into a sightseeing spot.

Azuma, a professor of philosophy at Waseda University and known as a cultural critic, wants to combine nuclear disaster and tourism in what, at first glance, seems to be an indecent pairing of words. But he is straightforward about his intention.

"To make sure the memories of the disaster don't fade away," Azuma said.

The key proponent of his plan centers around J-Village, a soccer facility in Fukushima Prefecture, which was a training center for the Japanese national soccer team. Currently, it is a base for relaying those working to control the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 plant.

According to Azuma, opening an immense visitor center for both amusement and education, the Fukushima Gate Village, on the site would allow people to tour the plant as the cleanup work continues. Azuma proposes that this be what the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant site becomes in 2036.


Two and a half years after the Fukushima nuclear disaster following the March 11, 2011, Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami, there are still 150,000 evacuees. Azuma proposed the plan to make the site into a "tourist destination" last fall.

A team of architects, artists and journalists--including the likes of Hiroshi Kainuma, the sociologist who wrote " 'Fukushima' theory--the birth of a nuclear village"--came together and are engaged in activities such as workshops in Minami-Soma, a city affected by the nuclear disaster, and seminars.

This past April, Azuma, Kainuma and other members "toured" the area around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine, where a meltdown occurred in 1986. The fruits of their investigation were compiled in the mook (a book designed like a magazine) "Chernobyl Dark Tourism Guide."

Azuma said he remembers what survivors in the Tohoku region of northeastern Japan said in interviews--that their greatest fear is that memories of the accident will fade--and the therapeutic effect and self-affirmation talking about their experience in the disaster gave them.

"We don't want to turn (the Fukushima nuclear power plant) into a tourist destination to build a big theme park on a disaster site," he said. "We want a complete disclosure of information."

Twenty-seven years after the accident, the Chernobyl plant and surrounding area are now beginning to actively embrace tourists. In fact, Chernobyl still retains some of its function as a power plant and transmits power. Visitors can get an up-close look at this work as well as the decommissioning of the No. 4 reactor where the accident occurred. Azuma argued that making it easy for anyone to see the entire situation will pass on memories and knowledge of the accident to the next generation.

This is why he believes the Japanese must avoid making a mere park or a boring public building simply filled with data and graphs at the site; instead, create a center that attracts people by making it into a tourist destination. That is the idea behind Azuma's proposal.

"The main hall of the National Chernobyl Museum in (the Ukrainian capital of) Kiev has artistic displays that make use of Russian Orthodox Church symbols," he said. "I believe this sort of scheme, which many people would look on dubiously in Japan, is exactly what we need."


Opponents to the idea question whether Azuma has the right to "butt in" on how to use the site of the crippled plant, because he is not a "concerned party." He offers a strong retort.

"I certainly don't butt in when it comes to other natural disasters, but the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant belongs to Tokyo Electric Power Co., so I, and all the other residents of Tokyo, are without a doubt 'concerned parties,' " he said. "This accident doesn't just affect Fukushima; it affects all of humanity. Even if, hypothetically speaking, the people of Fukushima were to say they don't want to see it anymore and demand the site be turned into vacant land, it would still be unacceptable."

All the Ukrainians Azuma interviewed said they viewed Chernobyl as an accident affecting the entire world, and that it will remain a notable event in the history of mankind. If the Fukushima accident is not viewed from the same broad perspective, then memories of it will disappear, and the same thing will occur again.

Azuma said the significance of spreading information from Tokyo, far removed from Fukushima, is to share this point of view.

"Even if it goes against the spirit of the time, I still want to take an intellectual, cultural approach," he said.


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