There have been a number of programmes around the world dedicated to remembering the tragic impact of The Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11, 2011 and the subsequent recovery but the most interesting and the greatest concentration of events I have seen so far has been the Japan Society, New York’s commemoration events. There is a wide range of talks and screenings and more given over to remembering the disaster and charting the return to some kind of normality that people in the region are attempting.
Many of the events run from March and last into April and June and all are centred around how art responds to crisis. To find out more and purchase tickets, click on the links provided.
Japan Society Gallery’s centerpiece exhibition is In the Wake: Japanese Photographers Respond to 3/11. It contains photographic responses to the disaster with 90 photographic works from 17 of Japan’s leading visionaries, including Nobuyoshi Araki, Naoya Hatakeyama, Keizō Kitajima, Lieko Shiga, and Tomoko Yoneda. This runs from March 11 to June 12. Also running at the same time is Yoko Ono’s Wish Tree which allows people to tie wishes for a better future to the branches of the tree.
On Friday, April 15th there is going to be a conversation between two artists. Munemasa Takahashi, an artist whose works have focussed on the recovery, restoration and digitisation of personal photographs lost in the 3/11 disaster. He will be joined by Hakan Topal who also specialises in art and design in relation to disasters. Following this is a gallery talk and reception. (tickets must be ordered)
On Monday, March 21st at 7:30 PM there will be a Japanese play performed by American actors. The play is called Girl X and it is another event where tickets must be bought. What you get is a drama written by Suguru Yamamoto, a young playwright from Japan who wrote this work after the disaster. It is set in present-day Tokyo and focusses on an anonymous urban family and it seems that each person has complex emotional problems which should provide ample drama for audiences to engage with. It has won a lot of praise in Asia and its playwright, Suguru Yamamoto, will be at the performance to take part in a talk.
For cinephiles there’s the screening of Nuclear Nation II on March 17th at 7 PM. It was at last year’s Berlin International Film Festival. The review by Maggie Lee over at the Variety website makes this sound like a very, very important work for anyone who wants to see the true face of the refugee crisis and the problems facing those trying to move on as it reveals that the inuhmane government response and lousy treatment by TEPCO has forced the subjects of the documentary to become refugees in their own country and there is no end in sight. Director Atsushi Funahashi will be in town to talk to audience members.
Nuclear Nation II
フタバから 遠く 離れて第二部 「Futaba kara toku hanarete dainibu」
Running Time: 114 mins.
Director: Atsushi Funahashi
Starring: Shiro Izawa, Masami Yoshizawa, Katsutaka Idogawa,
Atsushi Funahashi was at the 2012 Berlin Film Festival with his documentary Nuclear Nation, about the consequences of the March 2011 nuclear disaster in Fukushima Daiichi which displaced around 1400 people from nearby Futaba. These people were evacuated to a school building in a Tokyo suburb and we saw how they survived. The sequel takes place some time after and we learn what happened to the people we saw in the first documentary. We see that the former mayor, a man who once advocated the use of nuclear energy and then became a passionate fighter for the victims of the catastrophe, has been replaced by someone younger and that the situation faced by the new mayor is just as intractable as ever. The single-minded cattle breeder who resisted government orders to kill his livestock which were in the disaster zone sees the consequences of radioactive contamination on the ravaged bodies of his animals. Also, those displaced by the disaster have just recently (as in late 2014) left the school building they were staying in but they’re unlikely ever to be able to return to their homes because the epicentre of the catastrophe has been declared a toxic waste disposal site.
That’s a strong line-up of events. I would also like to point out my list of films that cover the 3/11 disaster and Fukushima Daichi fallout. It’s called Great East Japan Earthquake Aftermath on Film and was started in 2013 as a way of commemorating the disaster and keeping track of some of the films that are released every weekend that cover the event and provide something of a record.