Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Fukushima Kamikaze

Fukushima Kamikaze, oil on paper, 83x60 cm

The plight of Fukushima seems to have left our news services in recent weeks. I guess the TV channels figured it had lost its entertainment value as a modern-day disaster movie. The press too have moved on. There was a royal wedding, you know.

Fortunately Elizabeth Anderson's recent post on her blog brought the realities back into focus. She gave a link to an excellent update by Arnie Gunderson (Chief Nuclear Engineer) of

Reactor One is now known to be uncovered, exposed to the air. The radiation levels in Unit 1 are consequently at incredibly high levels for humans. At that level a person dies very quickly after 4 or 5 hours of exposure. You get sick after much much much less.

And here is the thing. They sent in some workers - to an uncovered core - to fit new gauges so that technicians can monitor the disaster. So who were those brave men who went in there to fit new gauges? How much radiation had those workers already absorbed over recent weeks?

Seems to me some of these men are on suicide missions for the nation. Fukushima kamikaze. Read about these Nuclear Ninja and their suicide mission here.

Gunderson also reports that meanwhile radiation has entered the sewerage system of a local town (contaminated ground water seeping into earthquake-cracked sewer pipes) while a high school in the area has told the kids they have to wear masks and long-sleeved shirts (to prevent skin burns) at all times. The school's parking lot has had the soil stripped because it was so contaminated that if the kids went outside they would be exposed to adult nuclear worker levels of radiation. The government's swift response? They  increased the permissible dose of radiation for children - twenty-fold!

Where i come from they close schools when the flu gets bad.

I guess this what the Fukushima Kamikaze are willing to give their lives for - to do their duty as workers, to save school children, and just maybe, to yet save the day.


  1. This os a powerful rendition of a devastating event, Harry. It is as you say continuing. It may nit be in the news but I'm sure those nearby can't forget nor should we.

  2. Hello Harry,
    I don't know how you do it. To keep creating these jaw-dropping, gut-wrenching, brutally honest paintings is an amazing achievement. They clearly illustrate the fist-pounding, "Mad as hell" affect this disaster has had on you.
    I'm sure I'm not alone in wondering just how you turn a fairly unremarkable image of a person in an anti-radiation suit into such a horribly profound, powerful and truly significant work of art. Many of us share your feelings of sadness, outrage and fear, but expressing it effectively is not so easy.
    Great work, Harry!

  3. this is a important thema... I admire you for give your tribute to this problem and for never forget

    the work is siply terrific and powerfull

  4. This extraordinary in its emotional punch. The blood red background does it for me. I'm in agreement with Gary. This simple image is sad, angry and heroic all at once. The fury of this is to be commended in every way. I am grateful that you share this work with us.

  5. I think, Harry, that there is a sense of duty in some countries and cultures that is in short, or at least shorter, supply in others. To what degree it is a natural or enforced, one can never know. I do know that people, under whatever circumstances, do not often choose such selfless acts as these workers in Japan, or yours in continuing to keep a light shining on their sacrifice through your art. Many thanks.

  6. Indeed, Elizabeth. And the situation has all the potential to faorce its way back into the news, including some impact on Oz.

  7. To be honest, Gary, i'm doing what many writers do - finding a subject that stirs my imagination and my emotions and 'using' it to make art. While one part of me is dumbfounded and outraged about how the situation is being played out by 'experts', another part of me is clinically observant. Guess it's the sociologist meeting the artist within. The whole thing leaves one emotionally further drained by modern times, and even more cynical about government.

    How governments bumble and bungle, and then spin and lie to cover up. And they have the nerve to ask us to trust them election after election, promise after promise, reassurance after reassurance.

    But who is EVER accountable? Who has ever giver their superannuation back ten years into retirement when the truth finally leaks out?

    It's the 'little people' who pay. They haven't the accountants to help them avoid taxes. They haven't the lawyers to redress their wrongs. They haven't the wealth or power to make governments change their policies.

    They just have their skills which they put on the market to be traded as a commodity. They have the courage to go down mines, and sense of duty to venture into radio-active ruins.

    And they have their faith in Big Brother who would never build a nuclear plant or pulp mill in their neighbourhood if it wasn't safe.

  8. Thanks, Laura. There are a few more works on the same theme coming up. I thought it was time i stuck to a topic and developed it, created a series, so i could learn how to assemble a coherent exhibition one day.

  9. Thanks Davida. Yes, i thought red background to hint at blood spilled in the self-immolation of kamikaze. There is a violence in this situation, even it is cloaked as particulate contamination and gamma rays which wreak their toll years later.

  10. Interesting point, Gabriella. Anthropologist Ruth Benedict distinguished between 'shame-cultures' and 'guilt-cultures'.

    Arguably, Japanese society is more shame driven the US or Oz society. Saving face has far greater significance for Japanese society while we are consumed with guilt and anxiety, often just residual guilt from childhood where we internalized the strictures of parents and church only too well.

    In a shame-culture, sometimes it is easier to endure death than endure shame or bringing shame onto your family. Is this a factor for these workers? Perhaps, along with others.

    Certainly they have greater group identification and loyalty than perhaps we do. Or even, they are more polite. It would rude to answer back or question officals.

    And somewhere in that mix lies a dose of personal courage and idealism and determination and spirit of self-sacrifice.