Monday, April 4, 2011

Fukushima Samurai

Fukushima Samurai, charcoal and acrylic on paper, 59 x 42 cm

This work continues my personal response to the events at TEPCO's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

Tokyo Electric's President, Masataka Shimizu, was too upset to apologize in person. The task of ritual apology, whatever that is worth, was delegated further down the food-chain to Chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata.

Shimizu rested, as nameless neo-samurai  - the Fukushims 50 aka 'Atomic Samurai' - waded into radioactive waters, leaky protective gear failing to fend off the water-born radioactive isotopes soaking in round their ankles. Working in shifts of 50 at a time, Japan is hailing them as heroes. Because they have already exceeded the allowable radiation dose deemed safe, the government sprang into action. Leak-proof hazmat suits? Nope. It simply raised the legal maximum radiation dose.

When Shimizu did appear on TV to 'apologize', rather than accept a president's responsibility for his company's safety practices and contingency planning, he blamed "marvels of nature that we have never experienced before" - like earth quakes and tsunamis in Japan, i suppose.

I don't expect TEPCO executives to immolate themselves like the samurai of old as an honorable way out of their loss of face (and to avoid facing up to their failure). I'm not actually all that concerned about their sense of inadequacy. Rather, I'm concerned about the victims of the failed power-plant and of the ineffective remedial measures to contain the radiation to date.

I'm even concerned for the 1,000 tsunami dead whose bodies cannot be recovered in the radiation zone. And how do you cremate a radio-active corpse without creating further airborne contamination? How will they rest in peace?

But especially I'm concerned about the white hazmat-clad samurai working down in those dark tunnels. I wish the company's executives would poetically lead from the front.  Pull on a hazmat suit and climb down into those water-logged tunnels to turn whatever valves need turning. Share the radioactive iodine, cesium and strontium with your nameless workers.

Now that would be accountability.

That would make an apology worth something.

To my weary eyes, that would be Samurai.


  1. These images are almost out of this world, Harry, as is the horror you describe in Japan.

  2. These images describe the horror of Japan so powerfully.

  3. Don't know what to say, you have said it all Harry in words and art.

  4. Thanks, Liz

    Yes, Elizabeth - a surreal landscape for a surreal situation.

    Thanks Laura.

    Welcome to my blog, Asit. I'm glad you find this recent work emotionally expressive.

    Hi Carolann. I believe it's the work of the arts to express and clarify our thoughts and feelings about the human condition, to give us images that encapsulate the issues. As ambitious and difficult as that task is, it's what i'm aiming for here. Thanks for your encouraging response to my attempts.


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