JAPAN BLOG PART I: THE CHORNOBYL CONNECTION

Posted: October 1, 2012 in Uncategorized

Recently, I had very unexpected and extraordinary invitation to travel to Japan to talk about Chornobyl to the Japanese people—many of whom were survivors and evacuees after the radiation meltdown from the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear power plant on March 11, 2011 which occurred as a result of the devastating earthquake and tsunami.

Because radiation contamination is still a lingering and prevalent concern in Japan, with many issues still unresolved such as diagnosing related health symptoms, children attending schools in irradiated zones, waste disposal, and clean food and water standards, Kazko Kawai and her organization, Voices for Lively Spring, coordinated  a series of lecture events and health screenings at community centers located in several Japanese cities to better inform the public about the health, environmental and related dangers from radiation exposure– especially the lessons gleaned from Chornobyl. In addition to local Japanese speakers and physicians, she also invited two physicians (one from the States, the other from Germany) and myself, and did a superb job in translating our talks throughout our tour. Actually, I was a last minute replacement for another filmmaker who had to cancel, and so in late August, I found myself on a long, long flight to Japan.

Having no knowledge of Japanese, no geographical orientation, nor real preparation, and fighting humidity, jet lag (14 hour time difference) and bewilderment, I somehow managed to find the right trains (the “shinkansen,” which only Westerners call the “bullet trains”), and land in Shin-Yokohama where I met up with Kawai-san and our traveling group who had already began their speaking tour in Tokyo. With our Japan Rail passes, we were able to appear usually a city a day to the community centers at: Shin-Yokohama, Shizuoka, Shimada City, Osaka, Fukuoka, and Kita-Kyushu.

The community centers were all very impressive and new buildings equipped with auditoriums, banquet halls, classrooms, libraries, day care centers, and the sanctuary “tatami room”—a Japanese style room with fragrant tatami mats, sliding doors and a calming atmosphere that was conducive for naps (which I took advantage of whenever there was time before going onstage).

In my talk about Chornobyl, I discussed how I first became immersed in that catastrophe and wrote a novel, THE SKY UNWASHED, which is based on a true story about the elderly evacuees returning to their irradiated homes; and from there how I came to filming and producing the documentary about Chornobyl, LIFE IN THE DEAD ZONE and the film short, EPIPHANY AT CHORNOBYL. I concluded with the many parallels between the two nuclear calamities in Ukraine and Japan.

At all the venues, I found the audiences to be highly engaged, sincerely interested in and very knowledgeable about Chornobyl and their questions reflected their intelligence, humanity and concerns about what happened there on April 26, 1986 in Ukraine and how it related to their own alarming and tragic experiences as a result of Fukushima.

Here is a YOUTUBE video of one of the events: Fukuoka, Japan, September 1, 2012:

NEXT POST: PRESS CONFERENCES AND PROTESTS.

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