After the earthquake and tsunami in northeastern Japan on March 11, 2011, the radiation released from the damaged Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant required the immediate evacuation of all inhabitants from a large area. In January and July 2014, dancer/choreographer Eiko Otake and historian/photographer William Johnston followed abandoned train tracks to desolate stations and eerily vacant towns and fields in Fukushima Prefecture. Two years later, in August 2016, they returned to many of the same places and visited others that had only recently become accessible to the public. This video is created from the still photographs Johnston took in 2016 trip.
The fifth anniversary of Fukushima’s triple disaster reaffirmed its magnitude. While recovery from the earthquake and tsunami has progressed quickly throughout much of the region, the long-lasting effects of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant meltdown is all the more apparent now. Large, highly radioactive areas have yet to be cleaned up. The futility of decontamination efforts has also become obvious; radioactive runoff from the mountains will continue to pour down on areas that have been decontaminated. Many former residents are still refugees from their homes and businesses and many have been displaced permanently. The zone immediately around the nuclear plant will remain uninhabitable for decades or longer.
Johnston photographed Eiko as she danced in these changing landscapes. Their collaborative work on three separate trips offers a time-lapse view. January 2014, utter desolation. The earth bares its naked wounds. By July, plants had proliferated, overtaking the places people were avoiding because of the radioactivity. By August 2016, men and bulldozers had again intervened in many of these places, “decontaminating” fields, dismantling houses, and constructing a radically new landscape as if to erase memories. Surrounded by noise and dust, Johnston and Eiko visited irradiated shrines and mountains that are left alone and found true, if silent, witnesses to human failure.
Please also see A Body in Fuksuhima 2014
More information on the project
Please find Johnston's photographs from Fukushima and from other places at his web page