My desire to create art comes from my search for the meaning of our existence. I use my artwork as a key to understand others and myself. The most precious thing in my life is the growth process. Art is my guide and mentor....

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Looking back on my stay in Japan

This spring, I was informed by my mother that my father was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. I recalled my memories when I volunteered to help local children get thyroid examinations in the fall, 2016. At that time, I heard from an associate that adult thyroid cancer had been increasing. Fortunately, my father didn't have cancer, according to a cell test after his surgery. Every time I saw my father's neck scar, I thought about people who have thyroid cancer, their families, and myself who have not had thyroid gland exams.

Radioactivity is invisible. Five years after the Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster, the residents who knew the level of radioactive contamination, raised their voices to protect everyone's lives. The residents' action led to the establishment of the "Chernobyl law" that supports residents in areas where radiation doses exceeding 1mSv per year in the Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia.

Radioactive contamination now affects the whole world. There are 54 nuclear power plants in Japan. In 1999 there was a criticality accident in Tokai village and in 2011 Fukushima had a nuclear disaster. A movement to establish a "Chernobyl law" in Japan is increasing. I got to know a group, fukushima-iseshima-no-kai that is working on that law during my Fall 2017 Japan trip.

On October 6th, 2017 at 11:56 PM there was an earthquake of seismic intensity 5 in Fukushima. At that time, I was in Tochigi in my parents house. When the shaking began, a loud alarm sounded, I remembered the terrifying March 11th, 2011 earthquake. However no one talked about this October 6th earthquake. Dangerously crazy events are happening such as some Japanese nuclear power plants resuming operation while there are new threats from North Korea's missiles. During my stay in Japan, I experienced a small earthquake few times.

Night view of Tokyo

Japan's authoritarian government discards their embarrassing official documents, and denies responsibility for any problems. Under the influence of the corrupt government, some individual Japanese citizens have been acting irresponsibly. In Japan, I felt that a serious moral collapse had occurred and that feudalism was still deeply rooted. 

Gataro's artwork at Gallery Furuto

However, there was wonderful news of the Nobel Prize being won and that a Japanese Atomic bomb survivor was honored. A recipient of the Nobel Prize for literature, Kazuo Ishiguro, was a Japanese British novelist whose mother was a Nagasaki survivor. Hiroshima survivor Setsuko Thurlow was to jointly receive a Nobel Peace Prize with ICAN which has been conducting international campaigns to abolish nuclear weapons around the world. This event gave hope and courage to many people.

I remembered that although the treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was adopted at the United Nations, unfortunately, Japan, the only country to have suffered atomic bomb attacks, didn't participate. This July 7th, 2017 was Tanabata Day, a special Japanese day for making wishes. I live in the USA and learned that atomic bomb survivors are not only Japanese, but also Americans, and people around the world. As a Japanese person, I realize the importance of continuing to convey historical and scientific facts about nuclear issues more than ever.

 Takagi school:  Hisako Sakiyama Presentation

I went to lectures such as: Takagi school's civic lecture, Tochigi prefecture soil becquerel report by Junichi Onuma, a report on Militarized Ryukyu Islands by Yamamoto Hideo, a report on research achievements on global nuclear disasters, etc. In the meantime, the most precious thing was that I met people who are working on grassroots activities relating to the environment. In particular, participating in the activities of mothers who are working to improve the future of children, has become the driving force of my activities. 

My future task is how to transform these experiences and information into works and to spread the word to individuals and society at large. "What is right? What is fair? and What is reality?" is not clear, is not always the same, and is not agreed upon. In order to correct distortions and limitations in our perceptions, we need to strive for mutual understanding through open and honest dialogue with ourselves and with others.

A gathering of the sixth report and opinion exchange 
to hand peace to the children
Tuesday, October 10th, 2017  14:00 - 16:30
Tokorozawa Municipal Public Hall, Saitama
with sign language

Akira Takeuchi: "Article 9 of the Constitution Haiku" Representative of the Civic Cheering Team, Moritomo ·Kakei Accusation Project co-representative
Yasuyo Tanaka: Social Practice Artist, Educator  
Dany Nehushtai: Jews who came from Israel, Furniture Artist, Peace Activist.

West Saitama Unconstitutional Litigation Executive Committee
Security Law Unconstitutional Litigation Saitama Association


This was the second year in a row that I participated in this event. After Dany hosted me and Mr. Takeuchi's talk, we exchanged opinions with the audience in an open atmosphere. There was a person who told us the circumstances that made it difficult to raise our voice while shedding tears. We discussed how to improve our environment and that it is difficult for Japanese to raise our voices and grow democracy. We need to transform our consciousness so that we can be more empowering to each other. This will help our society and the world. After that, the organizer's "Men's cooking" deliciously cooked natural fish, Osyorokooma from Hokkaido and invited us into their home. Our discussion continued late into the night.

Orientation: Discover the mountain of treasure
Sunday, October 15th, 2017  10:00 - 15:00
Yaita Ports Park, Tochigi

Flower Planting
Treasure hunting and orientation
Activities of art and play

Vice Chairman of Japan Student Orienteering Federation:
Katsunori Yamakawa
Artists, Educator, Tochigi future ambassador: 
Yasuyo Tanaka

Youth Leader Development · Child-rearing and lifelong learning support

The event started in light rain. However, the children were very energetic. I could see how much they were looking forward to this day. There was activity to decorate by planting flowers in their town. My mother participated as a volunteer and also enjoyed planting flowers with the children. I participated in orientation with children who ran cheerfully while I was thinking about my childhood.

Yaita City is suffering from radiation damage because of the Fukushima nuclear disaster. This high radioactivity area was partly decontaminated and the strength of radioactivity has decreased. It has been six years since the disaster. After seeing the smiling faces of parents and children, I reminded our audience that we shouldn't forget the lessons learned from the Fukushima disaster.

Kids ECO art program  "small me and big you"
Information egg
from what I tell, to what everyone tells,
Friday, November 3rd, and Saturday, November 4th, 2017 10:00 - 12:00
Earth Plaza, Kanagawa

Host organization ”hinatabocco” 
2017 Children's Dream Fund Grant 

This workshop led to creating information eggs. Participants collected articles on ecological and environmental issues and then collaged them onto the paper mache eggs. On the theme of recycling paper, children and parents made spherical shapes with paper mache by using newspaper. We made round books in the form of information eggs which can be read in any direction. Mothers and children who are highly aware of society and education gathered. During the time, one of the members read a picture book on protecting the environment that each individual can do.I had a powerpoint presentation about my work. We display our work together. Everyone's ideas came out, one after another, and it was a very fun collaboration.

Environmental Festival in Ashio

The town of Ashio experienced prosperity and decline because of it's Copper Mine. It was a major site for pollution and riots by miners more than 100 years ago. The nature that was destroyed has not yet fully returned. At Ashio's nature and history tour, the local executive committee's guide explained its past and present.

Matsuki Valley

The influence of sulfur dioxide gas generated during the refining of copper caused the surrounding mountains to become ”bald mountain”. In order to improve this situation, the nonprofit corporation "Ashio Greenery Raising Association" was organized by local citizen groups. It has been planting trees since 1996. This demonstrates that it required tremendous time and effort to recover the beautiful nature that copper mining destroyed.

Seismic activity and active faults in the Ashio area

At the Ashio Community Center, local photographer's works and my prints were exhibited and the events of Sontoku Ninomiya and Shozo Tanaka were held. Former Futaba Mayor, Katsutaka Idogawa, visited on our Ashio event. He evacuated all Futaba residents on March 12th, 2011 because of the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
I thought giving Mr. Idogawa time to talk would be more important than my talk, so I asked him to talk during my talk time.

Former Futaba Town Mayor, Katsutaka Idogawa

Before this event, we ate lunch with wild mushroom soup that was served by locals. Ashio was affected by the Fukushima nuclear accident and received radiation damage. I heard from locals who prepared this wild mushroom soup, that the value of radioactivity in wild mushrooms has declined recently and it was safe to be eaten. 

When I had finished eating about half of my bowl of mushroom soup, Mr. Idogawa came into the room looking for me. I welcomed him and offered him the wild mushroom soup. I told him that the wild mushroom soup was already tested and was safe to eat. However, he refused the wild mushroom soup and told us why with very convincing reasons. He taught us that the whole mushrooms used in cooking can not be accurately inspected for radioactivity because mushrooms must be crushed and dried to obtain accurate radioactivity values when testing them.

Despite knowing that these wild mushrooms could be dangerous, because they are easily contaminated by radiation, I was careless and ate soup containing various types of wild mushrooms. The local people told me that mushroom hunting was very enjoyable, but they refrained from doing so after the nuclear disaster. They were so happy that finally they could eat mushrooms and they offered them to their guests.

This delicious and sad taste remained in the memory of the locals and myself. I had to throw away the rest of the very tasty mushroom soup, that was kindly offered, because I didn't know if it was safe or dangerous.The locals accepted the judgements and advice of Mr. Idogawa who ordered evacuation of his town after the Fukushima nuclear disaster. We are all victims of radiation. What we do not know about radiation and radiation levels, can make us act dangerously.

Watasage Valley Railway

I met a very nice local woman who attended this event. A few days later she invited me back to Ashio. When I was invited to visit her in Ashio, I realized that many subjects I am involved with are in Ashio. She gave me a beautiful, very personal, and very emotional tour of Ashio throughout her lifetime. The persistent environmental damage from Ashio's copper mining makes it seem like time is frozen. My nostalgic feelings melted into the natural scenery. I traced the memories of prosperity and downfall. I wanted to know what this town experienced, as a lesson for our future. I promised this local Ashio woman that I would come back next year. 

Environmental Festival in Shioya and Yaita

 The candidate site of the nuclear waste final disposal place is one of the best spring water, "Shoujinzawayusui" in Japan. 

Shioya and Yaita were affected by the Fukushima disaster, and became the candidate to be the final disposal site for the nuclear waste. I met local people who were highly conscious, educated, and concerned residents at my solo exhibition ” what is home? where is home?”  last year. It was held also related as 5th anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear disaster memorial events. My desire to make opportunities for their presentations was realized at this environmental festival. They met my hopes and expectations more than admirably.

Monday 10/2/17 - Monday10/9/17
Shioya Exchange Center
The environmental festival started with Ocarina performance by Eiko Takahashi. Ichiro Koguchi's prints and my prints were exhibited at the Shioya Exchange Center. The movies such as "Be chased by the mineral poison" by Takashi Shinozaki, “Endlager” by WasabiChilli Films: Takashi Kunimoto & Renato Vazquez, and “Yasuyo in New York/Spring 2012” by Satoshi Yajimachi were screened. The guest speaker, Takeshi Akagami talked about Shozo Tanaka. Singing voice cafe and workshops were also held. The participationnal programs created by locals were fulfilment and left many possibilities in the future.

"Ehon Ongaku" by Kan Kan 
It was created a fantasy world from music and picture books. The locals sang original songs that were beautifully harmonized with images from fairy tales.

“Biblio Talk” 
by Hummingbird thinking about the future of children
participants introduced their favorite books. Each book introduction made us feel the personality of its introducer. It became an intimate space, like touching the inside of other people's minds. Makoto Takeuchi, a writer living in Tochigi prefecture, participated.

List of Introduced Books
Before Ice Cream Dissolves: Kenji Ozawa and the Japan American Fear Society
Into the Wild: Jon Krakauer
AMI. Child of the Stars: Enrique Barrios
A hummingbird person drops: Shinichi Tsuji 
Let's become an ordinary country: C. Douglas Lummis 
History of Radiation Exposure: Yasuo Nakagawa 
Flood of Isa: Yousuke Kimura

“Cute Japanese Paper Containers” by Yoshiko Komatsu
The workshop conveyed the importance of water in making traditional Japanese paper. How to make handmade Japanese paper, and what kind of materials are used, were explained and exhibited.

”Learn and think together about nuclear disposal site's issue" 
by Masatoshi Oyama. Facilitator by Masaaki Mizuno. 
Shioya is a candidate for nuclear waste disposal site, there were candidate site tours with the cooperation of the town, and related talk session about nuclear waste disposal site.

"Let's go for a recuperation" 
by Tchinomi Recuperation Cheer Team 
It was a play with the theme of radiation exposure and recuperation. The locals collaborated and made a creative drama with original songs and choreography

Pamphlets about recuperation places that had very low radiation, all over Japan,, were available, and we set up a consultation area. Two guests from Chichibu, Saitama, provided their extra residences for temporary recuperation"karapponoie" for those exposed to radioactivity. They explained about their place and shared with us about their experiences.

Shioya Town Mayor: Kazuhisa Mikata

On the final day, I talked about why we need environmental festivals using a PowerPoint presentation entitled "from one person's hand to everyone's hands" that introduced overseas environmental events. The Mayor of Shioya town participated in this last event and took part in the active exchange of opinions with residents. In Shioya town's environmental festival, local people cooperated and had a variety of good  interactions. We confirmed that it was necessary for us to build a place where we could raise our awareness of each other.

Ichiro Koguchi and Yasuyo Tanaka Print Exhibition
Wednesday11/1/17 - Sunday 11/26/17 
Yaita City Library