We are in the midst of a campaign with Japanese crowdfunding site Motion Gallery, who raised $70,000 toward the production of Iranian master Abbas Kiarostami’s Japan-shot Like Someone in Love that premiered at the Cannes Film Festival last month. We have a more modest goal of $30,000 by Sept. 6. We hope you can join this campaign to support the completion of Uncanny Terrain. The site is in Japanese but it’s not difficult to navigate—click the orange button to register. We also have a variety of other tax-deductible donation options here. Thank you!
This video, capturing the diverse views of four Fukushima activist farmers, screens beginning June 16 in the Rio+20 United Nations Sustainable Development Conference, where one of our main subjects, Seiji Sugeno, director of the Fukushima Organic Farmers Network, is presenting.
by Kimberly Hughes
Ten Thousand Things
This past January, while most participants at the Global Conference for a Nuclear Power Free World in Yokohama were angrily demanding that the government relocate endangered Fukushima citizens to safety, a small delegation of organic farmers had a different message to share. They had no intention of leaving their family land, they said, and as long as radiation levels remained within prescribed safety limits, others were urged to continue consuming Fukushima crops in support of the prefecture’s revitalization.
We were prepared to talk our way past a police checkpoint—or play dumb, in my case. But we drove right over the border unaccosted. 13 months after the tsunami, the fields remain strewn with twisted cars and the insides of ravaged houses. Cracked and roofless buildings stand untouched since the earthquake.
12 km up the Pacific coast from the still-smoldering Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, Minami-Soma was cleaved in two. The north side of the city remains populated, while the south end was abandoned to the nuclear exclusion zone. That is, until April 16, when, for the first time, evacuees were allowed to return home without a special permit, though they still can’t spend the night.
The Nemotos had an organic farm here for 12 years, spreading sustainable practices to their neighbors. Mrs. Nemoto lost cousins in the tsunami. They evacuated first to Fukushima City, where radiation is twice as high as it is here, and later to adjacent Soma, where they live with their son’s family. The trauma of relocation has left their teenage granddaughter suffering sleepwalking and seizures.
Koichi Nemoto is determined to resume farming his evacuated land. He’s working with a team of researchers to test various experimental methods of preventing crops from absorbing radioactive cesium. He can grow anything, he says proudly.
It’s the complete opposite for their next-door neighbors, also named Nemoto (the name of the neighborhood, too). The neighbor Nemotos have no desire to move back, they tell us as they revisit their abandoned home, and they consider cultivating their fields a lost cause. They just want the government, or the power company, anybody, to buy their property, so they can move on.
If you were a Fukushima farmer, would you stay?
This was just one of the provocative questions students asked us, often in eloquent English, after we screened preview footage of our documentary Uncanny Terrain at Junko’s high school alma mater Inakita in Nagano in central Japan.
I answered that in the U.S., it’s relatively easy for us to pick up and go at the first sign of crisis or opportunity. I’m a proud Chicagoan, sure, but the sense of identification the people in Fukushima feel for the land is on a whole other level. One of my personal goals for this project is to better understand that sense of attachment.
I only learned later when she translated her answer for me that Junko said she would probably stay.
What makes a person decide whether to move on or stick out a disaster whose repercussions won’t be fully understood for decades?
How can these two families of Nemotos, living side by side, have such contradictory responses to the disaster?
Among the dozens of farmers we’ve met in the past year, we have seen a particular commitment by organic growers to stay and cultivate. This is counterintuitive on its face. These farmers, who have worked hardest to keep their crops free of contamination, are now the most perseverant in the face of the most insidious contamination they’ve ever encountered. But on another level it makes perfect sense. The commitment they have made to protect and perfect their land is not something they can walk away from, no matter the odds.
Please make a tax-deductible contribution to help us cover the cost of capturing and sharing this unfolding story. And please spread the word. Thank you!
The organic farmers of Fukushima have spent the past year coping not only with the contamination of their ancestral land with radioactive fallout from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, but also bureaucratic barriers to compensation, inconsistent guidelines from a government scurrying to project an illusion of normality, scarcity of accurate information and equipment to understand the contamination, hostility from a frightened public, and a steep drop in sales that threatens to undermine the regional economy and shatter their way of life.
The farmers have steadily educated themselves about the threat of radiation and how to cope with it, adapting traditional methods, acquiring testing equipment and incorporating experimental techniques to prevent their crops from absorbing cesium and try to decontaminate the land with minimum loss of its fertility. But will their efforts be enough to keep organic farming alive in northeast Japan?
After spending five months in 2011 following the farmers through the growing season, filmmakers Junko Kajino and Ed M. Koziarski are back in Japan to capture the second year of the nuclear crisis for our documentary Uncanny Terrain. We thank you for joining us on this journey. And we hope that you will continue to support us by spreading the word about this project, and making a tax-deductible contribution to our IndieGoGo campaign, which runs through May 1.
In March we held a series of preview screenings in New Jersey and Massachusetts, with lively and thoughtful audience discussions after each screening. We can provide preview footage for your school, organization, or venue, and either travel there or join you via teleconference. Please write us to inquire.
Michigan screening, save the date: we will screen preview footage at an exhibition of photography from the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami, April 20 at Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Details TBA.
Today Uncanny Terrain codirector Junko Kajino begins an East Coast mini-tour, presenting scenes from the in-progress documentary for schools and community groups. Please join her if you’re in the area.
- Fri 3/2 – 7PM - Georgian Court University, Little Theatre, 900 Lakewood Ave, Lakewood Township, NJ
- Sat 3/3 – 6PM - Ocean County Building, Skywalk Cafe, 2nd Floor, 129 Hooper Ave, Toms River, NJ
- Sun 3/4 – 4PM - Hartsbrook School, Piening Hall, Upstairs auditorium, 193 Bay Rd, Hadley, MA Note corrected time
- Mon 3/5 – 6:30PM - First Church in Salem, Unitarian, 316 Essex St, Salem, MA
- Tue 3/6 – 6PM - Cambridge Friends Meeting Center, 5 Longfellow Park, Cambridge, MA
Now we need your help to return to Japan and revisit those working on the front lines of the nuclear crisis, as they mark the one-year anniversary and the farmers prepare to plant again.
We need to raise $10,000 by March 31 to cover the cost of traveling to Japan and shooting there through the April planting. Please join us by donating to and sharing our new IndieGoGo campaign. We encourage PayPal contributions because they are tax-deductible, and funds are available to us immediately. Thank you to everyone who has already supported Uncanny Terrain. Please send this invitation to your friends. Join the campaign on Facebook.
The organic farmers of Fukushima prefecture toiled for 40 years to grow safe, nutritious and delicious crops on their ancestral land while two nuclear power plants in the prefecture helped feed Tokyo’s increasingly voracious energy appetite.
Since the March 2011 tsunami triggered the meltdown that spread radioactive contamination on much of the lush farmland of Fukushima and eastern Japan, the farmers have been caught between a government in constant denial of the risks of radiation, and outraged citizens who brand the farmers “child murderers” for continuing to cultivate irradiated land.
But the farmers, researchers and volunteers are committed to building a comprehensive monitoring and reporting network to inform citizens about contamination levels in food, air, water and land, so families can make their own informed decisions; and advancing experimental methods to decontaminate soil or prevent crops grown on contaminated soil from absorbing radiation.
Fukushima has demonstrated the need for greater public vigilance to keep all our food and energy producers honest, not just about radiation but about all the potential contaminants that our collective appetites introduce into our bodies and our communities.
Please support Uncanny Terrain and help generate dialogue about these vital issues and assure that the struggles of people in Fukushima can stimulate positive change in the world. Thank you!
by Sam Worley
Along with Junko Kajino, occasional Reader contributor Ed M. Koziarski is codirector of Uncanny Terrain, a documentary about effects from last year’s tsunami and nuclear crisis on Japan’s rice farmers. This preview screening event includes music by Tatsu Aoki and his band the Miyumi Project, and David Tanimura shows digital collages about the nuclear threat. RSVP required; e-mail email@example.com.