Into the evacuation zone


Evacuated farmer Yoshizawa wants to stand up to Japanese government and nuclear power company


After the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, Yoshizawa cared for his 300 dairy cows without water or electricity. He could hear the explosions as the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, 14 km away.

After days of heavy radiation exposure, Yoshizawa was evacuated with the rest of Namie on March 17. He spraypainted “save them or die trying” on the roof of the barn, and went to Tokyo. He talked his way in to see the chairman of Tokyo Electric Power Company. Both men cried as Yoshizawa begged the chairman to do something to stop the disaster.

Yoshizawa slept outside in Tokyo for a week, keeping vigil and waiting to see government ministers, calling on them for action. Now he travels Japan in his speaker van, proclaiming his refusal of a government order to kill his 300 cows.

Uncanny Terrain is a documentary about organic farmers facing Japan’s nuclear crisis, and an online community fostering dialogue on food safety, sustainable agriculture, alternative energy and disaster response. Please keep the conversation going by making a donation.

Junko Kajino on Yoshizawa's ranch inside the evacuation zone.

Yoshizawa defies government order to kill his 300 irradiated cows: Video


Yoshizawa’s ranch is 14km downwind from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. The government ordered him to kill his 300 cows. Most of his neighbors’ animals are gone, but some have been released and joined his herd. Yoshizawa refuses to kill his cows. He wants them to be studied for the effects of radiation.

Uncanny Terrain is a documentary about organic farmers facing Japan’s nuclear crisis, and an online community fostering dialogue on food safety, sustainable agriculture, alternative energy and disaster response. Please donate to keep the conversation going.

Fukushima City Nuclear Protest Video


People from across Japan gather in Fukushima City on 6/26/11 to protest the ongoing danger of nuclear power and to call for accountability in the nuclear disaster.

Ruiko Mutou of the Fukushima Network Against Nuclear Power has been opposing the plants since the Chernobyl disaster.

Sachiko Soto of the Fukushima Network to Protect Children From Radiation says that families need support to evacuate children, who are most at risk from radiation.

A representative of the Tokyo Association to Protect the Victims of TEPCO says that Tokyo must take responsibility for the nuclear crisis.

One woman calls on the skeptical crowd to trust their fate to God.

And a 25-year old farmer in western Fukushima chooses to stay and do what she can to help rather than return home to Nagano.

Uncanny Terrain is a documentary about organic farmers facing Japan’s nuclear crisis, and an online community fostering dialogue on food safety, sustainable agriculture, alternative energy and disaster response. Please keep the conversation going by making a donation.

Fukushima City Nuclear Protest Photo Gallery


Grandma Yoshida instructs the young men’s farm work




IMG_4342Un terreno inesperado
by Ed M. Koziarski
Dar Lugar
June 1, 2014

boyThe Documentary About the Devastation of Fukushima and Japanese Farming
Marija Makeska
Cinema Jam
Feb. 19, 2014

Still Praying for Tohoku: Uncanny Terrain follows mayoral candidacy of organic farmer in Fukushima
Ten Thousand Things from Kyoto
Jan. 21, 2014

World ViewUncanny Terrain: documentary focuses on Fukushima Farmers
Chicago Public Radio’s World View
Dec. 27, 2013


Still “Praying for Japan”
Uncanny Terrain explores impact of 3/11 on Fukushima family farmers, animals, soil, & nuclear evacuees
Ten Thousand Things




YasukawaInterview with Uncanny Terrain codirector Ed M. Koziarski
by Nancy O’Mallon
About Harvest


SugenoFukushima Organic Farmers Fight Odds to Continue Livelihood Amidst Radiation’s Unknowns
by Kimberly Hughes
Ten Thousand Things 

Rice HarvestOther Stuff: Uncanny Terrain
By Sam Worley
Chicago Reader 


Soma floating lantern ceremonyEating Fukushima
By Ed M. Koziarski
North Avenue Magazine

cows2A pair of Chicago indie filmmakers captures farmers in the aftermath of Japan’s nuclear disaster
By Jake Malooley
TimeOut Chicago

Fukushima farmers keep calm and carry on [VIDEO]
Ed M. Koziarski
Grist Magazine



Crisis Abroad
Mike McNamara
Screen Magazine


A Tale of Two FarmersA Tale of Two Farmers
Ruthie Iida
Notes From Hadano


Directors to produce Japan documentary this spring
Ed M. Koziarski
Reel Chicago 04/29/2011


Documenting the Disaster: Words with director Junko Kajino before she heads to the devastated regions of Northeastern Japan to document the effects of radiation on local organic farmers
Quin Slovek
Inflatable Ferret


Following the Farmers of Northern Japan, After the Quake
Twilight Greenaway
Civil Eats



Fukushima organic farmer runs for mayor

Fukushima Year 3: Renewal

Fukushima Animals

Rio+20: Four Fukushima Farmers

Would you stay?

Fukushima farmers fight for their land.

One year after the meltdown

Can microbes decontaminate irradiated soil?

Why we’re making Uncanny Terrain

Why stay on contaminated land?

Citizens protecting themselves

How to deal with the results

Numbers are weapons

The real value of the radiation

How to protect themselves

The official radiation limit

Counseling for parents

A tool to evaluate by themselves

Living with the Fallout

Ginray Bread Company

Natural, traditional ingredients

Coexisting with radiation

Bread for disaster victims

Promoting cooperation

Work sharing for people with disabilities

No radiation detected in Watanabe’s Fukushima City fruit

Sugeno fights for his Fukushima farm

Building a more sustainable future

Strengthening Fukushima pride

Safecast radiation monitoring

The goal of our documentary

Finding solutions to the nuclear crisis

Through the autumn harvest

The uncertainty of low-level contamination

Remembering Hiroshima bombing after Fukushima disaster

Ganbatte 365

Positive stories of post-disaster Japan

Carry on Fukushima

Evacuated farmer promises to fight

Yoshizawa refuses to kill his cows

Fukushima City Nuclear Protest

He can’t sell his rice, but he still has to grow it

Lone nuclear opponent won’t sell his rice

Farmers flee agricultural community

Hanawa farmers face uncertainty of low-level contamination




Uncanny Terrain is a documentary series about farmers in Fukushima, Japan, fighting to continue growing organic food on land contaminated by fallout from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.


Together with his 23-year-old daughter Mizuho, Seiji Sugeno cultivates dozens of tiny organic rice and vegetable fields in the mountain village of Towa, where their ancestors have farmed for hundreds of years, since they were peasants under the yoke of the samurai. In the months before the March 2011 meltdown of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant 40 miles to the east, Mizuho had resolved to continue farming with her father, despite her impulse to step out from under his big shadow.

There is little industry in Towa, and the landscape precludes large-scale agriculture, so the town survives by traditional farming on the terraced mountainside. Even before the meltdown, this kind of picturesque ancient community was disappearing from Japan as young people moved away to cities. But Sugeno meant to keep Towa alive.

The Sugenos planted in April 2011, not yet knowing the extent of the nuclear crisis. Some of their neighbors’ rice tested above maximum permitted radiation levels, prompting a regional ban on rice sales and crippling restrictions on cultivation, exacerbating public fears about Fukushima produce, and threatening to snuff out the fragile community.

Yet the Sugenos’ own produce showed little or no contamination, attracting teams of researchers to study differences in water and soil management that contributed to such wide local variation in crops’ absorption of radiation. What makes the Sugenos’ crops cleaner than their neighbors?

Sugeno became a spokesperson for Towa and for organic farmers across Fukushima. He lobbied the government for farmers’ right to cultivate. He traveled the world to share the plight of Fukushima farmers. He helped implement an independent radiation testing system to regain the confidence of understandably wary consumers and ensure a safe food supply. But what of Mizuho’s own health? She is continually exposed to radiation in the fields, and next to children, young women are the most vulnerable to radiation-related illness.

Uncanny Terrain follows the Sugenos and other organic farmers across Fukushima as they fight to hold onto their land and their way of life amid the environmental, economic and political turmoil of post-meltdown Japan.

The Farmers

84-year-old Yasukawa is growing rice against government order in Minami-Soma, just outside the evacuation zone. He says he’s only growing it for himself. His son Hiroshi, an engineer for Tepco who helped fight to contain the fallout, is trying to protect his father from government sanction.

Ouchi is an organic fruit farmer in Fukushima City, 60 km from the nuclear power plant. Her land is highly contaminated and she already sold off much of her orchard for residential development. An antinuclear activist since the Chernobyl disaster, Ouchi feels abandoned by the booming antinuke movement in Japan, which she feels has unfairly ostracized Fukushima farmers and fomented exaggerated public fears.

Asami left his job in Tokyo to begin farming in Kitakata, 130 km from the nuclear plant. His wife and children fled the contamination and moved in with her family in another prefecture, leaving Asami to work his struggling farm alone, hoping radiation levels will drop low enough for his family to return. In 2014, Asami ran for mayor of Kitakata on a platform of developing a self-sufficient local economic revival rooted in sustainable agriculture and energy and traditional crafts.

Hasegawa, an agronomist and volunteer spokesperson for the Fukushima Organic Farmers Network, is committed to help the farmers find ways to carry on and cope with the contamination of their land. Hasegawa is forced to resign from his government post for his outspoken advocacy of farmers and his aggressive indictment of Tokyo citizens who consumed energy from Fukushima Daiichi and now blame the people of Fukushima for spreading contamination. Hasegawa moves to a rural mountain community to build a self-sustaining farm operating completely off the grid, powered by biogas from his horses’ manure.

After the disaster, Saito launched an ambitious project to sell Fukushima produce in Tokyo and deliver to evacuees. After a year in operation, Saito is forced to lay off his sales staff, due to ongoing public fears of Fukushima food, despite continued testing that show no detectible radiation. Saito sustains his business through direct sales, ironically, to the nuclear power plant operator Tepco, eventually joining in the launch of a new café in Tokyo to sell Fukushima produce and raise awareness.


Our approach is intended to create a minimal sense of distance and a maximal sense of identification between the viewer and the film’s subjects and locations. We focus on our subjects telling their own stories, as much as possible outside on their land, where the topography and the flora and fauna are most evident, evoking a sense of nature’s majesty as well as loss, and a sense of irony arising out of the disconnect between the beauty and the awareness of invisible contamination and implicit threat.

We seek to provide a more nuanced understanding of how the people of Japan are coping with radiation in their daily lives, a valuable lesson for people in the U.S. and internationally who are faced with their own aging nuclear infrastructure and food safety challenges.

By following a range of affected subjects over an extended period, we hope to generate a deeper understanding of the crisis, with an emphasis on human impact and the search for solutions, and on lessons that Japan and other countries can apply in planning their future land use, energy portfolio, food and water safety regime, disaster response plan, and policies for communicating sensitive information to the public.


Media portrayals of the people of Fukushima fall mainly into two narratives: they are tragic victims of the disaster, who deserve pity and charity; or they are perpetrators trying to foist unsafe food and other contaminated products onto an innocent public.

We are building a more complex portrait of Fukushima organic farmers, who for 50 years have endeavored to grow uncontaminated food in one of the poorest regions of Japan, under the shadow of the nuclear industry that is one of the largest employers in this area—an industry that sent its energy south to feed Tokyo’s insatiable appetite.

We are exploring the farmers’ deep sense of connection to the land and ecosystem, and showing how they are active and engaged participants in the environmental, economic and cultural recovery of their communities. We ask audiences to consider the consequences and interconnections of their food and energy choices, and encourage them to find ways of growing more sustainable alternatives wherever they live.