Fukushima and the Media


O-tsukaresama deshita !! These dynamic researchers from Japan, the UK, Italy, France, Poland, Germany and Malaysia contributed with their papers to the second “Japanese Media Studies” research workshop at the Sainsbury Institute. Needless to catch up with their brilliant minds, but I’ll try to resume some basic points.

Since Dr. Tenma created nuclear power-propelled Astro-Boy in 1953 in Manga-Master-Mind Tezuka Osamu’s early oeuvre, nuclear technology is in the focus. While Tezuka  himself pleaded openly against it, the majority and the politicians in Japan thought otherwise.  Later the big energy companies, too, have created many cute characters (often symbols of chemical elements) in order to promote their industry.

When the Tsunami struck Tohoku a year ago, the helicopters with the TV cameras went up in the air. With hundreds of installed cameras and webcams, the disaster was ‚live’ on the screens. The media do not hesitate to intrude into the disaster zone, the no-entry area, and ultimately the private life. The (visual) media try and cover (only/mainly) the VERY MOMENT of the crime/event/disaster. But in fact, it is by far more revealing – and professional – to look at the lives of the victims in the aftermath of the disaster, as zainichi-writer Yū Miri did.

Thorough research, documentation, and criticism is not the strength of the mainstream media. Which is why, despite Fukushima, the perspectives on 1945 and the atomic blast in Japan have also changed. TV dramas taking place in Hiroshima, just as  films on kamikaze pilots, rather tend to „soften“ the issue and bend it into a nostalgic (romantic?) look back (http://www.dijtokyo.org/publications/contemporary_japan24_1)

What I especially enjoyed in the workshop was: Great visual material on the history of Astro Boy and other „nuclear“ characters (S and T), the analysis of the TV coverage of the disaster (G, C and E+V), the religious iconography in manga (J), the „nostalgification“ of Hiroshima on the TV screen (G), and the way print media and literature deal with it (M and K). Thank you all for your excellent contributions!

With the coming summer heat, nuclear reactors in Japan will go online again. Can the new media preserve a more “authentic” memory of the Fukushima disaster? Does the Internet, do youtube and twitter trigger the inevitable discussion on nuclear power – or are they just radical copyright infringements and intrusions into the private life of people? To me, Japan seems more “ambivalent” than ever… Can someone warp me back to 1953 or call Mighty Atom, please?


About ueacjs

University Lecturer in Contemporary Japanese Visual Media
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One Response to Fukushima and the Media

  1. Eleonora says:

    I think the Kanto earthquake and the Fukushima incident showed, once again, how many different ways there are to cover a natural or un-natural (read human) disaster. NHK won praise for its objective and understated coverage, while italian media and especially Newspapers (as Marco has demonstrated with a specific analysis) failed in their role of media-tor, unable to resist the urge to sensationalized the events.
    On the other hand NHK was accused of privileging the governament and corporate statement about the nuclear crisis and was indeed torn between the duty to inform and the duty to reassure and promote harmony.
    As well shown by Toshio the conceptualization of Japanese nuclear power as clean, good and in some characterization even kawaii will be difficult to “invert”. This is confirmed for me by the work of Katja on the soft, but inboubtably strong power of cool Japan  (I agree with Ulrich here, great collections of images and visual support to the presentations). I found also intriguing the illustration of the story of Atom by Sheuo Hui and I agree with her when she underline how the inner intentions of the original story and the external use of the character are two very different things and they both must be taken into account when talking about the role of anime and manga into popularizing nuclear power in Japan.
    Going back to the last question of Ulrich, wether social media and internet in general could trigger the discussion on nuclear power, I think in the specific case of Fukushima and with regards to the television coverage of the incident, social media and internet represented for many people an alternative way of information and their critics of NHK coverage, TEPCO and the Governament ways of face the crisis contributed to the profound shift in young people’s trust for corporate and official voices in general. As Christopher showed, even though, the web, and specifically youtube, can indeed work as an historical archive of its own and in many cases an alternative one, it’s difficult to establish how realiable and truthful is this archive and if our future knowledge of the past will rely in sources such as wikipedia shouldn’t we be worried?
    This workshop once again opened many compelling questions for me and brought me to stretch my areas of interest. Joanna’s catalogation of images of the end of the world in manga’s opened up so many possible lines of research that I’m looking forward to see where she will decide to Go from here.
    Griseldis’ comparison of different dramatizations of the same material (by the way Grave of Fireflies is one of my favourite stories ever! Insert obsessive fan icon here) was enlightening and stimulated me as much as our dinner discussions about the relationship between culture and fashion inside and outside Japan.
    Kristina made me discover the real depth of Yu Miri and helped me see connections I wouldn’t have imaginated before (Diamanda Galas, Marina Abrahamovic…) by sharing with us so much new material and now I totally want to tell Yu story through Psicoradio (Kristina consider yourself advised 😉
    Ulrich has been as always an incredibly thoughtful and brilliant host/moderator for me.
    And if you all reached this point of my take on the  SISJAC Workshop in Norwich, not only you are strong readers but you also deserve a big thank you for your attention! I also want to thank everyone for the suggestions they gave, the questions they rose and all the good things we shared. Even the deep and controversial discussion about Who is the best captain in Star Trek the tv series…
    And last but not least thank you to Vincenzo who gave me the inspiration for the research we brought to the workshop and shared with me the the work and the travel making them a joyful and full experience. 
    Arigatou gozaimasu!

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