Apparently, Going Forward Means Adopting Amnesia, and Using a Bad Acronym

Today’s amazing discussion rivals the Daigo Fukuryu Maru museum in being my favorite part of the trip. Professor Satsuki Takahashi is a well-spoken and engaging academic expert. She is quite the a-fish-cionado. I want her to come to Bowdoin おねがいします。

This lecture was another perspective in the response to 3/11. Specifically, Professor Takahashi emphasized reconstruction by Japanese industries and the role of hope. Since 3/11, there has been an increased drive to modernize. For example, the new Fukushima Prefecture logo, created in 2012, depicts an egg, which is the ultimate symbol of rebirth. Also, can we talk about the ちょっと ridiculous Fukushima FORWARD acronym? Lol since when does an acronym use cherry-picked letters from within the words it stands for? I guess it drives their point across. Anyway, there is an effort by Japanese industry and government to re-brand Fukushima as moving on from the nuclear meltdown disaster. The problem is, instead of trying to learn from the past, they try to forget it (hence the amnesia). Looking toward the future is really about making the present “better” and reimaging the past. The project at the center of “FORWARD” is the construction of a fleet of floating wind turbines. Doesn’t this sound familiar? They’re (re)building the “future” of Fukushima by using unique Japanese technology.

So, I guess hope is a thing that floats and provides wind energy (i.e. moving forward is closely tied with technology). Hope requires a historical perspective, as there are previous disasters that can inform us as to how hope emerges. Examples Professor Takahashi listed included the 1970s-coastal industrialization and pollution, the 1994 Tokaimura nuclear accident, and the 2006 three tanker accidents and oil spill. What was interesting was that many of the fishermen she interviewed did not list 3/11 as the worst disaster to have happened to them. Fukushima is just part of their repetitive history. Also, there is weird contradiction that happens to fishermen during industrialization. Companies that settle there, like TEPCO, gave the fishermen compensation money. The money allows the fishermen to modernize (i.e. get new and better nets), but with the industrialization comes water pollution and, in this case, a nuclear power plant being built.

Where’s the collaboration with scientists? Oof, this bothered me! Part of the floating wind turbine plan includes using the turbines to facilitate ocean farming. Basically, this means that the space underneath the turbine will be used to generate more fish by releasing feed into the water. This sounds ill-conceived and obviously a way to sate the fishermen. It gives them hope and makes them feel better about letting the wind turbines take up their ocean space (from my understanding, in Japan, fishermen own fishing waters… so the wind turbine companies had to get the fishermen on board—pun intended—their idea in order to get permission to be in the water). Releasing feed into the water sounds like it has a lot of ecological consequences, yet biologists/scientists are not included in this dialogue. どうしてですか?!

Although I’m all for alternative/renewable energy, I get the sense that using these technologies is not as genuine as it tries to be. Where’s the assessment of future risks? Christmas 先生 asked a great question: what happens to the wind turbines when there’s another earthquake? It’s very simple to say, “oh they’re floating on water, don’t worry about it,” but where is the evidence? I’m so skeptical!

Nuclear fisheries are a thing! We learned that the Fukushima nuclear power plant and a nearby fishery hatchery are connected by pipe. The water that was warmed in the cooling phase of the nuclear power plant process is used to provide warm water for hatchery fish. Supposedly warmer water increases spawning in tanks and allows juvenile fish to grow bigger. This water is not supposed to be contaminated because it is not in direct contact with radioactive material (it’s a separate pipe), but how is this regulated? Does the public know about this? This didn’t just happen in Fukushima; there are other nuclear fisheries in Japan and even in other countries.

So many cool things came out of this lecture; I actually didn’t blog about everything I took notes on/liked. I’m so interested to learn more about the synergy between fish and nuclear energy. Also, I loved Takahashi先生’s response to getting the Maine blueberry jam (“wild?!”). I wish we had more time with her!

Kabuki is different from most, if not all, performances I’ve seen before. And I liked it. In the evening, we watched Kabuki with Selinger先生 and Noto-san. We got a brief overview of the story and Kabuki history by Selinger先生 before the performance so we knew what to expect. Unfortunately, the English headset was very poor at mimicking the theatre on stage (the voice was so monotone, and I’m pretty sure things were mostly summarized, not directly translated, so I feel like I missed out on a lot of subtleties). I did love the giant tweezers and how they represented hair standing on end. I want to learn more about the cultural history of Kabuki. What’s with the gender politics? (We did get some background on this, but why does the divide still persist?) What’s the significance of the flirting with both women and men? (Like I know this has to do with Danjo not having his forelocks shaved so he’s not yet a “man,” but why highlight this? Also, why was his flirting was way more obvious with the man than the woman?) Why is skin painted white? Why didn’t they use the levels they talked about in the introduction? How were the women characters (in pink) kneeling the entire time? (My legs got numb just from kneeling at Meiji Shrine, which was only a fraction of the time that those people had to kneel for) How old was Danjo supposed to be? (Selinger先生 explained that he was an older guy pretending to be a younger guy to allow for the gender fluidity, but was that for the play or for real life, if you know what I mean? I know he was literally an older guy in real life, but was he also playing an older guy?)

… And this was our last event of the trip 🙁 . Although this was a great way to end (with fascinating conversation), I’m actually super sad, even as I write this over a week after it actually happened. Going to places won’t be the same, as I will be wondering if I could do a reading beforehand and will want to be with people who also want to have discussions. I’ve become even nerdier after this trip! I will also miss Gerlin and Selinger先生, who will both not be at Bowdoin during my senior year. I hope our paths cross again! Anyway, ありがとうございました to everyone involved in this trip. I have a hard time expressing in words how much it meant to me, but I’m so grateful to have participated in this unforgettable learning experience. (Sorry, had to end with a cheese factor. Also, fun fact, today is my birthday haha. )

Author: Karen Chan '18

Hello! I just completed my junior year at Bowdoin College as a chemistry major and recently-declared Japanese Language minor. I am from Honolulu, HI so Japanese culture has always been part of my life, but this trip is the opportunity to go beyond my classroom language experience and Japanese-food-eating experience. My interest in this project stems from my science background and my hope to eventually be a pharmacist in a hospital setting. I plan to focus on public awareness of "environmentally-caused" diseases, like Kawasaki Disease.