Fukushima child statue: Residents complain about radiation suit

The Sun Child statue Image copyright AFP
Image caption A symbol of hope or bad PR for Fukushima?

Fukushima residents have reacted angrily to the statue of a boy in protective gear, saying it gives the impression of a city still contaminated after the 2011 nuclear disaster.

Fukushima’s nuclear plant was hit by a tsunami in 2011, causing the most serious such accident since Chernobyl.

The statue was erected in early August and its creator said it was about hope for a world free from nuclear disaster.

Artist Kenji Yanobe has since apologised for making residents uneasy.

According to Japanese news agency Kyodo, angry citizens took to Twitter and called the authorities directly, demanding for the statue to be removed as it would harm the reputation of Fukushima.

The statue is named “Sun Child” and can be found outside Fukushima’s train station. It depicts a boy wearing a yellow hazmat suit, holding his helmet in one hand and a sun symbol in the other.

A monitor counter on his chest displays the numbers “000” to show there is no radiation.

“I wanted to make a work that encourages people… and made the statue of a child standing up bravely and strongly against any difficulties it faces,” Mr Yanobe said, according to Kyodo.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption The nuclear plant remains contaminated and in ruins

The 2011 Fukushima disaster saw three reactors of the nuclear power plant, some 100km (62 miles) southeast of the city of Fukushima, fail after it was damaged and flooded in the tsunami.

The accident forced more than 200,000 people to leave their homes because of nuclear contamination concerns.

More than 18,500 people were killed or went missing after an earthquake triggered the massive tsunami that led to the meltdown.

Parts of the damaged reactors are still highly contaminated but most of the prefecture has been declared safe again.

Authorities are running an education campaign about the “revitalization” of Fukushima which aims to provide information and bring transparency to the clean-up process.

Yet in many of the areas where evacuation orders have long been lifted, only a few former residents have returned to their homes.

Fukushima will also be one of the venues for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, with hopes the event will showcase the region’s recovery from nuclear disaster.

Unclear future for Sun Boy

The artist Mr Yanobe said he “should have paid more attention to the fact that accurate knowledge about radiation is needed much more now than before the disaster”.

Image copyright AFP

He also said he wanted to discuss the future of his statue with the city.

The city’s mayor defended the decision to put up the statue, arguing it had been well received at exhibitions in Japan and around the world before it was installed permanently in Fukushima.

On Twitter he called for understanding saying that unlike science, contemporary art was abstract.


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