11/14/2020, 12.51
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From Hiroshima to Fukushima, Japan and its nuclear nightmare

Susanna Marino and Stefano Vecchia wrote a book on the topic that was released recently. The “atomic bombs dropped 75 years ago are a ghost that haunts above all the minds of the Japanese, but also of all humanity”. The crisis associated with the Fukushima nuclear disaster has revealed the limits of technology, raising questions about the use of nuclear energy.

Milan (AsiaNews) – Japan, the only nation to have suffered from the effects of an atomic bomb, has since developed an ambivalent relationship to nuclear power, split between the need to preserve the memory of the past and the wish – backed by geo-political and economic considerations – to exploit atomic energy, but with tragic consequences, as the Fukushima accident can attest.

This is the question tackled in Da Hiroshima a Fukushima. Il Giappone e l’incubo nucleare (From Hiroshima to Fukushima. Japan and the nuclear nightmare), Milan: Edizioni Stilnovo, 2020, p. 228, by Susanna Marino, professor of Japanese language and culture at the Milano-Bicocca University, and Stefano Vecchia, a journalist, writer, and Asia specialist.

The book looks at the past and present of nuclear power in Japan with its weighty legacy that still conditions the future choices the country has to make.

“The past is an unfinished story,” Professor Marino noted, “first of all for those who experienced it first-hand. Caught up physically and emotionally in the bombings of 6 and 9 August 1945, they share the need not to let one of the worst acts perpetrated by human beings on other human beings be forgotten.

"Secondly, it represents a warning to present and future generations, given that the atomic bombs dropped 75 years ago are a ghost that haunts above all the minds of the Japanese, but also all humanity, through commemorations or remorse, bewilderment or horror, feelings of guilt and shame.”

The present is inevitably tied to this unfinished past. With the nuclear reactor accident in Fukushima, the country was plunged back into a nightmare even if it was triggered by an unexpected and catastrophic natural event like the tsunami of 11 March 2011.

For Stefano Vecchia, “The impossibility of stopping the failed reactors has reawakened a deep fear of contamination (which goes back a long time in Japan) and of discrimination, which often accompanies it (locally, against residents near the Fukushima plant and, internationally, against the Japanese as a whole)”.

“This has brought back the question of shame, which stems from failing to anticipate the disaster and from becoming its victims. It called into question the country's trust in its own institutions and technological capabilities, highlighting serious limitations in both.

“Finally, it reignited the seemingly dormant debate over nuclear energy, which is closely tied to energy needs but also to the potential military use of fissile material, which in turn is not unrelated to [Japan’s] strategic situation in the region and its close relationship with its US ally.”

In both cases, past and present, the book highlights the fate of the hundreds of thousands Hibakusha, the people affected by the bomb, as well as those displaced by the radioactive fallout. In doing so, it highlights the persistence of marginalised areas, as well as blind spots in Japanese society.

Both writers highlight the uphill struggle that the environmental and pacifist movements still face today in a country tendentially geared towards productivity, conformity and social peace.

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