Wed, Aug 15, 2018 - Page 6 News List

Fukushima nuclear boy statue ignites online furor

AFP, TOKYO

Children gather around a sculpture titled Sun Child by artist Kenji Yanobe at an unveiling ceremony in Fukushima, Japan, in a Aug. 3 handout from the Fukushima City Public Information Division.

Photo by handout / Fukushima City Public Information Division / AFP

A giant statue of a child wearing a radiation suit in the Japanese city of Fukushima has touched off a storm of criticism online as the nuclear-hit area seeks to rebuild its reputation.

Sun Child, a 6.2m figure sporting a yellow protective suit with a digital display on its chest showing “000” — symbolizing no nuclear contamination — was installed this month near the city’s train station.

The figure holds a helmet in one hand, showing that the air is safe to breathe, and a symbol of the sun in the other, representing hope and new energy.

Its creator, Japanese artist Kenji Yanobe, intended the statue to be a symbol of hope, but critics said it was insensitive to the plight of Fukushima as it continues to struggle with radioactive contamination from the 2011 meltdown.

“I saw Kenji Yanobe’s Sun Child. It was truly creepy. I think it derides us and all the work Fukushima has done to erase reputational harm,” one Twitter user said.

“I understand it was intended to express hope as the helmet is removed, but considering that Fukushima’s awful reputation continues, I believe the installation should have been cancelled,” another online critic wrote.

Radiation levels are back to normal in most parts of the region, but people are still forbidden to live in certain areas. The meltdown affected a vast agricultural region, forcing many local residents to give up their ancestral properties.

Yanobe published a three-page dossier to apologize for triggering the uproar, but stressed his work was meant to show hope, not ridicule Fukushima.

“It was my intention to show bright hopes for the future” by depicting the child as looking to the skies, he wrote.

Fukushima Mayor Hiroshi Kohata said in a separate statement that he would consider what action to take, but stood by the work’s value, adding: “I sense the strength to face adversity and the hope in the statue, which is looking to the skies.”

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