Documentary on NHK World

My and a Japanese Tv crew’s documentary about the role of local media in the aftermath of the catastrophe in Northeastern Japan in March 2011, will be aired several times this Monday April 8th 2012, on the international news channel NHK World. There will also be a broadcast on the Japanese Tv-channel NHK BS1 on April 10th and April 12th.

Two years after the catastrophe: A newspaper article and a TV Documentary

I have just come back from a trip to Ishinomaki in Miyagi Prefecture, where I filmed a documentary with the Japanese TV channel NHK. I was investigating the role of local media right after the tsunami, and thinking about the differences between how local, national and international media report from such large scale catastrophes. I also wanted to look into how, as journalists, we chose to cover recovery and reconstruction processes. The documentary will air on NHK World on April 9th, and on NHK BS on April 10th.

Onagawa in March 2011

Onagawa mars 2013

(Photo from Onagawa in March 2011 by Kiichi Fukuda)

(Photo from the same spot in Onagawa in February 2013 by Naoyuki Kubo)

On March 11th 2013, I wrote an article about people I met during this trip to Ishinomaki for Sweden’s daily newspaper Aftonbladet. An English translation of the article is available here below:

Two years after the catastrophe

                On March 11th 2011, Japan was hit by the strongest earthquake in the country’s history. 9.0 on the Richter scale. Half an hour later, a tsunami washed in over the Northeastern coast, the nuclear power plant Fukushima Daiichi was destroyed and radioactive materials leaked out.

I was there then, and now, two years later I have travelled back to the city of Ishinomaki in Miyagi Prefecture. About 3,500 people lost their lives here and about 30,000 families lost their homes. In some places in the area, the tsunami reached 30m up mountain walls and left cars wrecked on top of four storey-buildings. Today, the city’s central parts have been reconstructed, but closer to the ocean large areas have been left deserted. People still pay off loans on houses that no longer exist. Locally, the state wants to higher the grounds five, six metres by using materials collected during the tsunami.

The waves crushed the fishing industry in this region that already had an aging population. Now the soaring unemployment rates have led to social problems and many people work with the debris.

I climb up a narrow staircase at one of the recycling stations where people sort through the debris. I enter a room where women and men wearing protective clothing are going through the trash by hand. I see half a soccer ball pass by on the conveyer belt amongst music partitions, books, a letter, and pictures.

– There are so many challenges left! Yuuhiro Akiyama exclaims.

Akiyama heard on the radio that a tsunami was on its way after the earthquake had occurred, but he did not think it could be that severe, so he drove out on a bridge to take pictures of the waves arriving.

– Suddenly, the water washed over the barriers, and I jumped back into my car. In the rear-view mirror, I saw the waves swelling. I drove straight into a traffic jam, opened the car door and just ran, Akiyama explains.

We look out over the turquoise-coloured sea. It is hard to imagine that this calm ocean could swallow entire communities but now we know that it can happen at any moment.

I meet many people who try to move forward. Yukiko Abe was in her family-owned restaurant when a five metre high tsunami wave washed in from the river.

–          It is only now that I can cry, says Abe. Now I realise how lucky we were to survive.

Abe thinks it is important to rebuild the business because she feels responsible towards past and future generations.

All along the Northeastern coast, around 300,000 people still live in temporary housing. Many of them have lost family members, and try to move forward despite their memories.

I visit a Buddhist ceremony honouring the victims of the tsunami. A priest chants mantras and reads prayers out loud. Every now and then, he hits on a large gong. About 80 people sit in the congregation with their heads lowered. One by one, some people stand up and share thoughts about their loss and their mourning process. One woman walks up to the altar to speak, but her voice cracks, and I can hear that she is fighting back tears. The air fills with incense.

–          For other people in Japan and in the rest of the world, life has moved on, but we are still mourning, says Yukie Takahashi.

Takahashi was working in the studio at the local radio station Radio Ishinomaki when the earth started to shake. Now she puts on the recording from March 11th 2011, and we listen to it silently. Suddenly she bursts out in tears. It is too difficult to remember.

Takahashi explains that people started to send messages to the radio station right after the earthquake had occurred. They were looking for lost family members. When it was no longer possible to reach through the mobile network, people walked through the inundated streets and wrote messages by hand.

Miura-sensei is the head teacher at Yamashita middle school, and he managed to call the radio station before the batteries on the cell phone that he was using died. He wanted to announce that all the 97 children under his responsibility were safe. He had then spent the night with the students in the school, completely cut off from the rest of the world.

I want to interview some children in Ishinomaki, but their teacher interrupts me. There are school psychologists available for children who want to speak about their memories, but there are no specific guidelines defining how to talk about traumas from the tsunami with school children.

As for the nuclear crisis, nobody wants to talk about it.

Around 150,000 people were evacuated from the area around the nuclear power plant in Fukushima Prefecture. Today, people are allowed to return to some of the villages around the nuclear power plant, but most people do not dare to move back.

–          The state has said that we can move back in two years’ time, but I do not know if that will be possible, says Minoru Endo who is from Tomioka in Fukushima prefecture over the telephone. No one wants to invest in new businesses close to the nuclear power plant.

Life goes on in Northeastern Japan, but nobody knows what the new cities will look like.

–          Elin Lindqvist.

Fukushima in Edinburgh

Come to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 15th-19th of August and watch an original show based on poetry by Fukushima poet Ryoichi Wago in reaction to the triple disaster in Japan last year. I will be hosting a post-performance talk and would love to see you there. Book your tickets now!

Plan for the Documentary Reading Theatre

For the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2012


Based on Twitter feeds from Fukushima & Traditional Japanese Arts


‘Fukushima – A Silent Prayer of Poetry’

Words and poetry based on twitter feeds by Ryoichi Wago ‘Radiation falls. The night is silent.’ “A Silent Prayer of Poetry” is a ‘Cry of the soul’ based on twitter feeds and poetry composed by Fukushima poet Ryoichi Wago soon after The Great East Japan Earthquake on 11th March 2011. Fukushima not only withstood earthquakes, tsunami and aftershocks; the prefecture also suffered from radioactive contamination.

This production is presented as a 60 minute reading show drawing influence from traditional Japanese arts such as Tsugaru Shamisen music from Tohoku, followed by a 20 minute post-show discussion hosted by Swedish journalist Elin Lindqvist who published the reportage book ‘Fukushima Colours’ about post-disaster Fukushima. The post-show discussion will also include the opportunity to give feedback to people in Fukushima.

Day & Time: Wed 15th – Sun 19th of August 2012 19.45-20.45 Reading theatre / 20.45-21.05 Post talk Venue: Spotlites @ The Merchants’ Hall (150 seats) Venue 278, Ticket price: £10 (Concession: £7) Objectives: One year on, what we see through photographs and video footage does not carry the voices of the people who live amongst the devastation. Ryoichi Wago’s poetry portrays the ‘spirit’ of these people. We hope that the spirit of the victims will touch people from Japan to Edinburgh. Our world is connected by the ocean and the sky and now, thanks to the wonders of the Internet like Twitter. Twitter made it possible for people to convey what was happening in real time in Fukushima, and people all over the world heard what was happening almost instantaneously. With this performance, we humbly ask you to spare a moment to consider the forces of nature and nuclear power, the strength and emotions of those affected by the disaster, and finally living for a sustainable future.

Ryoichi Wago: Words Ryoichi Wago is a poet who was born in Fukushima in 1968. He is everywhere: he won the 4th Chuya Nakahara Prize for his first poetry book, After in 1998 and the 47th Bansui Prize for his fourth poetry book Earth Brain Psalms in 2006. A high school teacher, he is also known as a lyricist and radio personality.


Elin Lindqvist: Host of the post talk Elin was born in Tokyo in 1982 and currently lives in England. She has studied at New York University in New York and Sophia University in Tokyo. She is an international writer, and has published three novels in Swedish. She also works as a freelance journalist, dramaturge and translator. In her reportage book Fukushima Colours, she has documented the aftermath of the crisis, in collaboration with a Japanese journalist and photographer.


Feedback from the audience who watched the performance on 11th March 2012 in London:

 I liked it very much it was more informative than the usual videos that you see.

 It really moved me. Will it show again in London? Oh wow! Was it from his tweets? It was really an amazing show!

 The show was very touching, beautiful words with a blessed feeling behind each one. I hope to see more in the future, it had really touched me at the festival, please tell Mr.Wago that his poetry is absolute astonishing. He has a great talent and the only shame was that it wasn’t longer.

 I thought the poetry was very heart warming, and inspiring. Just thinking about the children brought slight tears to my eye. We should work to help others.

 I really enjoyed the poetry reading, it was well presented and very dramatic.


Some photos of the show:

This project needs your sponsorship ★ This entire production is run on a voluntarily basis and in order to be able to bring this show to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival we need your help. The project needs a minimum budget of at least GBP 16,366.


Your company’s logo or your name will be credited on the brochures etc. if you could kindly support our show. Please don’t hesitate to contact us now.


Contact Sasaki Drama Education Company

To buy Fukushima Colours

Please contact me directly through this website. Or, contact Jonna Holmgren at Langenskiöld: Jonna.Holmgren(at)

Fukushima Colours is also available in London in the following bookshops:

Stanfords Travel Bookshop

Bookmarks Socialist Bookshop

JP Books in Mitsukoshi Department Store

Housmans Bookshop

Arthur Probsthain

SOAS Bookshop


The last of Japan’s 54 nuclear reactors has now been shut down until further notice

Since May 5th 2012, Japan is running without any nuclear power. The last reactor up in Hokkaido has been shut down to undergo stresstests following the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear incident last year.

The Japanese government wants to restart at least one or two reactors but they can’t gather enough public support. It is highly likely that the reactors that seem strong enough to withhold a similar earthquake and tsunami as the 9.0 magnitude earthquake and 120ft high tsunami on March 11th 2011 will be restarted, and probably before the summer. Otherwise there will be power shortages, electricity prices will skyrocket and it will be difficult for Japan’s factories and industries to run at normal pace.

However, an increasing number of people in Japan feel that it is possible to run Japan without nuclear power. Renewable energy sources are being developed. Alternative use of energy are being considered and people are willing to rethink their energy usage to stand without nuclear power.

Lecture and Book Launch in London for Fukushima Colours

I wrote this book so that we would not forget what happened on March 11th last year in Japan. We must not forget that the consequences of the tsunami and also of the nuclear crisis continue to have a deep impact on Japanese people in the North East. In fact, what happens in Japan can have – and is having- an impact on the rest of the world.

I am holding a talk on the consequences of last year’s triple catastrophe at SOAS in London tomorrow, Friday the 20th 2012. There will also be a book launch party with a lecture at the Daiwa Anglo-Japan Foundation on May 3rd 2012.

Both events will include pictures by Yoshikazu Fukuda and insights from our collaborator Yuko Ota, based on our trips to Tohoku as a journalist team in different combinations in March and May, during the summer and in September 2011, as well as now in April 2012.

Lecture: This Friday April 20th 2012, 6-8pm, at SOAS, Russell Square University Buildings, Khalili Lecture Hall. Nearest tube is Russell Square.

More on this:–voices-of-recovery-after-the-catastrophe-in-japan.html

Book Launch: Thursday May 3rd 2012, 6-8pm, Daiwa Anglo-Japan Foundation, Cornwall Terrace by the Regent’s Park, nearest tube Baker Street. More on this:

Both events are free and open to all. Booking is required for the book launch but not for the lecture at SOAS. You can book directly on the Daiwa Foundation website: