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Artist delivers heartfelt tribute to 3/11 cleanup workers

Chunichi Shimbun

A couple from Nagoya have been posting daily pictures of heart-shaped images dedicated to those cleaning up the mess at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant and other disaster-stricken parts of the Tohoku region.

On the fourth anniversary of the quake-tsunami tragedy, Anri Gallery in Chikusa Ward, Nagoya, will display all the hearts drawn by 59-year-old illustrator Kazuya Chabata.

Titled “1,446 Hearts,” the exhibition will be run from March 11 until March 17.

Chabata started the project because he felt the need to act after hearing the shocking news of the March 11, 2011, Great East Japan Earthquake.

“I wanted to do something that I could continue every day,” said the Nagoya resident.

He decided to draw one heart on his computer every morning and dedicate it to areas affected by the disaster.

The first one was completed on March 28, 2011, and posted on Facebook. Drawn in a warm orange color, it was the first time Chabata had ever painted using a computer.

Every day after that, he would wake up at 5:30 a.m. and draw different hearts that reflected his mood, the season or the weather on that day.

He also gave them various titles, including “Kyo no Kimochi” (“My Emotion Today”),” “Kumo ga Funwari” (“Fluffy Cloud”),” “Minna ni Todoku” (“Sharing with You”).

That same year in July, his wife, Hiromi, started tweeting the digital pictures to workers at the nuclear plant, who responded back.

“Thank you for your support,” one worker said, while another wrote, “I look forward to these images every day.”

Encouraged by their response, Chabata continued his work.

Almost 18 months later, he displayed 30 of his artworks in a gallery in the city of Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture.

Many workers from the plant came to view the exhibition, including “Happy-san” and “Sunny-san,” who have been tweeting the situation live on their accounts as they clean up the area.

All of the images he has drawn until this March 11 will be printed on inkjet printers and put on display.

“Let’s remind (the workers) that we are here to support them and that we have not forgotten about them,” the Chabatas said in a statement.

Akihiro Yoshikawa, head of Appreciate Fukushima Workers, a group of local residents involved in the restoration work, will give a talk at Anri Gallery on March 14 at 5 p.m.

Admission will be free.

This section, appearing Saturdays, features topics and issues from the Chubu region covered by the Chunichi Shimbun. The original article was published on Feb. 18.