An album of poetry composed by people affected by the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear disaster will be released March 11, the fourth anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami that triggered the crisis.
Veteran actress Sayuri Yoshinaga, 69, who has made reciting atomic bomb poetry her life’s work, reads the poems on a compact disc titled “Daini gakusho Fukushima e no Omoi” (“Second Movement: Thoughts for Fukushima”).
The album is aimed at “recognizing the feelings of Fukushima people who even now cannot return to their homes, and standing together with them,” Yoshinaga said.
Since 1986, Yoshinaga has been lending her voice to poems about the U.S. atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II.
In summer 2011, Yoshinaga came across the work of Fukushima poet Ryoichi Wago, who teaches a poetry workshop for children.
She decided to make a spoken album of poems composed by the students taking part in the workshop, as well as those by Shigeko Sato, who was displaced when her home in the town of Tomioka became part of an exclusion zone in the wake of the nuclear crisis.
Sato’s poems “have been written out of compulsive feelings, which come through directly even when the poems are read quietly,” Yoshinaga said. “Some of her poems are distressing, but I have chosen those in which hope can be seen.”
To witness with her own eyes the tragedy of the affected areas, Yoshinaga paid a visit last December to the village of Katsurao, which remains under an evacuation order.
“I was more shocked than I could have ever imagined,” she said. “I cannot fully express in my readings the sadness of being completely unable to return to one’s home.”
Yoshinaga said she fears that the disaster is beginning to fade from Japanese people’s minds, even as some victims remain displaced.
“With the economy taking top priority, I cannot tell what politicians are thinking about Fukushima’s recovery or whether they intend to allow people to return to their hometowns,” she said. “I think nuclear power plants have no place in such a small country with so many earthquakes. We have to try harder to find ways to live safely.”
The title of the album, “The Second Movement,” is a reflection of an album of poems Yoshinaga released in 1997 about the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.
Yoshinaga said the title describes the need to keep telling the stories of the bombing so it is not forgotten, even following Hiroshima’s recovery. Fukushima, which has not yet fully recovered, “may still be in its first movement,” she said.
Having gone on to release “Second Movement” albums focusing on Nagasaki, Okinawa and now Fukushima, Yoshinaga said she wants the fourth in the series to be the last, and for no such tragedies to happen again.
The album about Okinawa is themed on the 1945 Battle of Okinawa, the World War II ground battle that claimed more than 200,000 lives.
The poems in the album on Fukushima are accompanied by music composed and performed by traditional shakuhachi bamboo flute player Dozan Fujiwara.
“Music can express what words cannot. I feel that by putting the poetry and music together, we have made something that can help those affected by the disaster,” Fujiwara said.
The royalties from the CD, which will go on sale for ¥3,024, will be donated to helping the victims of the disaster.
In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.