Anti-Nuke Who’s Who Kenichi Hasegawa, Dairy farmer maintaining visual records of Iitate Village since the Fukushima nuclear crisis Nuke Info Tokyo No. 153

by Noboru Kobayashi*

Mr. Kenichi Hasegawa (Photo by Noboru Kobayashi)

Kenichi Hasegawa was born and raised in Iitate Village and has lived continually in the village in Fukushima Prefecture since he was born there in 1953. Before the village was severely contaminated by the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident, the dairy farmer raised cows and boars, living with his eight-member family, including his parents, wife, children, and grandchildren.

In March 2011, the accident at Tokyo Electric Power Company’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station showered Iitate, selected as “one of the most beautiful villages”** in Japan, with high-levels of radiation. The village had 20 wards, and Mr. Hasegawa was the mayor of Maeda Ward. Having learned of the radioactive contamination ahead of other villagers, he held a gathering of residents, explained the ongoing situation, and told them how to avoid radioactive exposure. Mr. Hasegawa demanded that the village administration and Japanese government evacuate the villagers as soon as possible, but the government’s evacuation order was not issued until April 22, 2011. It was late June before all the villagers had left the village.

After the accident, Mr. Hasegawa felt that he should keep a visual record of the days of Iitate as one who was directly involved in the situation. He purchased a video camera and digital still camera and started to record the village as an amateur cameraperson. The severe realities he saw through the cameras sometimes made him unable to continue recording. However, he never gave up recording the village scenes, and took more than ten thousand photographs and 180 video DVDs up to December 2012.
I (the author) learned that Mr. Hasegawa was recording scenes in Iitate when I participated in the No Nukes Asia Forum in Korea in March 2012. The photographs by Mr. Hasegawa I saw there represented the realities of the village. I was extremely impressed, and started to consider introducing these visual records to people not only in Japan but also around the world.

I visited Iitate in August 2012 with a research team of six people. We had heard that the air radiation dose rates indicated by the monitoring posts in Iitate were lower than the actual rates. During the visit, the team members discussed what could be done for the village. We decided to organize exhibitions of Mr. Hasegawa’s photography and called for people to come forward to form a voluntary organizing committee.

The photograph exhibition held in Tokyo in January 2013 attracted many visitors. Today, twenty exhibitions are being organized in Japan. Exhibitions are also planned in Australia and France.

The committee members would like you to volunteer to organize, or help organize, an exhibition of Mr. Hasegawa’s photographs in order to share his strong desire for the nuclear accident never to be forgotten or the memories fade away.

*    :Representative, Iitate Village Photograph Exhibition Organizing Committee   (TEL: +81-44-987-7951, +81-80-3486-5090)
**  :Iitate was selected as one of the most beautiful villages by the Alliance of Most Beautiful Villages in Japan, a group aiming to protect irreplaceable landscapes and local cultures in Japanese agricultural, mountainous villages, which can never be recovered once lost.

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