Posts Tagged ‘Japan’

Fukushima Nuclear Distaster Remembered

Friday, March 11th, 2022

Fukushima Nuclear Distaster Remembered. Recent shelling of an administration building at a Ukrainian nuclear plant revived memories and fears of the nuclear disaster eleven years ago at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Okuma, Fukushima, Japan. In those 11 years I’ve photographed various events in London, including this one on the 7th anniversary.

Remember Fukushima, 7th Anniversary

On Sunday 11th March 2018, Kick Nuclear (London) and Japanese Against Nuclear London supported by CND remembered the victims of the continuing Fukushima disaster and all victims of nuclear power and nuclear bombs.

It wasn’t a huge protest, perhaps because after 7 years the media seem to have decided that Fukushima is no longer news, but radiation is still being released from the damaged nuclear plant and its effects will be felt for many years, with estimates of between 100-650 people expected to die from long term cancers caused by the immediate radioactivity leak and more from the continuing release of radiation.

The marchers gathered outside the Japanese Embassy on Piccadilly, where there were still monthly protests over the disaster. There was a vigil there and outside the offices of the plant operators TEPCO in High Holborn on 28th January 2022 which I was unable to attend after it was found that the radiation level was far worse than had been thought, presenting a serious challenge to the continuing shutdown process and overall decommissioning of the site.

Outside Lockheed Martin’s offices

Nuclear power has never lived up to the early promises of plentiful low cost electricity and remains both expensive and dangerous. In the UK it was always linked to the production of military weapons, and we were fed lies about its potential. There are still no satisfactory solutions to the disposal of highly radioactive nuclear waste which requires safe storage into the next millennium – a toxic legacy to our future generations.

Fortunately the UK seldom experiences more than minor earthquakes and the control systems here are rather more sophisticated than those at Chernobyl. But the Windscale fire in October 1957 was one of the worst nuclear disasters in the world, sending radioactive fallout across the UK and Europe.

Protesters wait for a horse who doesn’t like yellow to be walked away

Later it was found that as well as large amounts of iodine-131 which causes thyroid cancer there were also significant amounts of the more dangerous polonium-210 (the deadly poison put in the tea of former Russian spy, Alexander Litvinenko, in London in 2006.) It later emerged that there had been earlier accidents at the the plant releasing significant amounts of strontium-90.

Reports of the Windscale accident were heavily censored by the fact that milk from farms over an area of 190 square miles close to this military nuclear plant meant it could not entirely be covered up this time.

From the Japanese Embassy there was a procession along Piccadilly to Lower Regent St where it stopped for a brief protest outside the offices of Lockheed Martin, one of the companies making nuclear weapons, before stopping for a photograph in front of Downing St and going on the Old Palace Yard, opposite the Houses of Parliament where they held a rally.

Speakers at the rally included Bruce Kent and Kate Hudson of CND and fashion designer Kate Hamnett. The speeches condemned the continuing nuclear power programme which has always been closely linked with the production of nuclear weapons and, never an economically viable method of power production, has now been rendered entirely obsolete by improved renewable energy sources. There were some musical performances and a poet read one of her poems about Fukushima. I had to leave before the rally concluded with a die-in.

More at: Remember Fukushima, 7th Anniversary


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Hiroshima Day – August 6th

Friday, August 6th, 2021

2018

On 6th August 1945 a US B-29 bomber dropped a atomic bomb, code name ‘Little Boy’, from a height of 31,000 ft over the Japanese city of Hiroshima. It took almost 45 seconds to fall to a height of 1,900 feet where it detonated, by which time the bomber, Enola Gay was over 11 miles away.

2014

Hiroshima was a large city, a port with many industrial and military sites and a population of around 350,000. Because it had been selected as a target for a nuclear bomb it had not suffered the intensive conventional bombing of most other Japanese cities. The USA wanted to be able to see clearly the damage an atomic weapon could cause.

2019

Around 70,0000 people, 30% of the population were killed by the initial blast and firestorm which was caused, with around the same number badly injured. Around 70% of the city’s buildings were destroyed, an area of almost 5 square miles devastated. Those killed included over 90% of doctors and medical staff who were concentrated in the central area of the city.

2017

Two days later on August 8th the US decided to drop the second atomic bomb, one of a different design using plutonium rather than uranium, code-named ‘Fat Boy’. The intended target was Kokura, an ancient Japanese city with a huge arsenal, but dark clouds obscured the city, and the B-29 ‘Bockscar’ diverted to the city which was the secondary target, Nagasaki.

2016

The black clouds may have come from the the previous days US conventional fire-bombing of nearby Yahata, but workers at the steel works in Kokura had apparently decided to burn coal tar to try to make a smokescreen. Or it could just have been bad weather or some combination of all three than saved Kokura and condemned Nagasaki.

2009

There were clouds over Nagasaki too, but a patch of clear sky allowed the bomb to be dropped. The plutonium bomb was almost one and a half times more powerful than that which devastated Hiroshima but it exploded over a valley which slightly contained its effects. At least 35-40,000 were killed immediately, almost all of them civilians, including many foreign workers. Unlike in Hiroshima there was no firestorm as the area it was dropped on was less intensively developed.

2009

Although it was the US who dropped the bomb, the British government was deeply involved. Under the 1943 Quebec agreement between Roosevelt and Churchill which brought scientific development of atomic weapons by the two countries together, the consent of the UK was needed for these weapons to be used.

2011

Of course deaths continued after the explosions. Acute radiation syndrome killed many who survived the initial attack, mostly within 20-30 days. Radiation induced cancer and leukemia takes longer to emerge, reaching a peak around 6-8 years later. Radiation also causes miscarriages and birth defects.

2014

Around 650,000 people were recognised by the Japanese government as ‘hibakusah’, survivors affected by the bombs, and around 1% of these had illnesses attributed to their radiation exposure.

2015

Ceremonies in the two cities and around the world remember the bombings and call for the outlawing of nuclear weapons, a total of around 13,000 of which are now held by China, North Korea, France, India, Israel, Pakistan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States. The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) was adopted by the UN in 2017 and entered into force on 22 January 2021. Countries voting for its adoption included two former nuclear states, South Africa and Kazakhstan, who gave up their weapons voluntarily and North Korea. So far 55 states have ratified or acceded to the treaty.

2016

The pictures, taken in various years, come from the annual Hiroshima Day event held every 6th August in Tavistock Square in London organised by London CND. The square is in the London Borough of Camden and take place next to the Hiroshima cherry tree planted there in 1967 by the then Mayor of Camden.


All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.


Bad Ass and Beauty – Mao Ishikawa

Saturday, April 10th, 2021

I am seriously considering buying another photography book. For the last ten or so years its an area there has been a moratorium on in this household, as we live in a smallish house that is overflowing with books, mainly photographic monographs, many of which came as review copies, but with a hefty core of key volumes I paid real money for, including some long ago when I had little or no cash to spare.

Unlike some other reviewers, I’ve never relied on selling off review copies to get a decent income, and never asked for copies of anything I didn’t intend to review, though there were a few sent unasked that I felt it best to hold my silence about and gave away. Since I gave up reviewing books (and ran out of space) virtually the only books I’ve bought or occasionally been given, have been by photographers I know or have known personally. Even then I’ve been fairly selective in my purchases.

Most of what is currently being published holds little attraction for me – even if by photographers I admire, certainly those that are well-known. I don’t need yet another book of pictures by Henri Cartier Bresson or Paul Strand or Eugene Atget et al, as even if these may contain a few images not already on my shelves they are probably less interesting than those already there. And there are relatively few published works by contemporary or previously unknown photographers that seem worth buying.

Bad Ass and Beauty – One Love is a 408 page retrospective of the work of Okinawa born photographer Ishikawa Mao, born in 1953 and, according to her publisher’s web site (like the book in both Japanese and English) “contains all 15 series of Ishikawa’s works, from her early work ‘Akabanaa’ to her latest work ‘The Great Ryukyu Photo Scroll’, as well as essays by various experts, a chronology of Ishikawa’s life, and a bibliography.” It is published to accompany her first solo exhibition at a museum, the Okinawa Prefectural Museum and Art Museum.

I learnt of the book through Jörg M. Colberg who recently published a highly appreciative post Bad Ass and Beauty on his Conscientious Photography Magazine. Usually his perceptive reviews put me off buying the books he writes about, but this was an exception.

The Japanese price for the book, 3960 Yen, corresponds to around £26, and I considered first buying it from Japan, but found the carriage cost made this uneconomic. There are suppliers in the UK at various prices, and should I yield to the temptation I would probably go with Beyond Words, who are currently taking advance orders and have a sensible price and carriage costs.

Although it was Colberg who first alerted me to the book, my interest in it was greatly raised by another author, Ross Tunney, whose 2017 PhD Thesis at the University of Tasmania, with the lengthy title Between ‘Reality’ and Representation: Photographic Ambiguities of Place and Identity in Japan’s Postwar Modernity you can read online.

I can’t claim to have read all 351 pages, but the work looks at projects by seven Japanese photographers, including two of my favourites, Issei Suda and Shomei Tomatsu, as well a Mao Ishikawa’s ‘Hot Days in Okinawa‘, and his chapter on her work gives rather more information and insight into her work, reproducing a number of images which it discusses.


Fukushima 10 years on

Thursday, March 11th, 2021

On 11th March 2011 the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Japan suffered the worst nuclear disaster since the 1986 Chernobyl meltdown. An earthquake had led to the reactors to automatically shut down their electricity production which led to the plant relying on emergency power generators to run the cooling pumps needed to keep the reactors safe. But the tsunami tidal wave almost 50 ft high caused by the earthquake swept over the plant’s sea wall and flooded the generators, cutting the power supply.

Windscale 1957, Three Mile Island 1979, Chernobyl 1986, Fukushima 2011′ 

Without cooling, three reactors heated up and then melted down and over the following three days there were three explosions of hydrogen gas and the release of huge amounts of radiation from the damaged reactors to the air and the Pacific Ocean. The release of radiation into the ocean was continued at high levels for at least 2 years, and there is still some leakage from the plant.

154,000 people in the area had to be evacuated from their homes in a area of 20km radius from the nuclear plant. The clean-up is expected to continue for another 20-30 years. You can read much more about the disaster in ‘10 Years Since The Fukushima Nuclear Disaster‘ by Philip White.

The possibility of such a disaster had been predicted in studies carried out some years earlier and an internal report by the company running the plant, TEPCO, had in 2000 recommended that there should be improved safety measures, but the management rejected both this and a 2008 internal report calling for better protection against seawater flooding.

Campaigners in London held regular protests outside the Japanese Embassy and TEPCO’s London offices for some years and have organised larger annual protests on or close to the March 11th. Among the on-line events scheduled for 2021 is the free International Uranium Film Festival with two films online including Fukushima No Daimyo, a 2014 Italian film (in Japanese with Portuguese sub-titles) from March 11-18.

More pictures on My London Diary:

2017: Fukushima anniversary challenges nuclear future
2018: Remember Fukushima, 7th Anniversary
2019: Remember Fukushima 8 years On
and in 2011, 2013 and 2014.


All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.


Japanese hand colour

Wednesday, October 14th, 2020

Although I knew something about the history of Japan and of photography in the country in the nineteenth century, and had written a little about it and in particular the work of European photographers such as Felice Beato, the video in ‘How colorized photos helped introduce Japan to the world‘ from VOX which was featureed on Digital Photography Review with a useful introduction showed me much that I hadn’t previously known. It was particularly interesting to see the comparisons between some of the photographs and Ukiyo-e woodblock prints and paintings.

The introduction of photography led to redundancies among Ukiyo-e artists (as it did to miniature painters in Europe) and some found new employment using their skills in photographic studios hand colouring prints in a much more subtle manner than in other countries. Soon some of them were becoming photographers too and setting up their own studios. I haven’t read Photography in Japan 1853-1912 by Terry Bennett which the video credits, but it looks an interesting volume.

Japanese art was in the same period being taken back to the west and had a strong influence on many western artists, and I think largely through them on photography around the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the 20th century which can clearly be seen for example in some of the work exhibited by members of the Photo-Secession some of the best of whose work was published by Alfred Stieglitz in his fine magazine Camera Work.

Recent years have seen a new interest in hand-colouring of old pictures, now made much easier by digital means. It’s something that while it may add some life and a greater sense of reality to old photographs I find rather upsetting when applied to many well-known images. As a photographer I feel that there is a disrespect in changing what was a carefully considered black and white image into one in colour and I imagine the photographers turning in their graves at how their work is being done to their pictures.

It also bothers me because the digital recolouring is creating a false reality – as hand colouring could also do. For a long time we had on a mantelpiece a hand coloured picture of my wife sitting in a Manchester park wearing a red jumper; it had been hand-coloured and although the grass had been coloured in a fair approximation to its actual colour, her green jumper was not. It’s a trivial example, but what the colouring produces is false colour and fake reality. For most subjects it probably isn’t a great problem but it seems to me to undermine one of the fundamental aspects of photography, the physical link between subject and depiction. The camera with our help lies but it doesn’t invent.



78- Issei Suda

Monday, April 13th, 2020

Regular readers of this blog will know about my interest in and admiration for the work of Japanese photographer Issei Suda, and remember the post I wrote about him, Issei Suda (1940-2019) shortly after his death last year with some links to his work and writing about it.

A couple of days ago I came across a post on the British Journal of Photography online site, Issei Suda: 78 unseen photographs, which tells the story of how Cécile Poimboeuf-Koizumi, co-founder and director of Paris-based publishing house Chose Commune, wrote to Suda for the first time in January 2019 to ask about a new publication of his work. He was keen to cooperate, but sadly he died before she visited later in the year – but he had set aside a box of unpublished pictures for his widow to show her when she visited.

The book ’78’ presents 78 of these previously unpublished photographs taken between 1971 and 1983, typical of his work with its strangely unusual views of ordinary people and situations. It was only when she got back to Paris that Poimboeuf-Koizumi realised that the number of pictures she had selected for the book, 78, was also the age at which Suda had died.

You can see more pictures from the book on the Chose Commune web site, and it looks to be a finely produced work and a fine tribute to one of Japan’s most interesting photographers who received far less attention in the west than others whose work is rather more controversial and perhaps less intimate.

It’s a book I’m unlikely to buy myself as it is a little expensive at 55€ and I already have an earlier book of his work and a house with overflowing shelves and far too many books in it. But if you haven’t already met and lived with his work this is certainly worth considering.


Suziki and Fuji

Sunday, February 9th, 2020

There are reports on several web sites including PetaPixel and DPReview about Fuji removing a promotional video showing Japanese photographer Tatsuo Suziki and removing him from their https://www.dpreview.com/news/6165309898/fujifilm-pulls-controversial-x100v-promo-video-due-to-the-featured-photographer-method global list of photographers.

I’m not sure how photographers qualify to be on the list, though I took a quick look through it and failed to find a single name I recognised but that probably isn’t the main criteria. As someone who has owned at least five Fuji-X cameras and used them at least occasionally since Fuji first brought out the X100 (now a paperweight on my desk) I don’t recall ever having heard of it before. But I’m more interested in what you can do with cameras than in the always fallible beasts.

It is a decision that has caused considerable controversy, generating many comments from photographers on both sides. Both PP and DPR point out that Suziki’s approach has similarities with that of Magnum photographer Bruce Gilden. When his book ‘Facing New York’ came out I wrote a review in which I expressed my uncomfortable feeling about his combative approach to his subjects, more or less pushing his camera and flash into the faces of unfortunate strangers on the streets of the city.

It wasn’t the fact that he took pictures without permission that worried me; we live in a public domain on the streets and just as we may look I think we have the same right to take photographs – so long as we do so without causing distress to others. That seemed to be a line that Gilden obviously and aggressively crossed, and so does Suziki, though in a rather more creepy way.

There is something about the way he moves, and the way he looks not at the subjects through a view finder but at the screen on the rear of the Fuji X100V the video was promoting which I find unsettling as so clearly do some of the people, mainly women, he confronts on the street. Much as I dislike Gilden’s approach it somehow seems more honest and direct.


My love/hate relationship with Fuji cameras continues. While they are capable of fine results, on a par with the heavier and larger full-frame Nikons I also own, the Fuji XT30 and XT1 do add a little unpredictability to my photography. I suspect it comes down to my having fingers, but sometimes on the XT30 I find my settings seem to have mysteriously changed during a session taking pictures. So one day when I had set the ISO to my ‘Auto-3’ setting I found that I had taken quite a few images at H – ISO 51200 before I noticed the change. I also notice some rather odd behaviour with shutter speeds when working with shutter priority. I may have the shutter set to 1/250 but sometimes the camera has a different opinion. And for aperture priority I’ve learnt to use a piece of black sticky tape to stop the aperture ring on the 18-35 lens from making mysterious moves as I handle the camera.

And oddities remain. Although I’ve turned off image review I still sometimes find myself looking at the previous exposure sometimes when I raise the camera to my eye to focus, though I can’t get this to happen consistently. There are good points too. Particularly the image stabilisation when using the 18-135 lens in low light is remarkable.

Issei Suda (1940-2019)

Tuesday, February 4th, 2020

I first came across the work of Issei Suda at some time in the 1980s, when I used to make regular visits to the few bookshops in London that stocked a reasonable range of photographic books.

I’d got to know Claire De Rouen when she was running the bookshop at the Photographer’s Gallery (though I think we first met at the ICA) and we both were part of a large group of people who might visit the Porcupine for a drink after openings and meetings. From there she moved to run the photographic section of Zwemmers a short distance away – and of course later to set up her own splendid bookshop a little further up the street on the opposite side. The shop, above a bookmakers (not as often said a sex store), continued after her death, I think aged around 80, though she always seemed so much younger, in 2012 but just wasn’t the same without her and it closed in 2017.

Whenever I went into the bookshop we would have a talk and share our latest enthusiasms in photography – and if the shop wasn’t too busy these were sometimes rather long conversations which always ended in me buying at least one of the books she had enthused about.

One in particular was Issei Suda’s 1978 monograph ‘Fushi Kaden‘, one volume from a long packed shelf of works published by Asahi Sonorama (and possibly some other Japanese publishers) that I think were unavailable elsewhere in the UK. I couldn’t read most of the text (there is one page in English), but could read the pictures, though they were clearly in a different language.

In the Eye of Photography today is an article The Legacy of Issei Suda (1940-2019) : Human Memory which accompanies ” the first posthumous exhibition in the United States of renowned Japanese photographer Issei Suda who passed away in early 2019″ at the Miyako Yoshinaga gallery, the second show of his work there.

You can see a ‘page-through’ of a later edition of his work, Issei Suda – Fushikaden‘ by PhotoBookStore UK on Vimeo. It’s a different sequence to the book I have and I think rather more pictures, though many of them are the same. The hands turning the book sometimes get in the way, and at times some pages escape scrutiny, but it gives a good general impression.

You can also read a scholarly paper about the work,

Archiving the Spirit: Suda Issei’s Fushi Kaden and “Essential” Japan by Ross Tunney in Trans-Asia Photography Review – here is a short quote from what is an interesting discussion:

Suda has nonetheless suggested a sense of native experience in two ways: first, by evoking a sense of natural association to aesthetic practice in his subjects; and second, by fashioning these same subjects into static signs that reflect a putatively timeless and uniquely Japanese aesthetic.


Hiroshima & Nagasaki

Thursday, January 16th, 2020
The Mayor of Camden Cllr Maryam Eslamdoust lays the first wreath at the Hiroshima cherry tree

Back on the 8th of August 1967, that year’s Mayor of Camden Cllr Millie Miller planted a cherry tree in Tavistock Square in memory of the victims of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima twenty two years earlier on August 8th 1945. A second bomb was dropped two days later on Nagasaki.

By then Japan had lost the war and surrender could only have been a few days away. There was no pressing military reason to use these monstrous weapons, but they had been under development in the Manhattan Project which began in 1939 but only got into full swing in 1952. The scientists had developed two different types of bomb, a uranium-235 bomb codenamed ‘Little Boy’ and the plutonium based ‘Fat Man’.

Baroness Jenny Jones

The ‘Fat Man’ device, involving an explosion to compact a plutonium sphere to provide the critical mass for an explosion was complex, and it was decided a test was necessary to determine if it would work. This test, the world’s first nuclear explosion, took place on the 16 July 1945 in a remote desert area in New Mexico.

Planning for dropping the two bombs began in serious in November 1943 and was complex. Specially modified aircraft were needed because of the size of the bombs and a special base was built for the missions on a Pacific island. Originally Kyoto had been selected for a target for the first bomb, but the US Secretary of War ruled it out because of its cultural and historic significance and Hiroshima was selected in its place.

Shigeo Kobayashi, Japan Against Nuclear, reads the English translation of today’s speech by the Mayor of Hiroshima at the commemoration there

The Hiroshima bomb was the logical end of years of planning and scientific effort and was needed more to validate that whole process than for any particular military purpose. There was even less reason for the second bomb on Nagasaki given the destruction the first bomb had caused. Over two thirds of Hiroshima’s buildings had been destroyed, almost a third of its population killed immediately and another third injured. More were to die later from radiation.

Nagasaki was not even the intended target for the second bomb; cloud over Kokura saved it from destruction and instead ‘Fat Man’ was dropped on Nagasaki. It was roughly 1.5 times more powerful than the Hiroshima bomb but hills protected parts of the city and the destruction and death toll were lower with an estimated 35,000–40,000 people killed and 60,000 injured.

Rev Gyoro Nagase, Buddhist monk from the Battersea Peace Pagoda

The commemoration takes place every 6th August in Tavistock Square, with Camden’s Mayor taking part, as well as peace activists. It is the largest of several events in London and I now usually attend and have photographed it a number of times.

Hiroshima Bomb victims remembered


All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

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