A Letter to Fukushima is a series of photographs I made in late August 2011 for Evan Osno’s piece in The New Yorker. The full series was featured in the Photo Booth section of The New Yorker blog and I felt that it was important to include some of my thoughts with the images. Below is a letter I wrote to Fukushima in an attempt to capture the conflicting feelings I experienced that lingered in my mind after coming home…
Time flies very quickly and I’ve been drawn back to life in New York. It’s been a month and a half since I was there. I still look for news from Fukushima, though information is getting scarcer these days. I’m very sad about what happened in Fukushima and worried about where Japan is going. My mother and my sister went to the anti-nuclear demonstration in Tokyo a few weeks ago, and it was great to hear that people of all ages were involved. My mother sent me her yearly present of fig jam, salty plums, and herb tea that she made from her garden. I felt guilty hesitating to eat them even though she said her radiation detector didn’t show high levels of radiation. I put the jam on some toast, made some tea, and it was as delicious as always. This is my fourth time trying to write about my experience of being in Fukushima, but my thoughts are still everywhere. I become emotional remembering the beautiful morning I had in Minamisoma looking at the endless field of sunflowers that the local farmers planted instead of rice this year. It was unrealistically beautiful, but knowing that the flowers were planted to absorb radiation from the rice field was surreal. I think of the woman, Kobayashi san, whom I photographed in Iitate Village gently petting her cat Uzura while telling me about the water lilies that bloomed this summer, and her admiration of the power and gentleness of nature. I think of the loud beeping sound of the radiation detector I heard for the first time as I was passing Iitate Village. It sounded as though it were screaming, “It is not safe here! Drive away as soon as possible!” I think of the people who were pulled into the sea by the tsunami who are still waiting to be found. I think of the kind smile of a taxi driver in Fukushima who posed for one of my pictures; we made fun of each other’s accents. I think of the lady at the vegetable market who laughed at my silly jokes even though she was too shy to be photographed. Underneath all of my conflicting feelings, I know that the people I met, and the people who have been working so hard to make things right since March 11th feel very dear to me. The helplessness I’ve been feeling since March 11th resembles the feelings I had in New York on September 11th. I lived thirteen blocks from Ground Zero at the time and the sadness still remains along with more love I feel towards the City. Has the heat in Fukushima eased up yet? The foliage in the mountains will be starting in a few weeks, won’t it?
I don’t know how to end this letter, but thank you for allowing me to photograph you. I will be thinking of you for years to come even if the news doesn’t.