FUKUSHIMA, Japan >> A large statue in front of an educational facility in Fukushima has sparked a wave of criticism, with local residents angered by its depiction of a child wearing what looks like a suit to protect against nuclear radiation.
“Sun Child,” a 20-foot statue created by artist Kenji Yanobe, was recently installed at the Com-Com Children’s Creative Learning Center by the Fukushima city government. The city office said the intent of the statue is to preserve memories of the nuclear disaster that hit Fukushima Prefecture immediately after the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake. However, many fear it will reinforce negative stereotypes that the prefecture has tried to shake off.
“I will listen to residents’ opinions carefully and consider what to do (with the statue),” Fukushima Mayor Hiroshi Kohata said.
“Sun Child” shows a boy clad in what appears to be a yellow nuclear radiation suit. An instrument for measuring radioactivity attached to his chest displays “000.”
“It shows a boy smiling after taking off his protective helmet in an environment where the amount of radiation is zero. It symbolizes hopes for reconstruction and rebirth,” Kohata said.
However, after the statue was unveiled Aug. 3, the city office was hit with a torrent of critical phone calls, emails and internet comments.
“It may cause the misperception that Fukushima city is so contaminated people need to wear protective clothing here,” one resident complained.
Also, because some amount of radiation naturally exists in the environment, some have said that the 000 reading is unrealistic because the amount of radiation is never zero.
In response to the criticism, the mayor announced on Monday that the city would reexamine what to do with the statue. Meanwhile, artist Yanobe released a statement about his work on Aug. 10, saying: “The clothing is armor that looks like a spacesuit. The number on the chest symbolizes a world free of nuclear disasters.”