Exhibition showcases Fukushima recovery

Guests at the photography exhibition Vestiges Of Their Hearts by Mr Jorel Chan, held at the Japan Creative Centre in Nassim Road. The event opened yesterday and will continue till next Saturday.
Guests at the photography exhibition Vestiges Of Their Hearts by Mr Jorel Chan, held at the Japan Creative Centre in Nassim Road. The event opened yesterday and will continue till next Saturday.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

S'porean student in Japan wants to share sense of hope seen after nuclear disaster

For close to two months in 2014, Mr Jorel Chan and Mr Isaac Lee visited nine cities across eastern Japan to help residents rebuild their lives after the deadly earthquake on March 11, 2011.

They spent time helping villagers to build port equipment and volunteered at daycare centres.

But amid the scenes of gloom and devastation, the hope displayed by the residents stood out.

"Daily life continues there, and I think that is the most important," said Mr Chan. "If we are unable to relate to them on a personal level, we will not be able to understand and empathise with them."

It is this sense of hope and the celebration of life that he wishes to portray in his photo exhibition - which opened yesterday and will run till next Saturday at the Japan Creative Centre in Nassim Road.

The earthquake triggered a massive tsunami that ravaged Japan's north-eastern coast, crippling the Fukushima No. 1 power station and causing meltdowns in three of its reactors. The disaster killed some 16,000 people and forced another 470,000 to evacuate their homes.

Although many of the affected towns are on their way to recovery, the impact of the earthquake and nuclear disaster remains.

Some countries still ban food imports from the disaster-hit regions - although 21 nations have lifted the prohibitions and many others have relaxed restrictions.

Mr Chan's images not only capture the aftermath of the disaster - such as deserted roads - but also showcase hope, represented, for example, by sunflowers blooming in a devastated area.

"We want to show people, through these vivid pictures, rather than images of a nuclear plant, that these cities are really nice places worth going to," said Mr Chan.

Now a master's student in international relations at Waseda University in Tokyo, he intends to revisit the region this year and continue volunteering there in time to come.

Japanese Ambassador to Singapore Kenji Shinoda, who visited the exhibition yesterday afternoon, said: "Each time we come closer to March 11, we remember the heartfelt sympathy expressed and warm assistance offered by our Singaporean friends six years ago."

"I have been back to visit the affected areas several times," he added, noting that while recovery is under way, efforts are still "halfway through".

"The encouraging part... is that the people look and seem very upbeat and lively," he said. "I think in that context, we can become optimistic about the future."

Around 30 people were at the launch yesterday.

One of them, engineer Yang Joo Chye, 56, said the exhibition brought back memories of his experience helping with relief efforts in the wake of the disaster.

He and his son, who was then 16, spent 10 days volunteering in Ishinomaki city and the town of Minamisanriku in November 2011.

"Pictures of places such as the temporary housing quarters are quite familiar to me," he said.

"These exhibits tell us that you have to look on the bright side.

"People have to continue with life, and it's something that we too can learn from the Japanese - resilience."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 11, 2017, with the headline 'Exhibition showcases Fukushima recovery'. Print Edition | Subscribe