The Tourization of a Nuclear Accident Site!
The Unknown in Chernobyl, 27 Years After the Tragedy
After their multiple trips to Fukushima in order to cover the area after 3/11, the team of Hiroki Azuma, Hiroshi Kainuma, and Daisuke Tsuda determined that they would press on and next cover Chernobyl.
While traveling through sites of the still-unresolved accident, such as areas inside the Exclusion Zone, the now-abandoned towns surrounding the plant, and the inside of the nuclear plant itself, they heard from various individuals connected to Chernobyl. Together with photographer Kenshu Shintsubo's beautiful yet tension-filled photo spreads, this volume reports on the scene in fine detail.
In addition to Hiroki Azuma's tour notes, Hiroshi Kainuma's study, and Daisuke Tsuda's reportage, the volume is filled with additional articles such as tourism studies researcher Akira Ide's guide to "dark tourism" spots around the world, Kenro Hayamizu's cultural study of "Chernobyl as Fantasized," and columns by experts on Russia and Ukraine.
A quarter of a century has passed since 1986, when the level 7 nuclear accident occurred. This volume will use Chernobyl's Present to guide Japan's Future.
The volume will be paired with the upcoming Shisouchizu beta vol. 4-2, "Tourizing Fukushima: The Fukuichi Kanko Project" and together, they represent new ground for the Shisouchizu beta series!
What is the Chernobyl Dark Tourism Guide? Hiroki Azuma
We bring you the Chernobyl Dark Tourism Guide.
On April 26, 1986, a nuclear accident that shook the world occurred in Chernobyl, a wetland area in Northern Ukraine (formerly the Soviet Union). A core meltdown occurred in reactor number four at the nuclear power plant due to a human error, leading to an explosion and the scattering of a massive amount of radioactive material in Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia. Hundreds of thousands of people were forced to evacuate, and a large amount of land became contaminated and uninhabitable. This publication is a report created through on-site reporting and coverage that details what has become of the accident site, how memories of the accident are being passed down, and what lessons the people of Ukraine have learned from the accident.
When this accident occurred in Chernobyl, it was said that we must never allow such a thing to happen again. However, 25 years later in Japan, an accident would occur at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant that came to be classified as a level 7 accident on the International Nuclear Event Scale, the same as Chernobyl. There are many factors that differ between the accidents at Chernobyl and Fukuhshima, and they cannot simply be equated with one another. However, they both stole the homes and places of living from many individuals and caused large amounts of land to become contaminated. There are surely lessons to be gleaned from the experience of Ukranians, our "seniors" when it comes to nuclear accidents, when thinking about the future of Fukushima, as well as of Japan.
Of course, there are already many books published in Japan about Chernobyl. As a country that has both experienced nuclear bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki and also has a considerable dependence on nuclear power, Japan has always had a strong interest in the Chernobyl accident. Particularly in the two years after the Fukushima Daiichi Plant accident, many Japanese people have visited Chernobyl and written reports published in newspapers or online. What meaning is there in now publishing a new book on Chernobyl?
What makes this book unique is its primary focus on tourism when reporting on the current state of Chernobyl.
The accident at Chernobyl was a grave matter. The wounds it inflicted have yet to heal. The decommissioning of reactor number four, where the accident occurred, has yet to finish. In fact, it hasn't even begun. Reactor number four is now covered by a concrete "sarcophagus," but this is nothing more than an emergency measure, and a massive amount of radioactive material still remains inside. There is no date in sight for when plant decommissioning will be completed and when Chernobyl will be able to return to a state close to the one it was in prior to the accident. Many suffer from the aftermath of the accident.
Still, life goes on in Chernobyl, as well as in Ukraine. Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, is only a hundred kilometers away from the accident site, yet it has a popular of nearly 3 million and is as lively as ever. While the villages in the Exclusion Zone have turned to ruins, some of the plant's functions remain, and there is decommissioning work being carried out, so Chernobyl lives on as a place of work. Inside the city, there are still government offices and laboratories, cafeterias and stores, and bus terminals with lines of workers stretching from them. Most surprising of all, areas around the nuclear plant have started to proactively welcome in tourists, including those from overseas. There are now wide swaths of the Exclusion Zone where decontamination and natural decay has caused the amount of airborne radiation to drop. As a result, all one needs to do to visit an abandoned town and take commemorative photos near reactor number four is simply go to Kiev and apply at a designated tour company
Some readers may feel shocked. Tourism at a nuclear accident site!? Some may even feel a sense of disgust. The word "tourism" carries with it an impression of frivolity. It's no surprise to come across such a reaction in Japan, a country where little time has passed since a nuclear accident.
Still, the scars held by the victims of Chernobyl were surely as deep as the ones caused by Fukushima. What has lead them to begin welcoming tourists, and why do they do this? Furthermore, what kinds of feelings do they hold toward the curious eyes pointed their way by irresponsible tourists? Not only do Ukraine and Japan have different cultural climates, their political systems differ as well. It may not be possible to implement the same policies in both countries. However, even if Fukushima does not make the same decisions as Chernobyl, a report on its state will surely provide Japanese readers with major suggestions regarding the framing of the recovery for the area around the Fukushima Daiichi Plant 10 or 20 years from now, and about passing memories of the accident down to the next generation. The reporting in this book was planned with these kinds of goals in mind.
This volume was shaped by an interest in seeing Fukushima's future inside the tourization of Chernobyl. I believe it's a "Chernobyl book" unlike most others.
I hope that any and all people with interest in Fukushima's future, as well as Japan's future, will pick up this volume.
This book is divided into two sections.
The first section is on Tourism. It describes the one-night, two-day tour inside the Exclusion Zone experienced first-hand by our reportage team, as well as the displays at the Chernobyl Museum in Kiev.
While it may seem like it runs contrary to the publication of this book, I believe that words can only go so far. After visiting Chernobyl for ourselves, we began to wish that our readers, too, would go to the site of the accident to experience the gravity of the nuclear accident, as well as (while a hackneyed way to put it) the human arrogance and foolishness that brought it about. Because of this, we have not only written reports on our experience, but have also designed this publication's pages to resemble a tour guidebook, including information on must-see locations inside the Exclusion Zone and other essential information. For those concerned about exposure to low-dose radiation, we have also published radiation levels measured throughout our trip (though please note that an expert on the subject was not present with us while the measurements were taken).
Please note, though, that the visit we arranged for our coverage was a special tour held by an victim-centered NPO, and its content will differ from a regular tour. Also, it seems as though there are varying programs depending on the tour company used. If you do visit Chernobyl, you may not necessarily have the opportunity to go to every location introduced in these pages. Please ask your travel agency for more details.
The second section is focused on interviews. In it, we speak at length to various individuals in both the public and private sector including the Deputy Chairman for the Management Exclusion Zone, the deputy director of the Chernobyl Museum, an author and former accident cleanup worker, the head of a non-profit, and the head of travel agency on the present and future of Chernobyl as it transforms into a tourist destination. The section also includes detailed observations by the journalist and the sociologist who acted as interviewers for the volume. Both writers also have professional experience covering the Fukushima Daiichi Plant accident from their respective positions.
What remains in our hearts more than anything after our coverage was the reply from the Ukranian people we spoke to, whether they were government officials or citizens, for or against nuclear power〉egardless of the political positions they took》hat memories of Chernobyl are fading, and that they were pleased to see people taking an interest in it, be they tourists, sightseers, film directors, or anyone else. While this simple approach may be hard to understand for people in Japan whose memories and wounds are fresh and alive little more than two years after the accident, I began to think that this will one day be a reality that we will face.ac
It is our thought that the combination of two contrasting ideas that may even seem contradictory at first glance, nuclear accidents and tourism, is the very place where we can find the complexity of reality, the perseverant nature of humanity that one cannot simply classify as good or evil, and hope for the future.
Finally, a bit about this volume's title.
The title of this publication includes the words "Dark Tourism." This refers to a new kind of travel where one visits the location of a historical tragedy, such as Hiroshima or Auschwitz. The concept is gathering attention at the forefront of tourism studies, and it is briefly explained inside the volume. It both acts as a guide to the current state of Chernobyl as it becomes a new dark tourism destination while also exposing readers to the new concept of dark tourism through the example of Chernobyl.
This volume also bears the confusing subtitle, Shisouchizuβ 4-1. Shisouchizuβ is the name of a series of publications put out once a year by our company Genron, and this is the fourth volume in that series. The "4-1" in the title means that Volume 4 actually consists of two publications, and that this is the first of the two. The content of 4-1 is deeply related to Shisouchizuβ 4-2, entitled the Fukuichi Kanko Project, and many of their writers are the same.
The Chernobyl Dark Tourism Guide has been edited so that it can be read on its own. One will not have to read the next volume in order to understand it. However, Tourizing Fukushima: The Fukuichi Kanko Project builds upon the coverage detailed inside this volume to consider how the area around the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant should be "tourized" in the future. It is an attempt at both a daring thought experiment and a proposal for the future. If 4-1 is focused on reportage, or on reality, then one could say that its sequel could be said to be on design, or on the future.
Reality and fantasy are never far apart. As an appendix to this book, we have included essays and materials on fantasy connected to or starting from Chernobyl. The realities of Chernobyl extend to the fantasies surrounding Fukushima.
If you are interested, please consider also picking up the sequel to this book.
The accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant was by no means an anomaly. 25 years earlier, Chernobyl happened. And, God forbid, 20 or 30 years in the future, we may see a disaster of a similar level occur somewhere in the world, whether it is in Asia, Africa, or somewhere else. There is a need for us to place Fukushima within this global chain of accidents.
So then, should we abandon nuclear power technology? It is a difficult question.
However, I do have one thing to say. The French philosopher Paul Virilio has noted that the invention of technology is the invention of accidents. It is impossible for us to acquire new technology without exposing ourselves to the possibility of new accidents. Whether it is the car and the airplane, information and reproductive technologies, or nuclear power》his holds true for them all. It is impossible to move toward the future without opening the doors to the possibility of new accidents; this is a basic, underlying fact of the scientific and technological civilization we enjoy today.y
If this is so, then the one thing we cannot allow ourselves to do in the future, whether we move forward with nuclear power or abandon it, is forget about these nuclear accidents. A future without the possibility of new accidents is inconceivable｜ut to put it the other way around, this means that history is simply the remembrance of a chain of accidents. .
What can we do to pass on the memories of Chernobyl and Fukushima beyond chanting the mantra, "We must never forget"? This is an underlying question throughout this volume, and the reason we visited Chernobyl was in order to find an answer.
So, let us begin the trip. Welcome to the intersection of a nuclear disaster and tourism, of tragedy and desire.