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4.Preparing for the Festival

Radiation Dosage Measurement at the Venue - Fukushima Big Furoshiki

The first thing that the organizing committee did in preparation for the festival was to measure the radiation dosage of the Village of Four Seasons, located in western Fukushima City. On June 23, venue conditions were verified and measurements were taken with Dr. Kimura. The results were around 0.5-0.6μSv/h, which was relatively low for the city at the time, (city center readings were around 1.2-1.3μSv/h), and it was determined that the event could be held once a mitigation measure for the grass lawn that occupied a major part of the grounds was put into place.

While taking measurements, Dr. Kimura suggested covering the lawn throughout the park with fabric or plastic sheets. Grass tends to absorb more radiation compared to asphalt, so laying down fabric or plastic would prevent surface irradiation (having radioactive material stick to the body’s surface) and the spread of radioactive substances that might otherwise be tracked to other locations on people’s shoes. The radiation would still go through the fabric, so even if the ground was covered, the dosage in the atmosphere would not be reduced. But Dr. Kimura advised that it was still important to demonstrate how serious the organizers were about containing the spread of radioactive material, prompting the decision to disclose the dosage readings, and lay down fabric on the grass in order to carry out the festival.
Artist Tohru Nakazaki from Mito, who had collaborated with Otomo in past exhibits, and Kota Asano, an architectural designer and resident of Fukushima were selected as directors in the Fukushima Big Furoshiki project. Big Furoshiki, or Oh Buroshiki, (large wrapping fabric) in Japanese, could have a negative connotation as a euphemism for an unrealistic plan, but here we were, trying to host a festival for 10,000 people in Fukushima, even as we were confronted by uncertainty. The irony of the decision to spread a Big Furoshiki (which means to talk big about unrealistic plans) was apropos, in a way, and coupled with our desire to create something truly worthy of the Big Furoshiki, the title of Fukushima Big Furoshiki seemed more than befitting.

However, the area of the grass lawn in the park was massive, in addition to which the Big Furoshiki could not be installed until the prior to the day of the festival. We decided to collect fabric pieces ahead of time, which would be stitched together to create a large fabric of 10 meters by 10 meters, or 5 by 5 meters. Doing so would make it relatively easy to lay down the fabric without gaps on the day of the festival.

Once the call for help went out on Twitter and newspapers, many various fabric pieces were sent in, not just from the local community, but from all over the country. Often, the fabric was obviously a piece that someone had treasured for a long time, or would come with embroidered and hand-written heartwarming messages. Every time the project members opened a box and encountered a fabric with special sentiment, which was often, they were tremendously encouraged.

Using the home of Otomo’s parents, a former factory, as a base, dozens of volunteers came to stitch together the fabric, working at a furious pace. Some volunteers were housewives from the area, while others came from outside of the prefecture after having seen Twitter, to engage in this sewing effort for about three weeks, night and day, even amid the intermittent aftershocks.

Radiation Seminar for Participants

Statements made by musicians appearing in a festival can often have a powerful influence starting with the audience and fans. Therefore, a month before the festival, a radiation lecture was held for the participants and staff in Tokyo. Dr. Kimura was invited as lecturer, and spoke for more than 2 hours about the basics of radiation, as well as the conditions in Chernobyl that he had researched, and Fukushima. Seeing these famous musicians, more accustomed to being on-stage and seen by others, actually sitting down at their seats and listening intently to Dr. Kimura, was in a way, a very interesting and significant scene, although more importantly, there were many questions raised by the attendees, indicating the high level of interest in the issue of radiation.

Food Contamination and Internal Radiation Exposure

We decided to do an open recruitment of local producers and retailers for the concession stands in the food and beverage area at the festival venue. While it is not unusual to have food and beverage stalls at an outdoor festival, this one was in Fukushima, which is why numerous discussions took place about how to select the concession stand operators. For the project, the issue of internal radiation exposure through contaminated food was serious indeed, which is why the decision was made to do mandatory inspections of radiation levels for any food that the operators sold or cooked, and publish the results. Specifically, we issued certificates showing the results for stalls that had carried out the measurements, so that the audience could recognize those booths as being the official ones.

Disclosing the measurements meant that people might not purchase the food, and there were concerns that the operators would not be interested, but when we held preliminary meetings to explain our approach and seek their understanding, the operators said that they wanted to prove their products were safe to sell by providing credible measurements, so it was decided that all food for sale produced in Fukushima Prefecture would be measured for radiation in advance.

As a result of the measurements, no radiation was detected in food such as pork, cucumbers, and tomatoes from 10 of the 11 operators carrying food produced in Fukushima Prefecture (*). The only radiation detected was in Fukushima’s famous peaches, produced in the city, with a total of 23 becquerel/kg of cesium 134 and 137. This level was far lower than Japan’s provisional criteria of 500 becquerel/kg, and substantially lower than the 70 becquerel/kg criteria used for fruit in the Ukraine, which we were also showing on the certificate per advice from Dr. Kimura. We determined that the peaches could be sold, as it was important for the project and for the peach producer alike to be honest producers and sellers by publishing the measurements of the fruit, to gain the understanding of the consumers.

*Each operator was requested to provide 2kg of food ingredients, with the measurements paid for by the project committee. The measurements were taken at the Environmental Analysis Research Institute in Fukushima City, with an accuracy of 5 becquerel/kg as the minimum determination limit.