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Japan: Netizens Cast Doubt on Anti-Nuclear Power Poster

This post is part of our special coverage Japan Earthquake 2011.

An antinuclear power poster designed by Makoto Wada, a Japanese illustrator, has triggered arguments on the multifaceted impact of visual art.

On March 11, 2011, the largest earthquake in the history struck Japan, and the resulting tsunami irreversibly damaged Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. In the course of stabilizing the plant, a large amount of radioactive materials were spread over nearby areas.

The poster depicts a mother and a boy near a nuclear power plant (a high quality image of the poster can be seen on the official site). Yellow particles with creepy faces are falling from the dark sky, and the mother is hugging the boy tightly to protect him from the harm.

Earthquake and tsunami damaged-Fukushima Dai Ichi Power Plant, Japan by DigitalGlobe-Imagery, on Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

Earthquake and tsunami damaged-Fukushima Dai Ichi Power Plant, Japan by DigitalGlobe-Imagery, on Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

It was originally drawn for Antinuclear Poster Exhibition [ja] held in Tokyo for 10 days in November 2011. Many creators took part in this project: 228 posters from Japan and 13 posters from overseas were displayed.

This particular poster attracted attention of Twitter users when kenaday uploaded the image to Twitpic. The overall tone of the comments on the Twitpic page is favorable.

Chiyuky expresses [ja] her gratitude:


“Antinuclear Poster by Makoto Wada.” Terrific. This picture has helped me step forward. Thank you very much.

deepoperation testifies [ja] that the image portrays the feeling of people in Fukushima:


I was forced to stay at the 45-km mark from the plant until March 16. Succeeding hydrogen explosions, loud public announcements from the city-run trucks, rainfalls, radiation fallouts, and the ringing of phones never stop. This picture effectively speaks for my feelings of that time, when I felt powerless as an individual.

However, as the image started to circulate the web, netizens start to develop a feeling of discomfort. phoque thinks the motif is clichéd [ja]:





Makoto Wada is one of Japan's most renowned graphic designers. He is a living legend, while still very active in the field. This is his poster.I think this is a good picture, really. I would even put it on the wall of my room, only if it were not an antinuclear poster and the objects falling down were snow.

However, if this was drawn as propaganda for ideologies such as antinuclear and denuclearization, that's a different story. This is too cliched, isn't it?

A mother protecting her child is a subject drawn by people of all ages and cultures, but I'm not saying that it's cliched in the sense that it's overused. The subject portrays the essence of humanity.

Using the motif of “the figure of a mother protecting a little child with dead ash falling down” for depicting something like antinuclear or denuclearization is, honestly, sort of too sensational or too easy. I felt like “You took up a subject nigh at hand and did a rush job, didn't you, Mr. Wada?”. I guess the fact he has chosen such a sensational and easy motif unwittingly reveals how shallow his understanding of something like antinuclear or denuclearization is.

yotayotaahiru suggests [ja] the symbol of a powerless mother may have a negative effect:


The picture of a mother hunching over her child all alone is totally powerless. People in this situation certainly exist. They need support, of course, but if it becomes “a symbol of victims”, it can deprive them of their inner power.

Kenichi Sakamoto is also concerned [ja] about the evocative nature of the poster:


I saw the antinuclear poster by Makoto Wada. The picture of radioactive materials falling down on a mother and a child near the nuclear power plant certainly leaves an impression, but I cannot help think of the unnecessary fear it will create in the minds of mothers in Fukushima. Issues about nuclear power should be discussed in a scientific way and there is no need to agitate in an emotional matter.

He then describes the reaction [ja] of an acquaintance in Fukushima:


I have a acquaintance in Fukushima who is a mother of a young child. She does not live in the evacuation area, and she cannot quit her job to leave Fukushima. She leads an anxious life, bombarded by information of all kinds from every direction, but still hangs in there with a strong mind. I received an unexpected phone call from her. She was very distraught. (continued)


Listening to her carefully, I found out she felt a surge of panic on seeing that picture. It's clear to those who have seen the image that it's quite the masterpiece. Its impact is so massive that anyone who sees it cannot help but be moved. (continued)

This post is part of our special coverage Japan Earthquake 2011.

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