Kazuma Obara

Keystone Agency

Kazuma Obara has researched the effects of the 1954 nuclear testing by the US government in the area of the Bikini Islands. A Japanese fishing boat, the Daigo Fukuryu Maru. 26 radiation victims from that boat were recognized as being affected by the testing and received compensation and specific health care.

However in documents released only 3 years ago, it became apparent that at least 10.000 people were directly affected with nucleair radiation from the Bikini Island testing. These victims were stigmatized and never received recognition nor compensation for their suffering. Being mostly members of the tuna fishing community, their income was under strain as the tuna fish from the Bikini region was generally regarded as unsafe because of the affects of the nuclear testing.

The Japanese and American governments launched a huge pro-nuclear energy campaign in 1955, which included, ironically, a pro-nuclear exhibition in the Peace Museum in Hiroshima, the museum founded to commemorate the victims of the first nuclear bomb ever used, in 1945.

Kazuma Obara’s project shows the effects of this hidden legacy through the story of one woman. Her father was the radioman on a fishing boat that was in the affected area during the tests. One year after coming back from that fateful journey, a little boy was born. The boy had a hard time growing up, as he, and he alone in the family was the victim of physical and mental abuse by the father. The father, who before becoming the radio man in the fishing industry was a connection officer in the Japanese army during the war. His school reportedly trained spies for the Japanese government. He survived two attacks by cancer before surviving his wife by ten years and passing away well into his 80s.

The mother committed suicide but not before telling her daughter that she had documents that had to be kept safe and secret. Merely days after the suicide, the father went out and burned all those documents.

When the Japanese government released these papers, three years ago, that showed that the radiation of the testing had effected not 26 but at least 10000 people, one daughter suddenly started to understand what had happened to her family. There is no proof of anything, but did her father know more about these tests? He could have, given his background and training? What was on those papers that the father burned, but the mother wanted kept safe and secret? Why did her little brother suffer abuse, while nobody even lay a hand on her?

Obara used the camera, acquired in 1955 by the fisherman to document the places that play a role in this history. He also acquired family photos, documents from the period, and documentation from the Pro Nuclear Energy Fair in Hiroshima. These elements will be combined to form a unique and in-depth research into the long-lasting effects of nuclear radiation.