Last Summer Kota Takeuchi took part in a residency at Arts Catalyst, in collaboration with S-AIR. Today he will be speaking about this at the SIAF Lounge, in Sapporo. To reciprocate the exchange James and I have been staying in Sapporo for the last month, with various study trips across Hokkaido. Tomorrow at Tenjinyama Art Studio we'll be talking about our time here and the research we have conducted; we're also showing some of our research in the gallery space. Events on both days start at 3pm, please see the links below for more information.
Information on the so-called ‘imperative reasons of overriding public interest’ is thin on the ground, and ambiguous at best. It was adopted in the National Policy Statement for Nuclear Energy (EN-6) by Parliament in the UK in 2011. It is based on the national need for nuclear energy and allows for adverse public opinion towards projects affecting the environment or communities on the periphery - be they ecological, economical, political or social - to be bypassed. The Institute for the Recognition of Peripheral Interests seeks to make the periphery visible, suitably appropriating the acronym that legitimises the marginalisation of peripheral communities - IROPI.
IROPI will produce and commission artwork, writing, events, study visits and workshops. Our research will begin with the peripheral communities and ecologies affected by the nuclear industry and its legacy.
Today we partook in a popular Japanese pastime, visiting an onsen, or natural hot spring. S-AIR's director Hisashi Shibata took a group of us. Marukoma Onsen is by Lake Shikotsu, south of Sapporo city. In the men’s area at Marukoma (they are separated by gender) there are three indoor baths and two outside: one sat atop a decking looking over the impressive view of the lake and mountains; the other is down by the lake, separated from it by a wall of rocks. The latter shares the same water level as its neighbour, rising and falling with it according to the seasons.
The water that serves the baths comes from geothermally heated groundwater, which is pushed up from deep underground and breaches the earth’s crust. Japan has the world’s third largest reserves of geothermal resources and, as of 2015, only has 2.2% of this capacity installed and utilised for the production of electricity. There are of course barriers that prohibit or make the increase in this capacity problematic. Many onsen are predominantly situated within natural parks and have cultural and spiritual significance. They are also a crucial part of Japan’s tourism industry.
The mineral composition of the water is believed to have healing powers, which varies across Japan and therefore so does the different ailments it is said to be able to treat. When in Toyotomi we met a woman who came all the way from Sweden to spend time in the onsen there. She went three times a day for three weeks in order to treat her eczema. That hot spring was very different from what we experienced by Lake Shikotsu, it was cooler, slick to the touch with a crude oil aroma.
We were told that the owner of the Marukoma Onsen, and the hotel in which it sits, is from Fukushima. Traditional crafts from Fukushima prefecture hang from the lobby next to the doll set celebrating the approaching Hinamatsuri, or Girl’s Day, on 3 March. Local newspapers from the area are folded neatly in the newspaper stand by the reception desk. Unsurprisingly many reports one reads are in relation to the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant from back in March 2011.
At once there are signs pointing to the volatile and costly business - environmentally or otherwise - of nuclear power as well as the activities that bubble up from the earth’s surface, glimpsing the possibilities of other forms of energy production that also point to new problems.
I am sitting in the kitchen of our apartment in Tenjinyama Art Studio, Sapporo, listening to Ainu vocal ensemble Marewrew; attempting to learn about another aspect of the rich cultural and historical landscape of Hokkaido. We have only been here for a couple of days and it's been intense, insightful and extremely rewarding.
On Tuesday morning we took a five hour coach journey along the eastern coast from Sapporo to Toyotomi in rural Hokkaido, where we stayed with dairy farmer and activist Kuse Shigetsugu. There we met with members of his community opposed to the Underground Research Laboratory (URL) in nearby Horonobe, which is one site in Japan where experiments are underway to find solutions to the 'disposal' of Japan's high level nuclear waste (HLW). After spending the night we were given a tour of the Horonobe Underground Research Laboratory by a staff member of the Japan Atomic Energy Agency, a stark contrast from Kuse's way of life. Kuse picked us up from the URL and we returned to his farm shop, where his daughter made us mozzarella and tomatoes on toast, the mozzarella being from the cows on the farm.
We were able to grasp during this short trip, if only momentarily, the predicament of those on the periphery whose lives are impacted by nuclear power and its legacy. In addition to working tirelessly on his farm and his activities against the Horonobe Underground Research Centre, Kuse accommodates for children affected by the Fukushima disaster: 'I felt half-dead, only half-dead, so there was still something more I could do'.*
James and I will have a research blog up soon where we will be regularly posting what we've found and how things are developing.
*paraphrased comment Kuse made in his shop.
James Ravinet and I have been selected for a research programme in Japan organised in collaboration with Arts Catalyst and S-AIR (Sapporo), to research nuclear power and alternative energies; we will be there from mid-February to mid-March. This will inform our current project on nuclear culture, the Blackwater Estuary and the complex issues around history, heritage, ecology as well as the geo-politics of energy production, consumption and subsequent ‘disposal’.
Our trip has been supported by the Arts Council England's Artists' International Development Fund and the Agency of Cultural Affairs, Government of Japan.
More information will follow soon...