Life of the workers at Fukushima is made into manga

Japan manga

An artist who worked to clean up the Fukushima disaster has published a Japanese comic on the same. This is the first manga on the life of a nuclear worker.

Kazuto Tatsuta, who is a Japanese manga artist, had helped in the cleaning of the Fukushima Daiichi 1 nuclear plant. Since his body had been exposed to radiation to a point where it reached the annual limit, about 20 millisieverts, he had to quit last year.

His desire to keep a record of his life and experiences at the time has led him to publish the book. Tatsuta worked at the site for six months, from June to December 2012. The reason he worked at the plant is because he was struggling to make his career as a manga artist work. With all the controversy, this book could probably be a huge success – and his biggest yet.

To begin with, the place at which Tatsuta worked was extensively damaged. The nuclear plant was not called Fukushima ‘Dai-ichi’, but was actually ‘ichi efu’ or 1F. This is also chosen by him as the name of the book.

Though the conditions were not extremely despicable, the work at the plant involved a careful routine where workers had to constantly protect themselves from radiation exposure. They spent most of their day at work putting on and taking off each protective clothing layer. The items worn by them included hazmat suits, gloves, boots and filtered masks. The transport was usually buses and vans, but even those were covered with plastic, inside and out.

Workers at the site were apprehensive to talk to reporters about their conditions, fearing that they would lose their jobs if their bosses found out they did. Tokyo Electric Power Co. rarely provides media access to the inner areas of the plant, besides the orchestrated tours.

With the release of this manga, titled ‘1F: The Labor Diary of Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant’ Tatsuta offers the world a hidden perspective of the the disaster and resulting consequences for the people. Needless to say, the book would take a lot of time to decommission, meaning that people will have access to the story and frame their opinions accordingly, before the Japanese government can rectify the situation.

The story is enhanced with drawings of damaged reactors, and focuses on the minute aspects of life that workers at the site go through every day, from sweat in gloves, to an itch in one’s nose that one cannot attend to due to the mask. He also depicts the rest area, where the workers are at ease. Here too, though there is enough to eat and drink, the toilets do not flush. Tatsuya also writes about how workers cope with these conditions with casual remarks. His drawings showed the grounds and how they were laid out, in addition to how they worked and travelled to different parts of the site.

The opening episode of ‘1F’ was published in a popular manga magazine, and won a ‘newcomer’ award. This has led to the creation of more episodes, and these will be in a book launched by Japanese publisher Kodansha Ltd. The publishers plan on turning ‘1F’ into a series.

He said that though his work held the same perils as construction work, he and other workers never felt physical danger, because radiation is not seen. Though he does not wish to glorify the workers, he insisted that they be paid higher than the current ¥8,000 (which is about $80).

Tatsuta is a pseudonym, and the 49-year old asked that his real name be withheld due to fear that he would not be allowed to work at the plant in the future. According to him, his book was not a call to take a side in the debate on nuclear power, but a simple story about the workers’ lives. Tokyo Electric Power Co. declined to comment on the book, though they had gone through it.