A Japanese philosophy professor and cultural critic has stirred up controversy with a call for Fukushima to be made a tourist attraction.
The best way to “make sure the memories of the disaster don’t fade away,” Hiroki Azuma tells the Asahi Shimbun, is promote the destroyed No 1 Nuclear Power Plant as “a sightseeing spot”.
He proposes that a nearby disused sports facility should be converted into “an immense visitor centre for both amusement and education”, which would “allow people to tour the plant as the cleanup work continues”.
Opponents say that Azuma has no personal stake in the fate of Fukushima, and so should avoid “butting in”, reports the newspaper.
But he contends that Chernobyl, which eventually developed a museum and embraced visitors after years of “dark tourism” shows the value of such an approach.
It wasn’t about “building a theme part on a disaster site,” he tells the Asahi Shimbun, but encouraging “a complete disclosure of information”.
The UK Daily Telegraph in a report from August, has more detail on the proposal supported by Azuma:
Tourists will be able to check into hotels that have been constructed to protect guests from elevated levels of radiation that are still to be found in pockets in the area. The village will also have restaurants and souvenir shops, as well as a museum dedicated to the impact the disaster has had on local people …
Dressed in protective suits and wearing respirators, tourists will be able to take photos of the shattered reactor buildings and the workers who are still trying to render the reactors safe.
It wasn’t about “building a theme part on a disaster site,” Azuma tells the Asahi Shimbun, but encouraging “a complete disclosure of information”.
For the survivors of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, he says, “their greatest fear is that memories of the accident will fade”, while they note “the therapeutic effort and self-affirmation talking about their experience in the disaster gave them”.
And the import goes wider than that, he says. A tourist attraction also operates as a sort of warning. “This accident doesn’t just affect Fukushima, it affects all of humanity.”