Will No. 1 reactor at Fukushima become a future tourist spot?

TOKYO —

Paying visits to historic places where death and suffering occurred is known as “dark tourism.” After taking note that in 2011, or 25 years after the accident, the Chernobyl reactor site has become open to general tourism, a group of individuals in Japan, J-Cast News (Aug 1) reports, is attempting to lay the groundwork for plans to make the No. 1 reactor at the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant a tourist spot.

The group includes author-critic Hiroki Azuma, tourism scholar Akira Ide, artist Kazuki Umezawa, media activist Daisuke Tsuda, sociologist Hiroshi Kainuma, editor Kenro Hayamizu and architect Ryuji Fujimura.

Along with providing a venue to convey their own histories to future generations, the members aim for the activities to be useful in aiding in recovery of the affected areas.

At this stage, the project team is starting preparations, such as considering what facilities should be built and what the displayed items should convey. One blueprint being discussed calls for a “Fukushima Gate Village” with overnight accommodations to be built at a distance of around 20 kilometers from the reactor, after first ascertaining that radiation levels are within the margin of safety. The complex would also incorporate a museum with exhibits related to the 3/11 reactor disaster, research facilities for renewable energy, and others. The village would also serve as the jump-off point for tours to “site zero,” the damaged reactor, where visitors will be able to snap photos and view cleanup operations in progress.

Ideas for the village were drawn up after Azuma, Kainuma and Tsuda made detailed studies of the Chernobyl site, which they jointly published in Volume 4-1 of the scholarly journal “Shisou Chizu Beta.”

One of the potential stumbling blocks for such a project is consideration of the feelings of families of victims who died in the Great East Japan Earthquake, who are no means in agreement about how they want their tragedy to be remembered. For example, the “Miracle Pine” that remained standing in Rikuzentakata in Iwate Prefecture faced little opposition, as residents were in agreement to support its preservation as a symbol of courage and resilience. But in other communities, residents are said to be far from agreement on what to do with such symbols of the tragedy as the disaster management office of Minami-sanriku and the Kadowaki primary school building in Ishinomaki, the respective costs for preservation of which are estimated to exceed 100 million yen.

In the minds of Japanese, say the planners, such places would eventually be viewed as serving both to mourn the dead and to visit a famous historical spot, much the same as Hiroshima and Nagasaki are treated today.

Unfortunately, antenna shops set up in Tokyo to sell local produce from the three prefectures of Tohoku most damaged by the quake are said to be declining in consumer appeal. As memories of the disaster begin to fade, one of the few ways to support these areas will be through promotion of dark tourism.

A footnote: The notion of dark tourism is by no means new. Last April, the BBNews site of wire service AFP introduced “8 dark places to visit.” Yahoo! News and the BBC sites have their own lists. Some of the best known destinations include Paris’s largest cemetery, the Pere Lachaise Cemetery; Ground Zero in Manhattan, New York; World War One battlefields in Ypres, Belgium; Auschwitz-Birkenau, site of the largest extermination camp in World War Two, in Oswiecim, Poland; the Old Melbourne Gaol
 in Melbourne, Australia, where legendary desperado Ned Kelly was hanged; the Titanic Museum
 in Belfast, Northern Ireland, located on the slipways where RMS Titanic was built; and the Hiroshima Peace Museum. At Choeung Ek
in near Phnom Penh, Cambodia, the best known of Cambodia’s “Killing Fields,” the bones and teeth of Khmer Rouge victims still litter the site.

  • 8

    BertieWooster

    Become a tourist hot spot?

    The tourists wearing anti-radiation suits?

  • -1

    Greta Meilande

    I think yes. The same thing happened to Chernobyl. And maybe Japanese will make a game, like S.T.AL.K.E.R., only about Fukushima!

  • 3

    AKBfan

    Hotspot is a good description. I guess they have to get it under control first - maybe in 50 years or so?

  • 1

    TokyoTanuki

    I seriously doubt it, why would anyone want to go there? Any operational reactor would be more interesting. By the time it is safe to go there it will be nothing more than a heap of crumbling concrete, scaffolding and panel surounded by wilderness.

  • 1

    Dennis Bauer

    Like in Fallout 3 they could start Nuka Cola? Or an amusement park?

  • 2

    anahorn

    I suppose Chernobyl is attracting tourists mostly because of the dead city Pripyat, not because of the reactor #4 itself. The same in Japan - probably people would visit some abandoned villages within the no-go area, it could be interesting after 25 years.

  • 2

    NeonFraction

    Disasters do get a lot of interest. Speaking of, did you know an Australian businessman is building a replica of the Titanic? There will be some changes, though. Lifeboats come to mind.

  • 7

    JoshuYaki

    I probably will get a lot of "bad" votes for saying this but, the east coast of japan is due for another gigantic earthquake. Shouldn't we be focusing on removing the radioactive waste before we invite gawkers to come as tourists? Chernobyl and Pripyat are on fairly seismically stable ground so it's apples & oranges different.

  • 6

    gaijinfo

    Paying visits to historic places where death and suffering occurred is known as “dark tourism.”

    Or in the case of the A-bomb dome in Hiroshima, "victim tourism"

  • -1

    CrazyJoe

    As time passes, as decontamination progresses and memories fade, the time will come when Fukushima's Daiichi nuclear power plant will become a target for tourism. Humans are creatures of curiosity.

  • 3

    Farmboy

    Sure, and in the educational exhibit, they can play, "It's a Small World After All" while showing the outflows of radioactive water and radioactive marine life throughout Japan and the rest of the world.

    Nah, okay, I think it's nuts, and I'm with JoshuYaki above about focussing on the current problem.

  • 7

    Disillusioned

    Well, at the rate of failure currently shown by TEPCO it could be another hundred years before anyone could get in there. How about they stop pipe dreaming and get the bloody thing under control!

  • 3

    cracaphat

    Sure it can... if you're ready to die or have a death wish or both.

  • 4

    Scrote

    Come to Fukushima Cancer Park! Lose your hair, go sterile or develop tumours: there's something for everyone.

    I can't see it catching on myself.

  • 5

    The_True

    yeah sure!

    by the year 4000

  • 1

    squeeks

    Yup, because I want to have cancer before I'm 30, drink radioactive water, eat contaminated fish, and watch TEPCO pretend like they are doing something past saying, "Oh, yea, emergency", all while taking pictures and staying in a lovely resort.

  • 1

    Paul Richards

    Become a tourist 'glowboy'. Yeah really good idea.

  • 0

    nyunt_shwe

    Weather it's going to become a tourist spot or not, the TEPCO should shut it down completely and make it sure it's totally sealed. If TEPCO doesn't do it, then, the Government must do it on behalf of all Japanese and all world's citizens. Sea creatures are already poisoned and a lot of them will effect the consumers of seafood in Japan and the countries those imported Japanese seafood. There is no reason not to shut down if the TEPCO and the ABE government are people oriented.

  • 2

    technosphere

    First, they have to fix it completely, then create plans about "tourism". Soviets made enormous efforts to fix the problem. TEPCO is doing nothing to compare.

  • 0

    Ranger_Miffy2

    I hope there would be a "Baseless Rumors" display...

  • 0

    Farmboy

    Decorative vials of genuine Fukushima water might be a "hot" seller. Hmmm. Maybe a good Ebay item...

  • 0

    Ash Edwards

    The idea for the village was published in a scholarly journal which means no one will actually read it much less act on it.

  • 0

    WhyBombUs

    Today, the leaking of 300 tons of radioactive water PER DAY into the ocean is making headline news here in Australia. Yet, it appears that fantasy regarding the event and whole area still reigns? Please, please, please get serious about this.

  • -2

    Jason Santana

    I'm tire of hearing about all this fukushima crap on here and on TV. There is no danger. People who refused to leave are still there. They haven't died. There's no large amounts of cancer going around. There's no babies being born with 3 heads. The radioactivity in the water is easily dissipated because WATER ABSORBS RADIATION but most of it is only extremely low levels of cesium which only lasts 2 weeks until it's gone. You receive more radiation from an international flight to New York.

  • -1

    Neo_Rio

    One thing's for certain... Dai-ichi will outlast the pyramids.

  • 0

    Ranger_Miffy2

    No. It won't.

  • 0

    presto345

    Seeking out places where death has struck and turn them in tourist centers. It gives me the creeps.

  • -2

    Gaijin Desi

    oh yes and will see number of Radioactive ONSEN through out Fukushima

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