It begins with a question, “Do you think the radiation is heavy here?”This film was inspired by a composition by Toru Takemitsu, called “Air,” whose melodies capture a meta-narrative of this film, an uncertainty over the crowded streets of Tokyo’s colorful metropolis, which lingers in the city of Fukushima even more vividly.
This film was inspired by a composition by Toru Takemitsu, called “Air,” whose melodies capture a meta-narrative of this film, an uncertainty over the crowded streets of Tokyo’s colorful metropolis, which lingers in the city of Fukushima even more vividly. “air” is an homage to Abbas Kiarostami and his Koker trilogy with its theme, the preciousness of life. As in Kiarostami’s films, “air” takes places in a taxi on the devastated roads in Fukushima after the nuclear disaster in 2011. The intimate conversations with a 66-year-old taxi driver wander through various topics about the current state of Fukushima, the 9.11 event, the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, radiation and so on. “air” is not meant as comprehensive research on the situation in Fukushima, but it is an intimate testimony of an inescapable fact of life after disaster. The shooting of “air” was done improvisationally within two weeks of my stay in Japan traveling from Tokyo, Fukushima to Hiroshima. While expecting to interview a taxi driver who’d drive me to different parts of Fukushima prefecture, actually meeting Mr. Yasuichi Tochitsubo was as random as catching the next cab at taxi stop. However, it is his character that gives joy to such heavy issues and we ended up bonding and laughing on the journey. Mr. Tochitsubo ended up telling me that I do not have to pay at all for a trip that is worth probably about $500 (traveling in a taxi is luxurious in Japan), since as a local resident he enjoyed me and perhaps my intention of discovering what it’s like in Fukushima now. Of course, I did pay $300–slightly lower than what it probably cost. It was his generosity that made the film alive. We traveled through radiation heavy zones to places where we had no idea of how bad the radiation was. Of course, I forgot to bring my friend’s Geiger counter that day, and without it, there’s no way of knowing radiation levels, since most of the places were totally unmonitored by the government or police and had no sign or alert. This is a silence forced on citizens that I wanted to express, silence of not knowing, silence of not having ample information, for though we cannot see radiation at all with our eyes, it can very well be in the air. As I came back to my hometown in Hiroshima, I noticed the vast difference in mood from eastern to western Japan, though Fukushima and Hiroshima are both cites that have experienced nuclear disaster. In Hiroshima, I have been working on various projects with Dr. Horiguchi, a caretaker of trees that survived the atomic bombing and when I am there, I usually shoot some footage of him for future film projects. As I was filming him and Yuso who is growing one of these trees, I was struck by a vision, a connection possibly to draw an imaginative gesture of hope in my film to an unsolvable situation.