Shimpei Takeda


Trace #7 (NIhonmatsu Castle), Silver Gelatin Print

From December 31st, 2011 to January 8th, 2012, the “Trace” crew collected 16 soil samples from  12 locations. These locations were in distinctly different neighborhoods, in five different prefectures. I carried radiation meters with me during the entire trip.  As I traveled to my birthplace in Fukushima, my parents’ house in suburban Tokyo, where I grew up, and to all the memorial places we visited, I found these places all to be contaminated, albeit in different degrees.  Although I was aware of this previously from data visualization maps, looking at the raised numbers on my Geiger counter as I traveled to these locations confirmed this to me, sadly.

From December 31st, 2011 to January 8th, 2012, the “Trace” crew collected 16 soil samples from  12 locations. These locations were in distinctly different neighborhoods, in five different prefectures. I carried radiation meters with me during the entire trip.  As I traveled to my birthplace in Fukushima, my parents’ house in suburban Tokyo, where I grew up, and to all the memorial places we visited, I found these places all to be contaminated, albeit in different degrees.  Although I was aware of this previously from data visualization maps, looking at the raised numbers on my Geiger counter as I traveled to these locations confirmed this to me, sadly.  Since the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster occurred, I’ve studied the effects of radiation on humans intensively. Hiroshima and Nagasaki’s nuclear bombs, numerous nuclear weapons testing, in the atmosphere and underwater, and the Chernobyl disaster—these events created enough guinea pigs to fill the reports on the effects. Visiting contaminated areas and seeing the number rising on radiation meters, it sometimes made my heart beat fast. But, ironically once you ignore the numbers, you just become aware of the beautiful country’s landscape spread in front of you.

This is why I wanted to visualize this nuclear disaster in my artistic processes. 16 soil samples have been stored with 8×10 B/W sheet films in a light-tight enclosure individually now. The exposure will be an exact month, and I will develop the film on February 12th to find out how the Fukushima disaster has created the Trace.  


One response

  1. Dear Shimpei,

    I am thrilled to be attending the Sunday event, The Great East Japan Earthquake: Creative Responses & Social Imagination at Barnard College. I am an adjunct professor of Psychology at Teachers College who was in Japan last March 9-14 on a mission to Tohoku, specifically Sendai with the Recovery Assistance Center of Miyagi. My music composing partner, composer Russell Daisey and I were honored to attend the classical performance of our healing song “Towers of Light” at Yamaha Hall in Tokyo on the evening of March 11, 2012 sung by the stellar soprano, Tomoko Shibata.

    The next day, March 12, rockstar Shinji Harada, Miss Shibata, Russell Daisey and I traveled to Sendai and gave four events with resilience building exercises, music and art at four elementary schools as well as performing for adult survivors in temporary housing in Sendai over two days. We have an ongoing relationship with the Recovery Assistance Center of Miyagi having created a Gallery show of the brilliant work of art called The Scroll For Japan at the Art Students League of New York in May with proceeds going back to Miyagi.

    Russell Daisey and I look forward to meeting you on Sunday and hope to be able to collaborate on future projects together in this regard with you in the future. Below is an article or two for you to better understand our work in Japan specifically over the last seven years as well as our many efforts post 3/11/11. Thank you,

    Dr. Judy Kuriansky 917-224-5839   

    On the SECOND ANNIVERSARY of the tragic Japan tsunami/earthquake:
    Psychologist and trauma expert Dr. Judy Kuriansky encourages more recognition of the lasting emotional aftereffects of the tragedy.
    On the first anniversary of the tragedy, Dr. Judy led a mission in Japan, in the most devastated area of Sendai, presenting workshops with music and stress reduction techniques for children. She saw first-hand the emotional suffering of the children and adults. 
    “While much outpouring of support was initially offered to the survivors, this support dwindles over time,” Dr. Judy says, “When research shows it is most needed.
    “Anniversary dates are crucial times to revive this international show of support,” says Dr. Judy who does psychological first aide around the world and teaches the Columbia University Teachers College. She has written about “anniversary reactions,” emotional re-living of the trauma especially on the year marking of the date of the tragic event, and after events like Hurricane Katrina, 9/11 and the Haiti earthquake.
    “Research proves that emotional reactions for everyone including the Japanese people, ranging from fears, depression, loneliness, desolation, anger, will be intensified this Monday, March 11, on the 2nd anniversary of the Japan tragedy,” says Dr. Judy. 
    AVAILABLE: for interview about anniversary reactions, and the mission that she did in Japan.
    ALSO AVAILABLE: never-before-seen video of the techniques used to help children and adults cope.
    The mission involved teaching children stress-reduction techniques used by Dr. Judy worldwide after disasters around the globe, and music by international composer Russell Daisey, Japanese rock star Shinji Harada and opera diva Tomoko Shibata.  
    After natural disasters, people want to know how to deal with their emotions,” says dr. Judy, “but the most common questions they also ask are ‘Why did this disaster happen’ and ‘Will it happen again?’”
    For this reason, in her new book, “Living in an Environmentally Traumatized World: Healing Ourselves and Our Planet,” psychologists and scientists come together for the first time to help survivors understand the science of weather and why natural disasters happen, as well as how to cope emotionally. 
    Reports describing Dr. Judy’s mission in Japan is at:

    *  (see below)
    Part 22 p 125-133
    “感謝 Kansha”: Psychological healing is appreciated on an American mission to Japan on the 3/11 anniversary
    A young Japanese girl at a junior high school tells me cannot sleep since the 3/11 earthquake because of nightmares about the earth shaking.
    A mother of an elementary school child worries daily when her children go to school that another tsunami will come, and they will be killed in a school collapse or trapped on the rooftop as happened to children last year.
    A junior high school teacher gets nightly flashbacks of houses and people he saw being swallowed up by the tsunami waters.
    My heart ached hearing this pain and loss on the one year anniversary of the tragic 3/11 tsunami/earthquake in northern Japan that claimed  the lives of thousands of people and left thousands more mourning the loss of loved ones, homes and livelihood.
    I had come to the disaster zone of the Miyagi prefecture for many reasons. I had been to Japan many years before (giving lectures, doing my radio show live, writing books and doing television stories for NHK and Fox News).  I respect and cherish the people, their culture and country.  The two countries, America and Japan, had already formed a bond of friendship in “Operation Friends” (Tomodachi Sakusen), a United States Armed Forces assistance project to support Japan after 3/11. Further, I thought I could be helpful since I had done so much disaster relief over many years in so many countries.
    Many people said the Japanese people would not be receptive to psychological help, because of their reserved culture, shame to reveal “weaknesses,” and stigma that might prevent them from getting a job.  However, at this one year marker, I found otherwise; everyone was welcoming, and enthusiastic to learn simple psychological healing techniques.
    My on-the-ground local NPO partner, the Recovery Assistance Center of Migayi (, had set up “performances” for schools and interviews with students, parents and teachers.

    The “performance” consisted of musical concerts by two of my Japanese friends sandwiching a session of my teaching simple psychological techniques for healing. 
    The techniques are a selection from the toolbox I have developed over years of working post-trauma around the world, chosen to suit the culture, time allotted (up to15 minutes) and the situation (in this case, hundreds of young students sitting in chairs in a huge gymnasium).  The techniques had to be easily understood, done individually or in pairs, within a confined space and simple enough for them to teach their peers.   

    The techniques also follow psychological principles of what is needed post-trauma: feeling safe, empowered, strong and hopeful, with a little fun added in, to lighten their spirits and get them actively interacting.
    For strength, I asked them to make an OK sign with the thumb and forefinger of one hand and to try to “break through” the circle with the finger of the other hand, and then to imagine the OK circle bonded as glue so the other finger cannot break through.  This experience is symbolic that their spirit cannot be broken. 

    The children made sounds of glee and kept repeating the exercise, showing it to each other.  It appeared to be a success.
    In another strength exercise, they were asked to imagine being a leaf, easily blown over by the wind, and then feel the contrast of imagining being as solid as a tree, so nothing could move them.
    Breathing is key to recovery.  In a technique used by Buddhist monks, I asked the children to raise their arms waist high and then lower them as they exhaled loudly, resting in quiet (meditation) at the end, feeling their energy. 
    This build-up of energy led to a safety exercise whereby they criss-cross their hands on their heart while saying “I am safe,” then turn to a partner next to them, saying, “You are safe,” and lastly turning to the group, saying, “We are safe. All of Japan is safe.” 
    For fun at the end, I throw a tennis ball with the words “My dream is…” to a child who catches it and recites his dream to the group. This child then throws the ball to another who says his or her dream and so on.
    “I want to be the President of a big company,” said one boy.  The group cheered and I told him, “I know you will be.”
    The little girl who caught it next said, “I want a big house.”
    The next catcher said, “I want to be a musician.” The group giggled in joy at each answer and about the game.
    “Japanese children are not used to such active games that also teach them,” one teacher told me (which I already knew).  “They thought they would have a lecture but you have brought them many interesting things to do, with such big energy, that they are enjoying while learning.”
    “We are so pleased that this combination of activities worked out so perfectly for the schools,” said my new NPO collaboration partner, Go Osaka, of the Recovery Assistance Center of Miyagi. “This proves how Japanese and Americans can work together to help the children.”   
    The singing provided a wonderful context for the exercises.  Setting the stage was my good friend, Japanese pop star Shinji Harada, whose autograph many of the mothers wanted (I often refer to him as the “Beatles of Japan”).  He sang a song written for the occasion, “Our Wish for Recovery” and one of my favorites “Yamato” about global harmony.  Like a pro, he encouraged the kids to do “call and response” and to sing louder.  To their glee, I brought some students on stage to join him and encourage the others. My other Japanese musician friend, opera star Tomoko Shibata sang “Amazing Grace,” a Japanese favorite, and the Japanese version of the 9/11 “Towers of Light” healing song I co-wrote, that Tomoko had translated into Japanese for 3/11 healing, now renamed “Souls Become Stars.” She was accompanied by my best friend, international composer and singer/songwriter Russell Daisey, my partner in this and other healing projects  worldwide.

    In a final psychological aspect of the mini-workshop, the kids decorated messages of hope on cranes, a typical Japanese symbol of healing  and hope during challenging times, that were folded by the mothers during the performance.  I explained that as part of our “Global Kids Connect Project” these cranes will be brought to Haiti and given to kids there who also suffered an earthquake. The Haiti kids will then decorate objects to go back to their new Japanese friends.

    The circle of caring fulfills psychological principles of comfort by holding a meaningful object and by knowing you are not alone in trauma.
    We have also included American kids in the exchange circle, at a New York elementary school and at St. Luke’s Hospital (where I did my internship), since those children were experiencing the trauma of the 10th anniversary of 9/11.
    At each departure, there were many “thank you’s.”
     “ ありがとうございます.” Arigato gozaimasu, the kids, teachers and mothers, repeated in Japanese.
     “Thank you, thank you,” we returned.
    I’ve heard “Thank you” said in trauma zones all over the world.  Survivors say “Thank you for coming, for caring about me” and visitors say “Thank you for having us. Thank you for sharing. Thank you for your courage in going on.” 
    Russell and I spontaneously sang the refrain of a song we wrote for Japan and performed in Shinji’s peace concerts many times. The kids joyously joined in.
    The words mean “thank you” in Japanese; the notion of “appreciation” is one I learned from my many years spent in Japan and from the principle of Japanese Naikan therapy where you spend hours alone in a room, saying “thank you” symbolically to every one and every thing in your life, as an antidote to feeling anxious, angry or unappreciated.
    The refrain goes: “緒に感謝しましょう.”  “Issho ni Kanshashimasho. Isho ni Kansha-shimasho. Isho ni Kansha-shimasho.”
    The ending is very fast and punchy: “Kansha-shimasho!”

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