Movie Review: 'Houri no Shima' - Things Destroyed by Nuclear Power Plants

Houri no Shima (Holy Island) (directed by Aya Hanabusa /2010) 

Things Destroyed by Nuclear Power Plants by Karin Koretsune

Iwaishima, in Yamaguchi Prefecture is a heart-shaped island located in the Seto Inland Sea.

30 years ago, a plan was drawn up to build a nuclear power plant on the shore of mainland merely 4 kilometers across the sea facing the island. Since then, the islanders continued to protest the construction of nuclear power plant.

The site for building nuclear power plants are targeted at under-populated areas considered to have no economic value. This movie depicts "things" that exist in a place considered by certain groups of people to have nothing.

Catching bream with a fishing rod is
common in Iwaishima.
“Welcome” says Mr. Shomoto,
“thank you so much for coming” 
as he reels each bream onto the boat. 
One and only female fisher on the island,
Tamiko, tells us, “The sea is our life
itself. It is our livelihood and it has
nurtured all of us.” These are the words
of people who live together with the sea.

On a mountain slope is a terraced paddy field constructed like a castle in the sky. There are piled up rocks about the height of a human being on a cliff. They were made by manpower since machines cannot enter the area. We were told that rocks were carried to the top and dropped.

The terraced paddy field took 30 years to make by Kamejiro, the grandfather of 77-year-old current rice grower, Manji Taira, who has been growing rice at this paddy since he was 7 years old.
Kamejiro predicted that this terraced paddy field will no longer be used after his grandson retires. He will not have any regrets if the paddy field becomes a moorland. “City people strive for things bigger than themselves,” says Manji who knows the limitations of human power and will not try to control nature beyond his powers.

Manji always visits his friend’s house across the road to spend the evening drinking tea together. When he dozes off, a friend will gently put a blanket over him.

There are about 200 empty houses on the island. The reason for keeping the ownership of these houses is because many people wish to return to the island after retiring from work in the cities. There’s plenty of enjoyable time to spend with people on the island.
”The life on the island is behind the times and people on the island have been abandoned by their children and grandchildren”, say some people who tries to justify building the nuclear power plant. The reality is that there are no convenience stores or museums, but there is a strong will of the people to live cooperatively with the surrounding ocean and mountains. There are also warm human ties. There are people on the island who recognize these factors as important values and have secured them.
Another documentary film about Iwaishima, Ashes to Honey (directed by Hitomi Kamanaka/ 2010) recaptures the life on the island as how our society should function in the future. We should strive for a self-sustainable society that can exist together with natural environment. Furthermore, it shows a concrete way to remove all nuclear power plants, following the footsteps of Sweden. The official site of Ashes to Honey in English can be accessed from here

For those who say nuclear power plant is the answer to new industry necessary to urbanize the rural areas that have been left behind the times, please come and see the movie, Houri no Shima and find out what the islanders have valued over the years and discover whether the people will be truly happy or not after losing the things they value.

Original article on the WAN Website dated 8/16/11   http://wan.or.jp/reading/?p=4150
Translated and Adapted by M. Doioka

No comments: