The University of Kentucky Japan Studies program will observe the fourth anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear disaster with a free screening Wednesday of the documentary True Songs and a discussion with one of its leading participants. The program begins at 7 p.m. at the Kentucky Theater.
True Songs shows scenes from Japanese life since March 11, 2011, through dramatic readings of the late Kenji Miyazawa's classic novel, Milky Way Railroad, by several of Japan's outstanding artists. These include novelist Furukawa Hideo, who wrote the screenplay; poet Suga Keijir, musician Kojima Keitaney-Love and translator Shibata Motoyuki. The documentary was shot throughout Japan — from an ancient sake distillery to evacuation housing in Northern Japan to a railroad car in Kyoto.
Keijiro, one of the principal artists in the documentary, will lead the post-film discussion. He is a renowned Japanese poet, writer and translator; the recipient of a range of major literary awards and a professor at Tokyo's Meiji University.
Doug Slaymaker, a professor in UK's Japan Studies program, wrote subtitles for the film and described it as "a compelling rendition of a powerful stage piece performed by some of contemporary Japan's most important voices. It is also a remix of one of the most loved of Japanese tales: Miyazawa's Milky Way Railroad. Miyazawa and this tale are tied to the Fukushima area."
On March 11, 2011, a magnitude-9.0 earthquake, and a tsunami that reached heights of more than 130 feet and traveled as far as six miles inland, caused meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, the worst nuclear meltdown since Chernobyl. Nearly 16,000 people were killed, 6,000 more injured and more than 2,000 remain missing.
"Miyazawa's tale of loss and possibility, of the fabulous and the grand, has taken on special meaning following the 3/11 disasters," Slaymaker said in a news release. "In this record of the dramatic reading, mostly staged in the disaster-stricken areas, we get an intimate portrayal of the psychological and physical repercussions of the disasters."
The event is sponsored by UK's College of Arts and Sciences Department of Modern and Classical Languages, Literatures and Cultures; the Japan Program; and the International Studies Program.