Nobuko Adachi wins Japanese government fellowship to study Fukushima festival
Illinois State University’s Nobuko Adachi, professor of sociology and anthropology, has been awarded a Japan Foundation Research Fellowship from the Japanese government. She was awarded $15,000 to aid in her research of a local festival in Fukushima, Japan. Granted to only a few researchers annually, Adachi won the award for the North American section. The goal of this fellowship is to encourage the study of Japan and its culture, and to build a better understanding between Japan and the United States while fostering peace.
Adachi plans to study the embracing of a local horse festival in creating ties for Fukushima in the years following a crisis. Fukushima was an area greatly impacted by the earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan on March 11, 2011. Known as 3.11, the events damaged the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor, and forced the evacuation of tens of thousands from the area surrounding the reactor.
Much like foreign refugees, the people evacuated from Fukushima faced discrimination due to Japan’s radiation-phobic culture. “They were sometimes seen as ‘dirty’ or ‘polluted’—somehow retaining contamination. This goes back to the final days of World War II, when radiation sickness from Hiroshima and Nagasaki was prevalent. These images are still alive in minds of Japanese today, even the younger generations,” said Adachi who added, “The former Fukushima residents would be harassed by the locals in the areas to which they were relocated, their children would be bullied in their schools, and cars with Fukushima license plates were damaged.”
Adachi sees the horse festival in the city of Soma in Fukushima as a way for some of those affected by the nuclear disaster to reclaim their heritage and community. Residents held their traditional festival just four months after the 3.11 disaster despite it being in the evacuation zone. Only 50 horses participated compared to the usual 700 from years prior. “The festival helps form social networks among the victims of 3.11, and creates nostalgia for a pre-3.11 hometown,” said Adachi.
Adachi asserts officially-designated, intangible, cultural assets are being used by the residents in the constructing, and reconstructing, of a community identity. During her months in Fukushima, Adachi will study the festival, visit horse farms in the areas, and work with riders in Soma, Iidate, and Okuma who once faced evacuation. “Festivals such as these, recreated every year, can change and adapt to the needs of the people due to major shifts in politics, economics, or physical and environmental changes, such as those experienced in Fukushima in 2011,” said Adachi.