Date of Completion


Document Type

Honors College Thesis



Thesis Type

College of Arts and Science Honors, Honors College

First Advisor

Erik Esselstrom


Japanese Art, Fukushima, Nuclear Disaster, Collective Memory


I would like to briefly outline the core interpretive assertions associated with each analytical section of my paper. Beginning with art from the postwar era, I explore how Japanese artists use their work surrounding the atomic bomb to convey themes such as that of hope for recovery and for a peaceful future. While artists from the postwar era undoubtedly worked to represent and memorialize the suffering of atomic bomb victims, there remains an underlying depiction in their artwork of a Japanese society that comes together in the face of nuclear disaster and forges toward a peaceful tomorrow.

Moving into post-Fukushima art as representation, my findings indicate a thematic shift away from hope and peace and instead toward a nuanced depiction of the disparity between the corporations responsible for nuclear power plant disasters and the rural communities most affected by them. While Japanese society’s ability to come together in the face of nuclear disaster remains a common theme, post-Fukushima art as representation explores the ways in which rural communities have been disproportionately affected by the disaster, pulling away from the idea of a totally unified front.

Finally, my analysis of post-Fukushima art as protest demonstrates the most drastic shift away from themes found in postwar nuclear disaster-related art. Themes in this section implicate Japanese society itself as an agent of the Fukushima nuclear disaster. While protest-art from both the postwar era and the post-Fukushima era points an accusatory finger at the government and big corporations, post-Fukushima work suggests that Japanese society is complicit in creating the socio-political environment in which the Fukushima meltdown could happen. This thematic evolution is not only a reflection of a changing artistic tradition in Japan, but it also reflects a changing Japanese society. Leaning on Connerton’s definition of collective memory, I claim that changing themes in nuclear disaster-related art reflects how Japanese society is more acutely aware of the disparate plight of rural communities living around nuclear power plants and of its own responsibility for nuclear disaster than it was before Fukushima.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.