By Ian Ash ’00
When I came to Japan to teach English one month after graduating from Plattsburgh in 2000, it was “only for a year.” That was twelve years ago.
On March 11, 2011, the unimaginable happened in my adopted home: not only the earthquake and tsunami, but also the nuclear meltdown that would grip the world and cause wide-spread panic here in Japan.
People fled Fukushima and the surrounding areas. Some scenarios had the radiation spreading as far Tokyo, which lies some 140 miles away from Fukushima, so many people evacuated the capital as well.
|Filmmaker Ian Ash ’00 in front of Champlain Valley Hall during a recent visit to campus.|
The first day of the crisis it didn’t even occur to me to film, and it took the urging of my brother-in-law for me to begin to document the situation in Tokyo. Once I had the camera in my hand, it was almost as if I was no longer a part of the chaos; that the scheduled power cuts and panic buying that caused a lack of bottled water and toilet paper were not affecting me, but rather the people I was documenting.
In the beginning, I promised my family that I would remain filming in Tokyo and not head north. But as the nuclear crises grew worse and I learned that there were still children who had not been evacuated from the 30 km radiation zone, I simply felt that I had to go there and document what was happening.
People have asked me why I remained here after March 11, but I don’t really have a great answer. It simply didn’t occur to me to leave my home.
After graduating from SUNY Plattsburgh with a degree in English in 2000, Ian Thomas Ash taught English in Japan through the Japan Exchange in Teaching Program from 2000 to 2003. He earned an M.A. in Filmmaking from the University of Bristol, UK, in 2005, and returned to Japan where he currently lives in Tokyo and is a freelance documentary filmmaker. More information about Ian and his work can be found on his website www.DocumentingIan.com where links to his personal blog and short documentaries about March 11 can be found. “In the Grey Zone,” Ian’s feature documentary about the children living in the Fukushima radiation zone, will have its U.S. premier in competition in August.
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