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Alone Again in Fukushima: A documentary screening and conversation

February 4, 2021 @ 7:00 pm

This spring will mark the tenth anniversary of the triple disaster that on March 11, 2011, brought an earthquake, a tsunami, and a nuclear meltdown to eastern Japan. To reflect on this anniversary, we present Alone Again in Fukushima, a documentary about Matsumura Naoto, a man who chose to remain behind when his hometown was evacuated along with the rest of the area around the damaged Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. This is the second documentary that filmmaker Nakamura Mayu has made to profile Matsumura’s life in the nuclear zone. While the first film documented Mr. Matsumura’s solitary life with a variety of animals—from cats and dogs to livestock, this sequel explores how things have changed (or not) in Mr. Matsumura’s hometown over the course of eight years since the disaster as some residents have begun return.

Registrants for this event will receive a link to watch Alone Again in Fukushima before our February 4th event (English subtitles provided). We then invite all participants to bring their questions as they join us on February 4th for a broad-ranging conversation with Nakamura Mayu, Matsumura Naoto, and Barbara R. Ambros, Professor and Chair of Religious Studies at UNC. Together, our panelists will discuss some of the central questions that this documentary raises: What does a disaster like this reveal about the fragility of human dominance over the natural world, and what wisdom can we draw from it as we move forward into the 21st century? What responsibility do humans have towards animals, especially during moments of crisis? What do Matsumura’s experiences in the nuclear zone show us about the human capacity for resilience, especially during a pandemic that has forced solitude upon many of us? This conversation will be moderated by Joanna Sierks Smith, Associate Director for State Outreach at Carolina Public Humanities.



Mayu Nakamura is a filmmaker who earned her MFA from the Graduate Film Program at New York University. She made her directorial debut with a fiction feature film, Summer of Stickleback (2006 Busan International Film Festival), followed by documentary features including Lonely Swallows – Living as the Children of Migrant Workers (2012), Alone in Fukushima (2015 Montreal World Film Festival) and Watch Out for the Patriot – Kunio Suzuki (2020). In addition to Alone Again in Fukushima, her latest work is a fiction feature film, Intimate Stranger (2021).


Naoto Matsumura spent most of his life in his native town of Tomioka in Fukushima Prefecture. He worked in construction business for many years and was involved in the constructions of Fukushima First and Second Nuclear Power Plants. At the time of the nuclear disaster, he decided to remain in his home. He went around the town and found abandoned cats, dogs, and cows, and started feeding them. In 2017, the town of Tomioka announced that it was safe to return, but only elderly people have done so.


Barbara R. Ambros is a professor in East Asian Religions in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her research on Japanese Religions has focused on human-animal relationships, gender studies, and place and space. She has been serving as the co-chair of the Animals and Religion Unit of the American Academy of Religion since 2014. Her publications include Bones of Contention: Animals and Religion in Contemporary Japan (University of Hawai‘i Press, 2012), and Buddhist Beasts: Reflections on Animals in Asian Religions and Culture (2019; a special issue of Religion co-edited with Reiko Ohnuma). She is currently working on book project on Buddhist animal-release rituals in early modern Japan.



Joanna Sierks Smith is the Associate Director for State Outreach at Carolina Public Humanities, where she helps to facilitate publicly-engaged scholarship around the state. She is also a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In her research, she traces shifting sensibilities around nature, violence, and animality in American religious history. She is currently finishing a dissertation that examines the sacrificial dimensions of contemporary hog slaughter in North Carolina.


February 4, 2021
7:00 pm
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Carolina Asia Center
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The Carolina Asia Center supports diverse Asia-related events. However, CAC co-sponsorship of any talk, seminar, documentary screening, film screening, performance or celebration does not constitute endorsement of or agreement with the views presented therein. As an academic institution, we value diverse perspectives that promote dialogue and understanding.

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