Artist sorry for nuclear-themed statue in city devastated by 2011 meltdown

The artwork "Sun Child" by Japanese artist Kenji Yanobe is displayed outside a cultural facility in Fukushima, Japan, on Tuesday. Photo courtesy of Jiji Press/EPA-EFE

Aug. 15 (UPI) — A Japanese artist who created a 20-foot statue of a child wearing a protective suit has apologized after residents of Fukushima, where the artwork was installed, complained it made the city look bad seven years after a nuclear disaster there.

The statue, titled Sun Child, depicts a stylized young boy wearing a bright yellow protective suit. He’s holding a device to detect radiation, which reads zero, and a helmet.

Artist Kenji Yanobe said the zero-reading and the fact that the child is holding his helmet instead of wearing it “symbolizes a world free of nuclear disasters.”

But residents worry how the statue might reflect on the city, which is still recovering from a 2011 earthquake and tsunami that damaged the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant and caused a core meltdown.

The earthquake and resulting tsunami killed some 18,000 people, while the nuclear disaster injured dozens and forced the evacuation of more than 150,000 people.

Some residents said the Sun Child statue reinforces negative perceptions of the city in the wake of the disaster, and implies protective clothing is still needed in the area.

Yanobe apologized last week for making people uncomfortable.

“I wanted to make a work that encourages people … and made the statue of a child standing up bravely and strongly against any difficulties it faces,” he said. “The clothing looks like protective gear, but it is also armor to confront major issues and, being like a space suit, it also carries a futuristic image.”

Fukushima Mayor Hiroshi Kohata initially supported the artwork, which was installed outside the Com-Com Children’s Creative Learning Center by the local government.

“I will listen to residents’ opinions carefully and consider what to do” with the statue, Kohata said.


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