Share Tweet Pocket Add to Bookmarks
You're reading: Nuclear family bonds

Japanese cherry blossoms radiate from the ghostly figure, dressed in what might be a shroud, or perhaps a gown, adorned with traditional Ukrainian embroidery. The new installation in the lobby of Ukraine’s Chernobyl Museum entwines the two nations with a poem about Kiev’s chestnut trees embracing Japan’s sakura like a sad and worried brother.

Below it, a pair of French backpackers and a trio of Turks watch a video loop replaying the serial explosions that rocked the Fukushima Daichi nuclear plant after Japan’s March 11th earthquake and tsunami triggered the worst nuclear disaster since Unit 4 at the Chernobyl Atomic Energy Station (named after V.I. Lenin, naturally) exploded 25 years ago.
It seems ironic that the video screen bears the logo of Japan’s foreign development agency – a red sun hugging a blue globe. In 2010, Japan gave $74,000 to improve the museum’s displays, including touch screens and DVD players. Now, it is like a funhouse mirror, with the Japanese DVD players intended for showing scenes of the Soviet nuclear disaster 60 miles north of Kiev in what is now Ukraine showing scenes of the disaster in Japan instead.

Japan has supported Chernobyl studies and projects in Ukraine for years. Though one people suffered from the Bomb, and the other, a civilian nuclear plant explosion, both were bound by scars of the atomic age. That both, after Fukushima, are now also victims of the “peaceful atom” is almost getting weird. No two peoples could seem further apart in their stereotypes than the productive and dutiful Japanese from the ne’er do wells of post-Soviet Ukraine.

Exclusive article

Sign up or subscribe to view more articles.
See All Plans
Monthly plan
Get unlimited article access, anytime, anywhere.

Yearly plan
Access all the exclusive content on and the complete online archive.

Add comment

Sorry, you must be logged in to post a comment.

Add a picture
Choose file
Add a quote

Are you sure you want to delete your comment?


Are you sure you want to delete all user's comments?


Are you sure you want to unapprove user's comment?


Are you sure you want to move to spam user's comment?


Are you sure you want to move to trash user's comment?

Spelling error report

The following text will be sent to our editors: