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Fukushima residents complain over statue of child in radiation suit via The Guardian

Critics say artwork outside train station gives impression area is unfit for habitation

Residents of Fukushima have demanded the removal of a statue of a child in a protective suit from outside the city’s railway station, saying it gives the impression that the area is unfit for human habitation as a result of the 2011 nuclear disaster.

The statue, by Kenji Yanobe, depicts a child dressed in a yellow Hazmat-style suit, with a helmet in one hand and an artistic representation of the sun in the other.

Yanobe said his Sun Child, which was installed by the municipal government after appearing at art exhibitions in Japan and overseas, was intended to express his desire for a nuclear-free world.

The artist said he did not mean to give the impression that local children needed to protect themselves from radiation more than seven years after the Fukushima Daiichi plant became the scene of the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl.

He pointed out that the child was not wearing the helmet and that a monitor on its chest showed radiation levels at “000”.

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Others pointed out that the monitor reading of zero was misleading, since areas that have not been affected by nuclear leaks have varying levels of background radiation.

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Japan’s government hopes the 2020 Tokyo Olympics will help highlight Fukushima’s recovery from the disaster, despite the slow pace of the costly and complicated task of decommissioning Fukushima Daiichi, and concerns about radiation levels in nearby communities.

The city will host Olympic baseball and softball games and was recently chosen as the starting point for the Olympic torch relay.

The row over the statue comes as local authorities are trying to persuade families to return to evacuated neighbourhoods. Few residents have returned to cities, towns and villages where evacuation orders have been lifted, with families with young children most concerned about moving back.

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