Beauty meets beast in east Fukushima

A feral ostrich is staring at a Hula dancer.  The heavily made up Hula girl is standing at the side of an empty road wearing a radiation suit.  Curious, the 7 foot tall ostrich starts loping towards her.  She gets scared.  “Abunai” (danger), she warns the film crew following her.

Omori-san dancing with Hula girls. Image taken from

I watched this bizarre incident on a Tokyo cinema screen yesterday.

The Hula dancer is called Omori-san, and she`s a beauty, in my amateur opinion.  Until March this year, she lived just 2km from the Fukushima nuclear plant.  Her abandoned family home now lies deep inside the 20km exclusion zone. 

The ostrich is a runaway from an abandoned ostrich farm built near the plant.  Ostrich farm?  Why is there an ostrich farm near the nuclear plant?  Because TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company)provided one.  

The ostrich is the mascot of the plant.  Why ostrich?  Ostriches produce a lot of energy from a little food, and nuclear power produces a lot of energy from a little fuel.  Well, I hope that makes sense to you, it doesn`t make much sense to me, but then again, sense isn`t my specialist subject.

Feral ostrich in Fukushima.

Anyway, Omori-san evaded attack from the ostrich, and entered her old family home.   Plodding around in protective clothing, she retrieved a plastic bag full of photos and mementos, then prayed at the family shrine.  The white radiation suit, paid for out of her own pocket, covered her from head to toe. 

Normally, Omori-san wears a lot less; she`s a full-time hula dancer at nearby Spa Resort Hawaiians, a coal mine converted into a mini Hawaii in the 1960s.  Last month, the resort partially reopened for visitors.

The film I saw, Ganbappe Hula Girls, is the story of Spa Resort Hawaiians and its resolute employees like Omori-san as they try to recover from the triple catastrophes of earthquake, tsunami and radiation leak. 

I watched it on the 10th floor of a TEPCO-powered cinema.  It was compelling.  I kept forgetting it is not a Walt Disney story, but a documentary – an ongoing real-life drama.  Confusing reality is easy this year.

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