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Controversial Fukushima statue of child in radiation suit to be removed

Passers-by look at Sun Child, a 6.2-meter statue clad in a protective suit, near JR Fukushima Station in northeastern Japan, on Aug. 12, 2018. (Kyodo)

FUKUSHIMA (Kyodo) -- The city of Fukushima will remove a statue of a child clad in a protective suit due to criticism that it misleads the public into believing that local people, hit by a nuclear crisis in 2011, need to wear such gear, its mayor said Tuesday.

"We set up the statue as a symbol of people striving for reconstruction but have come to judge that the statue is not accepted by many citizens," said Mayor Hiroshi Kohata.

The city, which erected the 6.2-meter statue dubbed "Sun Child" near JR Fukushima Station on Aug. 3, will stop displaying it as soon as possible and consider what to do with the work of art, the mayor added.

The statue of a child in a yellow protective suit, looking up with an adhesive bandage on the cheek, was produced by contemporary artist Kenji Yanobe to express his wish for a world free of nuclear disasters.

Yanobe said he was hoping to cheer people up following the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that triggered the Fukushima nuclear crisis as the statue depicts a child braving a difficult situation.

The statue indicates that the surrounding air is "clean" as the child is holding and not wearing a helmet and a radiation counter on the chest reads "000."

"(The removal) is truly regrettable, but I thought we shouldn't provoke a confrontation anymore among people inside and outside the city," said Yanobe on his website on Tuesday.

A questionnaire survey conducted by the city, which had received responses from 110 people as of Monday, showed most were negative about the statue, with 75 respondents demanding either its relocation or removal. Some of them questioned the zero displayed on the radiation counter as even in areas unaffected by nuclear disasters the level is never zero due to background radiation.

Only 22 people were positive, with one person saying, "Something with an impact is needed in Fukushima," according to the city.

In one of the world's worst nuclear crises, three of the six reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in the prefecture suffered meltdowns, spewing radioactive materials into the surrounding environment.

Decontamination and other efforts are under way to enable people who lived near the disaster-stricken plant to return to their hometowns.

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