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US colleges to utilize animated film on Japanese fishing crew hit by nuclear fallout

A mushroom cloud is seen rising in the distance away from the Daigo Fukuryu Maru in this image from the film "Day of the Western Sunrise," provided by the Daigo Fukuryu Maru Exhibition Hall.

TOKYO -- An animated documentary film about the Daigo Fukuryu Maru (Lucky Dragon 5) fishing boat crew hit by radioactive fallout from U.S. military nuclear testing on the Bikini Atoll in the Pacific Ocean will be used as study material at two American universities from this summer.

The movie's director, Keith Reimink, 40, from the U.S., is working for the documentary to be adopted by more curriculums in his home country. "Hopefully this film can help introduce people to survivors of these weapons," he said.

A hydrogen bomb test known as the "Castle Bravo" test took place west of the vessel, thereby inspiring the film's title "Day of the Western Sunrise." Using illustration and computer graphics to create an aesthetic like that of a paper play, or "kamishibai" in Japanese, the 75-minute movie goes on to depict the crew members' mental and physical suffering after exposure.

Following around four years of production, Reimink completed the film in 2018. While hoping the documentary would "help give students a well-rounded perspective about the international climate in which the Castle Bravo test took place," he took the film to academic institutions including the University of Pittsburgh in his home state of Pennsylvania. Both the Pittsburgh institution and The Ohio State University's East Asia studies classes decided to use the film as study material.

A member of the ship's crew is seen observing the explosion through binoculars in this image from the film "Day of the Western Sunrise," provided by the Daigo Fukuryu Maru Exhibition Hall.

Starting this summer, the documentary will be screened at both universities, opening up discussion for greater understanding of Japan's postwar history.

Reimink studied film at New York University, obtaining a bachelor's degree in the subject and TV production, and starting his own film production company in 2013. It was around this time he first found out about the story of the Daigo Fukuryu Maru from a passage in a book.

While researching on the internet about the crew's return home alive from the blast, he was deeply affected by the stories of the health problems and discrimination they suffered.

This was part of what motivated him to make the film. "People know about the nuclear weapons used in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but they do not know about the nuclear testing that America did in the 1950s and 60s," he commented. "I began creating the documentary because I feel like it is an important story that not many people know about."

With an introduction from the Daigo Fukuryu Maru Exhibition Hall in Tokyo's Koto Ward, Reimink came to Japan in December 2014 to conduct interviews for the project. Assisted by an interpreter, he traveled to places such as Shizuoka Prefecture in central Japan and Tokyo to speak to former crew members including Matashichi Oishi and Susumu Misaki, the latter of whom died in February this year after the film's completion. The conversations they had were used in the finished piece.

Susumu Misaki, left, is seen being interviewed in 2018 in Shizuoka Prefecture, while director Keith Reimink, far right, listens, in this image provided by the Daigo Fukuryu Maru Exhibition Hall.

This summer, Reimink says he's doing a lecture tour across the U.S. to increase the number of institutions using the film as study material. "The goal is for universities to use the film as a teaching tool so that we can reach young people and tell them about the terrors of nuclear weapons," he offered.

A DVD of the film can be rented from the Daigo Fukuryu Maru Exhibition Hall for 10,000 yen, or for 20,000 yen if it's being screened in a space for 100 people or more. For questions, please call the exhibition hall on 03-3521-8494 (in Japanese only).

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The Daigo Fukuryu Maru was a fishing vessel specializing in catching ocean tuna, based at the Yaizu fishing port in Shizuoka Prefecture. The ship's crew were fishing in waters some 160 kilometers east from the hypocenter of the hydrogen bomb "Castle Bravo" test when the U.S. carried out the test on March 1, 1954 at the Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands. The 23 crew members were caught in ash fallout from the blast, which contained radioactive materials. One member, Aikichi Kuboyama, then aged 40, died around half a year later.

(Japanese original by Richi Tanaka, Local News Group)

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