Reverberations from Fukushima

Reverberations from Fukushima: 50 Japanese Poets Speak Out —an award-winning finalist in the Social Change category and First Place Prize for Poetry in the Pacific Rim Book Festival. 

“Here, finally reaching our shore, the first wave of poems out of Fukushima: disaster in the first-person, no longer paraphrased, managed, or supposed. These are the voices that bring the experience closer than journalism ever could, that ask us to plant ourselves in the path of contamination, fear, betrayal. Our losses become all too real…” 

~ Kathleen Flenniken, author of Plume

“Poetry may not be capable, in the literal sense, of cleansing Japan and the world of radioactive particles released into the atmosphere, groundwater, soil and seawater from the nuclear disaster at Fukushima. But poetry can cleanse the insensitive atmosphere of perception, the upturned ocean of sorrow, the groundwater of despair. And the poems in this anthology most certainly provide a means to experience something that, hopefully, we will never have to experience. Each poem here provides language as a living response, examples of a consciousness turned toward extremity, and ultimately a primal commitment to the art of witness.”

~ David Biespiel, author of The Book of Men and Women


 “Sometimes a poet can grasp the human significance of a technological failure better than a scientist. We are fortunate to have these poetic voices from Japan collected here. May we hear them and, more importantly, may we heed them.”

~ John Pearson, MD, Past President, Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility


“Kudos to the editors – Leah Stenson of Portland and Asao Sarukawa Aroldi of Tokyo – for selecting and editing these fifty poems and bringing Reverberations from Fukushima to life. The collection more than meets their goal to “open the eyes of the American public to the dangers inherent in uranium-based nuclear power” and “enhance Americans’ knowledge of contemporary Japanese poetry.”

~ Ruthy Kanagy, reviewed for Oregon Poetry Association


“This beautiful book of poetry opens with an explanation about the use of atomic power and the unfolding disaster of the triple meltdowns at Fukushima Daiichi. It is an amazing collection of 50 poems in English followed by a separate section with the poems in the original Japanese. These are rich evocative poems….”

~ Maggie Gundersen, reviewed for Fairewinds Energy Education


By Masanori Shida; translated by Naoshi Koriyama


People around me let me touch their faces without saying anything.

Helen Keller, on a return trip to Japan in 1948,

visited Hiroshima.

She directly touched the A-bomb survivors’ keloid scars

and came to understand the horrors of the Atomic Bomb.


For Helen, who had lost her eyesight and hearing,

touch was her only means of knowing the world.

And her thin fingertips could extensively read

the absurdity of humanity

more clearly than the eyes and ears of those who can see and hear.


If Helen were to visit Fukushima now

and touch the ground with her fingertips,

what kind of scream would pierce her skin

and shake her soul?


We cannot see, though we have eyes.

We cannot hear, though we have ears.

Helen’s fingertips would point out

the absurdity of trying to rationalize our crime

simply out of attachment to fleeting prosperity.


And I myself would like to touch the ground lovingly

with my own living fingertips

and open my eyes wide and listen attentively with my ears,

and pass the baton to the future with my own hands.


By Yukari Mutou, translated by Naoshi Koriyama


Hey there, elderly gentleman,

would you please close the windows.

There was an accident at the nearby plant

and radioactive material is in the air.


            Ha, ha, ha

            Dear Nurse,

            It’s hot today, I tell you.


Mister, it’s dangerous to keep the windows open.

The official report warned about it, you know.


            Ha, ha, ha,

            But I can’t stand the smell,

            because that guy wet his pants, you know.


But it’s not good to breathe in the outside air.

How can I make you understand it?


            Dear Nurse,

            nothing is in the air, you see.

            Ha, ha, ha.


By Masayuki Nemoto, translated by Keiko Shimada


When did Fukushima become “Fukushima”?

Fukushima, which is written with Chinese characters meaning Lucky Island,

is now written in katakana.*

I was born and raised in Fukushima,

in the place called Namiemachi in Futaba County.

It used to be a verdant town

with the sea and the mountains

and two beautiful rivers.

Why did we have to flee?

Answer me.

I liked Namiemachi.

I liked it more than anyone.

I went fishing when I was a child.

I caught birds.

I played in the mountains and the rivers.

I lay in the fields

and watched the floating clouds.

Everything was beautiful.

People had beautiful hearts.

They remained pure

even after they had grown up.

They had flowers for all four seasons,

and people were kindhearted.

My home, Namiemachi.

I must come back to this land

someday by all means.

Even if it means hobbling with a cane,

I must come back

to my home, Namiemachi.


*A Japanese script used to write loanwords of foreign origin;

in this case, to indicate the worldwide notoriety of Fukushima.

For inquiries and permissions, please email me.

Leah Stenson