Yasusuke Ota: The Abandoned Animals of Fukushima, Amsterdam

Long forgotten from the Fukushima disaster, Yasusuke Ota turns our attention to the animals left behind in The Abandoned Animals of Fukushima. Opening on 3 October, the photography exhibition will run until 14 October at Huis Marseille, Amsterdam. Focusing on tame animals, Ota captures the fate of abandoned animals that are dependent on human care.

On 11 March 2011, the day after a tsunami damaged a nuclear reactor at Fukushima, all the inhabitants living within 20km of the power plant were evacuated. Along with all their personal belongings the inhabitants were forced to leave their pets and farm animals behind. Animal lover and photographer, Yasusuke Ota was one of the volunteers who risked their own lives to carry animal feed and water back to Fukushima, into the “No go” area. Having no idea what they would encounter the volunteers returned to find cows on their knees, or stuck in bogs and ditches, emaciated horses and pigs stuck in stalls with dead animals that had died of starvation, and pets starved at their posts waiting for their owners. Some animals had survived by eating what they could find, and 18 months on were still patiently waiting for their owners.

During his voluntary work, Ota decided to record what the media had overlooked: “I felt I needed to inform the world and leave evidence of what really happened. So I started to take photos of this while going inside the zone of rescue.” Ota also created a documentary based on a forgotten group of victims left in the ruins of a landscape devastated by both a natural and man-made disaster. Many of the images captured by Ota are horrific, depicting a mummified cat on the road, a dog’s lower jaw, a pigsty right between the two nuclear reactors, with dozens of dead pigs. Other images border on the comic; pigs trying to cool off in a shallow puddle of water, and two escaped ostriches roaming the streets. The collection of images seeks to highlight a forgotten part of the Fukushima disaster and the innocence of the deserted animals.

The Abandoned Animals of Fukushima, 3 October until 14 October, Huis Marseille, Atelier 408, Herengracht 408, Amsterdam.

1. Okuma-machi, courtesy of Yasusuke Ota.
2. Namie-machi, courtesy of Yasusuke Ota.
3. Tomioka-machi, courtesy of Yasusuke Ota.
4. Odaka-ku, courtesy of Yasusuke Ota.
5. Namie-machi, courtesy of Yasusuke Ota.