Human Error

What does it mean to be forced to leave your home due to an invisible threat, with no timeline for your return? The Japanese government claims that “everything is under control” in Fukushima. But is it? Six years has passed since the morning of March 12, 2011, when the decision to evacuate more than 150,000 residents was made due to the nuclear explosion. This film follows a group of people whose lives have forever been disrupted by the disaster: a nuclear power plant executive, a priest, a travel inn owner, a farmer, the mayor of a local town, a 86 year old evacuee, and a 19 year old teenager. As villages inside the evacuation zone prepare for its reopening, successful resurrection depends on the return of their citizens and the perception that spaces are once again safe for everyday human life.


  • Yoh Kawano
  • Yoh Kawano
  • Yoshiyuki Amaya
  • Yoh Kawano
  • Project Title (Original Language):
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  • Runtime:
    58 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    October 20, 2018
  • Production Budget:
    10,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
  • Country of Filming:
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  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • AAS 2018 Film Expo
    Washington D.C.
    United States
    March 22, 2018
  • MCAA Midwest Conference on Asian Affairs 2018
    St. Paul
    United States
    October 20, 2018
  • Niigata University 2017
    June 20, 2017
Director Biography - Yoh Kawano

Yoh Kawano came to Los Angeles and UCLA after living across the globe, in 5 different countries. At UCLA he works at the GIS and Visualization Sandbox as a member of the Research Technology Group for the Institute for Digital Research and Education (IDRE), serving as a Research Coordinator for Spatial Visualization. He has supervised projects in urban planning, emergency preparedness, disaster relief, volunteerism, archaeology, and the digital humanities. Current research and projects involve the geo-spatial web, visualization of temporal and spatial data, and creating systems that leverage data science methods. In the summer of 2020, Yoh completed the PhD program at UCLA’s Department of Urban Planning, submitting his dissertation titled “Human Error and Human Healing in a Risk Society: The Forgotten Narratives of Fukushima.”

Following the Great Tohoku Earthquake in Japan, Yoh has been busy researching the potential that the social web can have in post-disaster relief. In the inaugural TEDxUCLA event in 2011, he spoke of ways that locational technologies, combined with social media, can provide an immediate and real-time opportunity for big and small crisis management. He continues to be involved in the ongoing nuclear crisis in Japan, working as a GIS and visualization advisor for a research project based in Niigata University, and as a filmmaker conducting longitudinal ethnographies, collecting oral histories in Fukushima that has spanned more than six years.

Yoh has co-authored “Hypercities: Thick Mapping in the Digital Humanities”, published in 2014 via Harvard Press. He also directed, produced, and edited “Human Error,” a documentary film that sheds light to the many narratives that percolate the abandoned spaces of Fukushima.

Yoh has a PhD in Urban Planning from UCLA and a BA in Sociology from the International Christian University (ICU) in Tokyo.

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Director Statement

Shortly after the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami, I visited the city of Banda Aceh, Indonesia and stood at the center of what was once a vibrant city, bearing witness to the unfathomable force of nature that took the lives of more than 100,000 of its residents. The thought that entire cities could be subjected to such unmitigated demolition was mind boggling; the desolate landscape that lay before me forever engrained in my brain, the narratives from survivors, beyond heartbreaking. I fast forward six years to March, 2011, where once again humanity would surrender to the devastating forces of nature, this time in the eastern coast of Japan, my home country. Here again, I would visit the landscapes of devastation, from Iwate in the north to Fukushima in the south. But this time, an additional factor would entail a different kind of narrative: Human Error. Whatever thin line of reconciliation can be afforded to a disaster caused by nature is in this case, replaced with a never ending pursuit for justice and accountability.

I first ventured inside the so-called nuclear evacuation zone in 2012, where I joined a group of volunteer scientist in their quest to measure the amount of radiation that was in the air. How dangerous was it, and when might the environment be safe enough to assume human life once again? But perhaps, more importantly, how has the disaster affected the people who were forced to evacuate? In order to seek answers to these questions, I began an extensive ethnography of these Fukushima rural towns. My frequent visits to Fukushima put me in contact with government officials, nuclear industry leaders, displaced senior citizens, priests, farmers, teachers, community leaders and children. I discovered a simple way of life that was in an instant transformed by the after effects of radiation exposure. These wounds run deep and linger on more than six years after their collective abandonment. On the one end, the nation’s leadership proclaims that “everything is under control,” on the other, displaced citizens need to come to terms with their shattered lives, lamenting the loss of human relations that will never be restored.

Human Error is a film that sheds light to the many narratives that percolate the abandoned spaces of Fukushima. The repercussions of the troubled nuclear industry in Japan are humanized through the personal narratives of those who operate the nuclear plant, the struggles to resurrect the city by government officials, and the painful decisions that former residents are left with: to return, or not to return. With cities inside the evacuation zone finally lifting their evacuation orders, successful resurrection depends on the return of their citizens and the perception that spaces are once again safe for everyday human life. This film is a means to give voice to the forgotten citizens of the abandoned cities of Fukushima.

2004年に起きたスマトラ島沖地震の直後、私はバンダアチェを訪れた。かつて活気のあったバンダアチェの街は、果てしない自然の威力によって10万人以上もの命が奪われた。街全体が破滅してしまうのだということに私は唖然とさせられた。私の前にたちはかだる荒廃した情景は、私の脳裏に永遠と刻まれ、生き残った者の経験談は悲痛と言う言葉では言い尽くされなかった。そしてその6年後の2011年3月、今度は私の祖国である東日本で自然の驚異はまたもや人類を脅かした。私は破壊された情景を北は岩手から南は福島まで見ることとなった。しかし今回はヒューマンエラー(人為的過ち)と言う新たな要因が足され、スマトラ島沖地震とは異なるナラティブが生まれた。すなわち自然災害から少しずつでも立ち上がっていくと言う行為が、今回は永遠に終わらない正義と説明責任の追求に取って代わられた。私は2012年にボランティアのサイエンティストたちと共に、空気中の放射能を測定するために初めて避難区域と呼ばれる場所に足を踏み入れた。一体どれだけ危険なのか、人間が住むのに安全になるのは一体いつなのか。いや、それよりも大切なのは、この災害は強制的に避難を強いられた人々にどのような影響を与えたのだろうか。これらの質問の答えを出すために、私は福島の地方都市の大掛かりなエスノグラフィーを行った。福島を度々訪れることによって、私は国家公務員、原発産業のリーダー、住む場所を失った高齢者、宮司、農家の人々、教師、地域のリーダーや子供に接触することができた。そして放射性物質の放出によって人々の生活は一瞬で変わってしまったことを知った。「集団遺棄」によってもたされた傷は深く、そしてもう6年以上もつきまとっている。その一方で国のリーダーたちは「全てはコントロールのもとにある」と言うが、避難を促された人々は失われてしまった人間関係を嘆き悲しみながら打ち砕かれた日々の生活を受け入れなくてはいけない。ヒューマンエラー(Human Error)と言う映画は、見捨てられた福島の土地の人々の声に焦点を当てたものである。問題を抱えた日本の原子力産業の影響は、原子力発電所で働く人々の声、町を復興させようと奮闘する政府関係者、そして避難勧告が解かれた町へ戻るか戻るまいかの選択を住民が迫られるている。避難区域内の町が避難勧告を解かれ再生を目指す今、復興の成功は住民の帰還と、土地の安全性にかかっているだろう。この映画は、福島の見捨てられた町の住民の声を表明するための手法である。