This mid-length work of fiction was sparked by the triple disaster that struck the northeast Pacific coast of Japan in March 2011, and the resulting leakage of radiation from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Author Erika Kobayashi explores the relationship between people and radiation, going back to such historical figures as Marie Curie and Thomas Edison.
She sets her story ten years after the disaster. There are two narrators: one is Hina, a ten-year-old girl who was born in the summer of 2011; the other is a stray cat born in what became the evacuation zone right around the time of the disaster, but who was fortunate enough to be transported not long afterward to Tokyo and has lived there ever since. The cat recalls how all people disappeared from her surroundings, and how dogs and cows starved to death on their leads and in their pens, while she and her cat family had the complete run of the land and were able to enjoy unprecedented freedom. She also recalls how, to her cat’s eyes, everything around her seemed to be aglow with light. Ten years later in Tokyo she sees some food that glows with the same light. As she consumes it, she finds herself hallucinating the experiences of her ancestors in New York and New Jersey more than a century before.
Hina has grown into a ten-year-old child without ever knowing her father, and she has also lost her mother to illness along the way. Now she lives with her stepfather, a radiologist. Her late mother had had the special power to hear the “voice of the light”? sounds emitted by objects that have been contaminated with radiation. She traveled to the United States to research the history of nuclear energy, and has left behind a recording detailing her experiences. The recording includes accounts of Marie Curie, who became a victim of the radiation she was exposed to in the course of her research, and Thomas Edison, who electrocuted cats and dogs during his development of the electric chair.
In this highly original and ambitious work Kobayashi gives concrete shape to the invisible poison of radiation, the fear of which is all the greater because of its invisibility.