Directed by Hideo Nakata and Masaki Nishiura, The Days tells the devastating story of a black day in the history of Japan. The Netflix series is entirely based on true events that happened on March 11, 2011, at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. The testimony of the manager of the nuclear power station, Masao Yoshida, and the accident analysis report of the private company called TEPCO (referred to as TOEPCO in the series) provided enough material for the makers to get the hang of what actually transpired on that fateful day. Nature holds within itself an immense power of healing, but how does a world heal when its inhabitants are adamant about destroying the forces that are responsible for maintaining the delicate balance of the environment?
We term the act of destroying the environment as “development,” but the biggest fault is that we thought that we are even more powerful than nature and that we wouldn’t ever have to bear the consequences of our actions. The Days operated in a similar territory as the 2019 drama Chernobyl, but it fails to have that impact and doesn’t keep you on edge because of the sluggish pace and editing. Whatever the makers wanted to say could have been surmised in six short episodes, and we believe that the entire narrative would have been more impactful if they would have been able to shorten that phase where the characters were just moving from one unit to another as after a point in time it became rather tedious to cope with it. The ending of The Days was no doubt quite moving, but till the time we reached there we had already lost interest.
‘The Days’ Plot Summary: What Is The Series About?
All hell broke loose when the most powerful earthquake in the history of Japan hit the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in 2011, and some 30-odd power stations got shut down because of it. The government and the people at TOEPCO, the privately owned power company, thought that the earthquake and tsunami hadn’t caused any damage to the nuclear reactor and that is why they didn’t ask the people living in the area to evacuate for the longest time. Nature was in a mood to take revenge that day, and we use the word revenge here on purpose because this is exactly how it seemed.
After the facility got hit by the earthquake, a tsunami was caused by the shifting of the tectonic plates, and the entire nuclear plant got flooded and eventually stopped functioning. The generator pumps stopped, the pressure started increasing, and even the emergency core cooling system was not functioning properly. Every passing moment increased the risk of a nuclear meltdown, though the people were still in denial. The station manager, Yoshida, who was in charge of the proceedings, had never handled such a situation in the past, and after a point, even the guidelines and the manuals were not able to help their cause. Yoshida was improvising at that moment, and he knew that he couldn’t afford to make even a single mistake as the lives of all his people were at stake. We saw how Yoshida and his employees did everything that they could to decrease the pressure and temperature inside the nuclear core, but no matter how hard they tried, they were not able to pump water into the reactor. There was a huge debate over whether saltwater should be used to pump inside the reactor, and when Yoshida and his team got a green signal from the government, they started laying pipes manually, but that too didn’t work because of debris that had fallen and a lot of other reasons.
The valves that kept the pressure in check were not opening, even though Yoshida’ men had gone inside and tried to open them manually. Everybody present in different units was risking their lives, but they were still not able to control the situation. Yoshida got the idea that they could use car batteries to open the valve, and they finally were able to do it. Even after opening the valve there was a lot of work that needed to be done and the danger of radiation contaminating the environment was still looming over their heads. Amidst all this chaos, the worst thing that was happening was that the government and the media, instead of helping the cause, were just creating unnecessary obstacles in the way of the people who were actually putting their lives at risk to do something about the situation at hand.
A little bit of empathy would have sufficed, but everybody wanted to show their expertise when none of them were aware of the ground realities. It came down to Yoshida actually rebelling against everyone, as he had to take a stand for his own people because he knew that only they could save the day. Yoshida realized that apart from the impending catastrophe, he also had to fight the bureaucracy, which became very frustrating for him after a certain point in time. Two young workers, Kirihara and Takahira, lost their lives as they got stuck at the lower levels after the tsunami hit. Imagine what the aggrieved parents would have felt when, after losing their precious children, they had to see their reputation tarnished on national television.
The Japanese media was insensitive enough to make baseless theories about how these two young kids had abandoned their positions and were enjoying themselves in some different part of the country when, in reality, their dead bodies were lying in the basement. Yoshida was in charge of the control room, and he was directly dealing with Murakami, who was stationed at the TOEPCO headquarters. Murakami was relaying information to the prime minister’s office and keeping him in the loop. There was a lot of miscommunications, and Yoshida was in no state to make them understand what he was doing and why. It was commendable how, throughout The Days, we never once saw him acting irrationally or throwing his temper at people. In fact, he was constantly thinking of innovative ways to control the damage, and more than anything else, he didn’t forget to show his gratitude towards his employees who were voluntarily risking their lives.
‘The Days’ Ending Explained: Was Yoshida Able To Stabilize The Nuclear Reactor?
Yoshida’s team was putting their lives at risk, working tirelessly and trying everything that they could to pump water inside the nuclear reactor so that the pressure and temperature went down. But the water level was not rising, and Yoshida and Maejima knew that if they were not able to find a way to do that, the reactor would destabilize and explode. Just when they were brainstorming and trying to find some other innovative way, the entire compound started shaking again, and they thought that it was another earthquake. But it was a hydrogen explosion, similar to what had earlier happened in one of the other units.
There were a million moments when Yoshida and all the other members working at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant felt like giving up, but they knew that if they stopped trying, then the entire population of the country would be at risk of being exposed to radiation. So, they kept thinking of ways to mitigate the situation. Firstly, Yoshida needed to make sure that everybody not directly involved with any kind of task had to evacuate as soon as possible. There were young people who showed a lot of character and told their seniors that they wanted to stand alongside their superiors and try till the very end. We saw unity amidst the chaos; we saw elders being magnanimous and youngsters being courageous; we saw love and respect, and probably that’s what amplified the morale of the people who had no hope left. People were ready to give their lives to save Japan, and unlike the politicians, they were not trying to put the blame on each other. The evaporation rate was slowing down, and the prime minister asked the army to use the helicopter to spray water over the reactor. There was so much radiation coming out of the affected area that the helicopter couldn’t go near it without the pilots getting exposed, but there was no other way, and the soldiers had to carry out the suicide mission.
Meanwhile, Barack Obama, the American president, had ordered the Americans staying in Japan to immediately leave the country and those living within an 80-mile radius of the nuclear reactor to evacuate the area. The Japanese prime minister wasn’t happy with it, as he knew that it would send the wrong signal to the world and that the reality of the situation being out of hand would come to light. As much as Obama wanted to help Japan, he was obliged to save his citizens first and inform them about the danger. The media was already criticizing the government, and that put everybody under a lot of stress.
Somebody suggested to Murakami that they could use pump trucks to spray water on the reactor, and immediate arrangements were made to do so. Mr. Araki, who worked with the fire department, voluntarily went to the affected area and checked why the fire trucks were not pumping water. Yoshida had asked him to stay where he was because he didn’t want him to risk his life. But Araki felt that it was his duty to help in whatever manner he could, so that the younger generation could live and thrive. The moments where people selflessly came to help, knowing that going near the nuclear plant meant that they were signing up for a suicide mission, proved that there was still some humanity left in this world. Though the end of The Days showed us that Yoshida and his entire team didn’t let the reactor explode, it was not exactly a victory in the true sense. There was a huge amount of nuclear debris present which was emitting 100 times the radiation every hour compared to the nuclear bombs dropped in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Almost everybody present at the site had to bear the consequences of being exposed. Masao Yoshida, the station manager, passed away at the age of 58, some two years after the nuclear disaster. During his last days, Yoshida educated the younger generation, told them about his experiences tackling the biggest conflict of their entire lives, and asked them to think about the adverse impact the actions of human beings are capable of having.
Who Was Responsible Fukushima Nuclear Disaster?
Japan was trying to stand on its feet after World War 2 and the country was in a miserable state. They didn’t even have enough to feed their population, but the Japanese were extremely hardworking people, and they knew that they didn’t have any option but to change their fate through their hard work. They started working towards a better tomorrow, and soon it seemed like there was some light at the end of the tunnel. In the 1950s, Japan was making progress by leaps and bounds, and to keep up with the growing economy, scientists had to come up with a source that could provide an enormous amount of energy. That is when the experts believed that instead of coal, they should use a nuclear fuel called uranium 235 for generating energy.
The new source was seen as a symbol of a better future, and the Japanese believed that they had found the magic wand that would help them become a developed and powerful nation and make themselves self-sufficient in every manner. That’s how the foundation of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant was laid, but what the people failed to notice was the cost at which they were doing all that. The entire ecosystem was destroyed; forests in Chojahara in Fukushima prefecture were cleared; water bodies were polluted; hillsides were ruined; and the irony was that we called it progress. Nature has its own ways and means to take back what belongs to it, since if left to humans, the entire world would be converted into a concrete jungle.
We believe that firstly, our greed, our short-sightedness, and our flawed perception of progress caused the disaster at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. A power station that was supposed to generate energy for the future became the biggest threat to the upcoming generation. I personally believe in the concept of “karma,” and the earthquake and tsunami were a way of nature telling us to stop with our exploitative and destructive practices and, for once, look at the larger picture and see what kind of world we are leaving for the future generation. The Days compels each and every individual to ask this question to themselves. It is about time we start introspecting our own actions before it is too late, and those scary dystopian scenarios that we were made privy to in the films become our reality.