Book review: The Revolution Will Not Be Televised: Protest music after Fukushima — The National

” In July 2012, famed Japanese musician Ryuichi Sakamoto spoke at a rally in Tokyo’s Yoyogi Park organised by the anti-nuclear organisation Sayonara Genpatsu. When the Academy Award-winning composer expressed his sorrow at the re-opening of Oi Nuclear Power Plant, which had taken place two weeks earlier, his words caught the imagination of his fellow campaigners: “Why is it necessary to expose life to danger, just for the sake of electricity?” he wondered to loud applause.

As Noriko Manabe underlines, Sakamoto obviously wasn’t demonising electricity; rather he was flagging up the dangers of using nuclear fission to produce it in the light of the specific nature of Japan’s infrastructure as exposed at Fukushima. Nonetheless, Japan’s pro-nuclear Twitter users erupted, wondering how Sakamoto’s techno-pop group The Yellow Magic Orchestra would have faired unplugged, and circulating photos of him mid-speech, his microphone and iPhone circled in red.

Soon, national newspaper the Sankei Shimbun, daily circulation 1.6 million, had a pop at Sakamoto, too: “Having become popular by using lots of electricity, you live in a high-end condominium in New York”, it foamed. As with Sakamoto’s Twitter-based critics, the inference was that to use electricity and be anti nuclear-power was inherently hypocritical, inconsistent.

In The Revolution Will Not be Televised, Manabe explores how musicians post-Fukushima have protested against nuclear power despite censorship of their work and against powerful social mores. These include koe o dasanai, which translates as the built-in Japanese reluctance to speak up, and kuki, the prevailing atmosphere of compliance that tends to characterise wider Japanese society.

If the book’s title name-checks the 1970 poem and song by Gil Scott-Heron, it’s also appropriate shorthand for the Japanese media’s general reluctance to report on the activities of the anti-nuclear movement. But as Manabe explains, “the government doesn’t explicitly censor the media. The industry imposes it upon itself in deference to its advertisers, and the nuclear industry is among the biggest.”

Manabe is a professor of music at Princeton University with a doctorate in ethnomusicology and music theory, so naturally this is an academic book. Its musicology-imbued chapter on Japanese protest music at demonstrations won’t be for everyone, but for all its recherché infographics and specialisms, The Revolution Will Not be Televised is clearly and engagingly written.

It’s somewhat strange, the author argues, that the country that suffered the horrific atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki remained so accepting of nuclear power. It was only after March 11, 2011 – when the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami caused a meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant – that public sentiment began to turn and many of the country’s 48 reactors were shut down.

Public opinion polls had reflected a clear surge in anti-nuclear feeling, with about 70 per cent of the population favoring a phase-out of nuclear power. But in August, Japan restarted its reactor at the Sendai Plant in Kyushu, and operators of some 25 other reactors have reportedly applied for restart permits.

Japan is the world’s second-largest market for pop music, and given the genre’s traditional alliance with protest of all kinds, one might expect the country’s anti-nuclear musicians to be highly visible and transparently vocal. But Manabe’s book shows that things aren’t that simple – and for many reasons. For one, the lyrics of all commercial recordings have to be cleared by the Recording Industry Ethics Regulatory Commission, aka Recorin. Established in 1952, Manabe calls it a group mindful of music’s “powerful influence on the psychological state, spirit and behaviour of the nation’s people”.

An even more taxing hurdle, Manabe explains, is the National Association of Commercial Broadcasters, a body that prohibits attempts – or perceived attempts – “to disgrace the authority of the government or its agencies”.

Unsurprisingly, any commercial recordings with an anti-nuclear sentiment have had to be codified to slip through the censor’s net. The concept album 2012, by Osaka’s Acid Black Cherry, for example, is an original fairy tale about the Fukushima accident. Even beyond “official” censorship, artists have sometimes been rapped on the knuckles by their record companies. Manabe records how, back in 1988, Kiyoshiro Imawano, leader of rock band RC Succession, wove some blatantly anti-nuclear lyrics into his versions of Elvis Presley’s Love Me Tender and Eddie Cochran’s Summertime Blues.

When the then-director of Japanese music at Toshiba EMI demanded the Imawano drop the songs from his forthcoming album Covers, Imawano refused. Toshiba EMI pulled the album, and later placed a notice in Japan’s three biggest newspapers stating that the record had been “too wonderful” to release.

Manabe’s book also has a fascinating chapter on how Japanese anti-nuclear music/protest functions in cyberspace. For campaigning musicians both professional and amateur, the internet’s attractions are manifold. The lack of censorship and the anonymity offered are key, but as the author explains, cyberspace also allows protesting musicians to collaborate freely, and to mobilise and sometimes even educate like-minded followers. She also notes that the Web has become “a repository of [protest] music that the recording industry would not normally release”.

It was via YouTube, in April 2011, for example, that pop star Kazuyoshi Saito chose to launch It Was Always A Lie, one of the Japanese anti-nuclear movements key anthems. The song panned the Japanese media’s claims that nuclear power was safe, and when Kazuyoshi sang it online, his face obscured by a cowboy hat and dark glasses, it went viral.

Kazuyoshi’s representatives eventually conceded that he was behind the song, but his record company declined to release the track commercially, arguing that “considerations for related companies”, and “the existence of many different opinions on nuclear power” had to be taken into account.

The Revolution Will Not be Televised also explores anti-nuclear demonstrations at music festivals, and via music-fueled street protests, and one of the key points Manabe makes is that brushes with the law can be far more damaging and stigmatizing for the individual than in the West. Protesters arrested in Japan can be held for up to 23 days while the police decide whether to indict them, and there is no bail. “If you’re held for several days, you’ll lose your job,” notes Hajime Matsumoto, leader of the band Shiroto no Ran. ”

by James McNair


Fukushima towns look set to bite on new offer of more money for storage facilities — The Asahi Shimbun

” The central government has offered to double the amount of grants to be paid if local municipalities in Fukushima Prefecture accept the construction of temporary storage facilities for radioactive debris produced by the 2011 nuclear accident.

In talks Aug. 8 with Fukushima Governor Yuhei Sato and the mayors of Okuma and Futaba towns in the prefectural city of Koriyama, Environment Minister Nobuteru Ishihara and Reconstruction Minister Takumi Nemoto offered to double the grants to 301 billion yen ($3 billion) if they OK the storage facilities.

In previous closed-door negotiations, the government had pledged grants of 150 billion yen. With a new offer on the table, it would appear that the talks are entering the final stages.

“We want to examine the contents of the proposal in detail (before making a decision),” Sato said.

Earlier negotiations became entangled and triggered a public uproar after Ishihara implied that local residents could be easily bought.

“In the end, it will come down to money,” Ishihara said June 16, angering the local governments and sending the negotiations into a stall.

The triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant triggered by the March 11, 2011, Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami produced huge amounts of soil and debris contaminated with radioactive material.

Tons of debris collected during decontamination work is currently stored at makeshift sites across Fukushima Prefecture.

The government plans to store all the debris for 30 years in “intermediate storage facilities” that are planned to be constructed in Okuma and Futaba.

The 301 billion yen will be classified into three categories. The first (150 billion yen) category is for “grants for the intermediate storage facilities.” The second (100 billion yen) is for “grants for reconstruction of Fukushima,” and the third (51 billion yen) is an increase of conventional “grants for areas that host electricity sources.”

The grants in the first category will be mainly paid to the town governments of Okuma and Futaba, but funds will also be provided to the Fukushima prefectural government. The grants will be used for a variety of purposes to help residents rebuild their lives.

For example, grants will be used to cover the cost of visits to graves by residents who will lose their land due to the construction of the intermediate storage facilities.

Funds will also be provided to develop measures to alleviate concerns elsewhere in Japan that farm, forestry and fishery products in Fukushima Prefecture are contaminated with radioactive materials.

The grants of the second category will be used to construct key facilities in reconstruction projects. Funds will also be used by prefectural authorities for prefecture-wide measures to prevent malicious rumors about food safety from circulating.

As for the third category, grants have been given to localities that host nuclear power plants.

So far, 6.7 billion yen has been paid annually to local governments in Fukushima Prefecture.

The plan calls for increasing the annual amount by 1.7 billion yen to lessen the economic blow caused by decommissioning damaged nuclear reactors, and maintaining the yearly payments for 30 years, amounting to 51 billion yen.

The doubling of the total amount of grants signals that the central government is eager to begin the transportation of radioactive soil and debris to the intermediate storage facilities.

It is pushing to get the project under way by January 2015.

The decision to double the amount of grants suggests the negotiations are now starting to move forward. ”


*Why new studies are needed now! The Fukushima health crisis — CounterPunch

” Over 3 years since the Fukushima nuclear disaster, there is virtually no health research being conducted or released on harm to the Japanese. An April report by a UN committee tried to sweep the issue under the rug, predicting any harmful effects of the catastrophe is “unlikely.”

The UN panel made a very broad assumption about the worst nuclear catastrophe in history (or worst since Chernobyl) – and did this BEFORE research is done. However, a local health study raises alarm bells. Fukushima Medical University found 46% of local children have a pre-cancerous nodule or cyst, and 130 have thyroid cancer, vs. 3 expected. Incredibly, the University corrupts science by asserting the meltdown played no role in these high figures.

But Japanese studies must go far beyond childhood thyroid diseases. Japan isn’t the only site to study, as the fallout from the meltdown spread across the northern hemisphere.

In 2011, we estimated 13,983 excess U.S. deaths occurred in the 14 weeks after Fukushima, when fallout levels were highest – roughly the same after Chernobyl in 1986. We used only a sample of deaths available at that time, and cautioned not to conclude that fallout caused all of these deaths.

Final figures became available this week. The 2010-2011 change in deaths in the four months after Fukushima was +2.63%, vs. +1.54% for the rest of the year. This difference translates to 9,158 excess deaths – not an exact match for the 13,983 estimate, but a substantial spike nonetheless.

Again, without concluding that only Fukushima caused these deaths, some interesting patterns emerged. The five Pacific and West Coast states, with the greatest levels of Fukushima fallout in the U.S., had an especially large excess. So did the five neighboring states (Arizona, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, and Utah), which received the next highest levels.

Most of the spring 2011 mortality increase were people over 80. Many of these elderly were in frail health; one possibility is that the added exposure to radioactive poison sped the dying process.

Fukushima radiation is the same as fallout from atom bomb explosions, releasing over 100 chemicals not found in nature. The radioactive chemicals enter the body as a result of precipitation that gets into the food chain. Once in the body, these particles harm or kill cells, leading to disease or death.

Once-skeptical health officials now admit even low doses of radiation are harmful. Studies showed X-rays to pregnant women’s abdomens raised the risk of the child dying of cancer, ending the practice. Bomb fallout from Nevada caused up to 212,000 Americans to develop thyroid cancer. Nuclear weapons workers are at high risk for a large number of cancers.

Rather than the UN Committee making assumptions based on no research, medical research on changes in Japanese disease and death rates are needed – now, in all parts of Japan. Similar studies should be done in nations like Korea, China, eastern Russia, and the U.S. Not knowing Fukushima’s health toll only raises the chance that such a disaster will be repeated in the future. ”


Fukushima disaster colors A-bomb anniversaries: Parallels can be drawn between control of info during Occupation and today — The Japan Times

” Over the past three years, the atomic bombing anniversaries in August have increasingly become a time to ask new questions.

How did the only country to experience nuclear bombings come to embrace nuclear power, a decision that ultimately led to the ongoing crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 plant? Does Japan have the capability or political will to create its own nuclear arsenal? Is it morally acceptable to export nuclear technology to countries that are prone to natural disasters or may later decide to manufacture atomic weapons?

And what about censorship? Based in large part on its attempts at withholding or manipulating information related to the Fukushima disaster, the country has seen itself spiral down the Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index, falling a staggering 31 places between 2012 and 2013.

The situation can only worsen with the recent passage of the state secrets law. Will the law be used to keep important information regarding radiation and the safety of power plants secret? What impact will it have on anti-nuclear activism? And how do the new law, the overall lack of transparency and the handling of Fukushima compare to U.S. Occupation policies — especially those that squashed discussions of the atomic bombings?

One way history has repeated itself is in the way in which individuals and agencies have rushed to assure the public that radiation levels posed little or no threat to health.

Scholars Robert Jay Lifton and Greg Mitchell note that after a team of scientists toured Hiroshima in September 1945, U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Leslie Groves, the head of the Manhattan Project, “announced to the press that if any Japanese had died from exposure to radiation, ‘the number was very small.’ . . . Vegetation was growing in Hiroshima, and radiation levels were so low, ‘you could live there forever.’ ” The U.S. public image took priority over the reporting of facts.

Skip ahead to 2011: Dr. Shunichi Yamashita, the head of Fukushima Medical University, makes controversial remarks suggesting that an exposure limit of 100 millisieverts per year is acceptable. The comments, which made international headlines, were contested. Referring to the remarks, The Japan Times’ Eric Johnston wrote, “According to a 2006 study by the U.S. National Academy of Science, an exposure of 20 millisieverts will produce 2,270 cancer cases per 1 million people annually.”

Jump to spring 2014: On April 14, the Mainichi Shimbun reports that in an effort to collect data on internal radiation exposure, the Foreign Ministry sent an email to municipalities that “suggested the data could be used to play down the radiation effects from the disaster.” The data was to be used by the International Atomic Energy Agency, but “the email suggested that the IAEA report is expected to evaluate radiation exposure among residents at lower levels than reports by other international organizations.”

Much debate, of course, has taken place regarding the safety of Fukushima since March 2011. I do not cite the above examples to make any claims about the current degree of danger in the area surrounding the No. 1 plant, but merely to draw attention to historical parallels in terms of irresponsible and misleading communication with the public.

We see a similar parallel in the ways in which the U.S. Occupation and Japanese governmental bodies have interfered with medical research.

During the U.S. Occupation it was extremely difficult for Japanese medical doctors to conduct and publish research. Monica Braw, a scholar of U.S. Occupation censorship, relays a conversation she had with Dr. Issei Nishimori, who intended to study the effects of the bomb on humans. Nishimori recounted all the difficulties the medical establishment faced: lack of funds, restrictions, being required by the Allied authorities to translate all reports into English, and not having access to autopsy materials that were shipped to the U.S. or the results of research conducted by the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission set up by the Americans.

Censorship was another factor. Braw informs us that medical journals were censored for various types of undesirable content, such as criticism of the Allied authorities and wartime nationalist propaganda (occurring in material written before the conclusion of the war) as well as any mention of censorship, which itself was supposed to be a secret. Two articles were censored for discussions of the effects of the atomic bombs.

All in all, around 50 reports about the atomic bombings appeared in medical journals between 1945 and 1949, but the bulk of these reports didn’t appear until 1947. In 1948 and ’49, the last two years of censorship, the number of published articles about the issue dropped significantly.

Academic Sey Nishimura argues that self-censorship was behind the decline: “Voluntary restraint may have played a part, since the year 1947 marked the change from prepublication censorship, when deletions were made at the galley-proof stage, to post-publication censorship, where notification of disapproval occurred after publication.”

As for the situation in Fukushima, the government hasn’t always been enthusiastic about radiation-related medical research. On Dec. 19, 2012, the Mainichi reported, “The Fukushima prefectural government has tried to kill a proposal by a local assemblyperson to store local children’s milk teeth to examine their internal radiation exposure stemming from the Fukushima nuclear disaster, it has been learned.” Fortunately, more recently, plans for a large-scale study to test milk teeth for cesium, strontium-90 and other isotopes were revealed to the public. But, understandably, the public has grown very suspicious of government involvement in research.

There are also parallels between the suppression of protests against the use of the atomic bomb by the U.S. and the potential for the state secrecy law to negatively impact upon the anti-nuclear movement.

In September 1945, a Japanese film crew visited Nagasaki with the intention of documenting the destruction and to “appeal against the inhumanity of the bomb to the Red Cross in Geneva.” The crew, however, was arrested by U.S. military police and their footage was confiscated. And so began a U.S. effort to render invisible images of destruction and the victims’ suffering in order to protect the official narrative that the bombs were justifiably necessary to end the war swiftly and save American lives. When the Smithsonian was planning an exhibition to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the end of the war in 1995, U.S. veterans protested over what they saw as too much emphasis on Japanese casualties.

How will the Fukushima disaster be remembered? What narratives will be constructed? Archived newspaper articles and footage always play a vital role in the telling of any history. Those in authority need censorship and policies encouraging self-censorship in order to construct what they deem to be acceptable presentations of news not only for tomorrow’s readers, but also for the students, scholars and general public of the future. Activists challenging the construction of such narratives are deemed dangerous by governments. An indisputably clear case of this is the passage of the state secrecy law, which threatens bureaucrats leaking information to the public and journalists seeking that information with jail time.

The law is primarily concerned with national security. However, skeptics are concerned that information related to nuclear power plants may be classified in the name of preventing terrorism.

Others are worried about what impact the law may have on anti-nuclear activism. Johnston writes, “Receiving less attention is the question of whether ordinary citizens who are involved in anti-nuclear protests might be targeted and investigated under the new law.”

Koichi Nakano, professor of political science at Sophia University, is also concerned.

“You find a similar power with the Japanese government as existed during the U.S. Occupation,” Nakano said in an interview. “Self-censorship will become more prevalent. Journalists will censor themselves before asking questions. The activists who try to find out information about the nuclear industry may get in trouble, they may not, but they’ll worry about what they otherwise wouldn’t.” ”


Radioactive contamination in Fukushima — VICE News


Addition reporting: “VICE on HBO Debriefs: Playing With Nuclear Fire & No Man Left Behind”

Updated May 20: The Manga saga continues … — multiple sources

“Japan Forced to Talk About Fukushima Radiation After Nosebleed Comic” — read full article at Mashable

” More than three years have passed since the Fukushima disaster, but local officials remain extremely sensitive to any attempts at political satire or even critical commentary regarding the event.

A comic that recently depicted one of its characters as suffering from a chronic nosebleed after a visit to the Fukushima power plant has been suspended indefinitely after outrage from Japanese officials. The illustration, which was published by the long-running Japanese manga called “Oishinbo,” has now renewed discussion around the issue of health and safety as it relates to traveling to Fukushima and consuming products from the region. …

“There is freedom of speech and freedom of expression in Japan,” Suga said.

“But anything that is communicated should be based on facts and accurate information.”

Despite Suga’s comments, the issue of press freedom in Japan has become somewhat complicated in recent months. Late last year, the Japanese government enacted a strict new state secrets law that outlines stiff penalties, including up to 10 years in prison, for public servants and journalists who publish leaked information.

With the potential for possibly valuable leaks about the status of the region now greatly reduced, the official attention now directed toward even comic book commentary on sensitive topics may serve to only heighten the concerns of some already harboring doubts about the region’s relative safety. … ”

“‘Oishinbo’ editor defends manga” — read full article at The Japan Times

” The editor of “Oishinbo” defended on Monday the decision to depict characters in the cooking comic book as potentially hurt by radiation in Fukushima, calling it a “meaningful” attempt to sound the alarm about the grim, and largely overlooked, reality of life in the prefecture.

In Monday’s installment of the series — now suspended indefinitely — Hiroshi Murayama, who is also managing editor of the weekly Big Comic Spirits magazine the series runs in, includes an afterword in which he writes of feeling a strong pang of responsibility for the outrage caused by recent issues of the manga. …

Murayama said the story line was meant to spotlight the truth that “parts of Fukushima are indeed dangerous and uninhabitable” and “some local people are worried about health problems linked to radioactive fallout.”

Their voices, he said, are rarely heard because they are reluctant to complain of sickness for fear of being branded as “overly squeamish.” …

Monday’s issue devotes 10 pages to laying out the opinions of 13 experts and municipalities.

One of them, Hiroaki Koide, an assistant professor at the Kyoto University Research Reactor Institute, says that from a medical point of view the connection between nosebleeds and radiation exposure can’t be entirely ruled out.

Backing Kariya, he adds: “The government is not only indifferent to taking responsibility for the accident, but determined to erase it from people’s memory.” Such irresponsibility, he insists, is “almost criminal.” … “

“Outrage derails manga series ‘Oishinbo’ for Fukushima nuclear crisis depiction” — read full article at Jiji via The Japan Times

“Shogakukan Inc. will suspend its “Oishinbo” manga series after recent installments came under fire for suggesting residents of Fukushima Prefecture had been sickened or hurt by radioactive fallout from nuclear disaster, sources said.

“Oishinbo” will not appear in the publisher’s weekly Big Comic Spirits magazine starting from the May 26 issue, the sources said Saturday. Shogakukan was to announce the decision in Monday’s issue.

Monday’s issue will contain comments by the weekly’s chief editor, Hiroshi Murayama, who is expected to note his responsibility for the criticism, while adding he and other editors will work to better review such depictions in the series.

The upcoming issue will devote 10 pages to the opinions of 13 experts about the scenes in question. It will also run letters of protest from the Fukushima Prefectural Government, the town of Futaba, which cohosts the damaged nuclear plant, and letters from both the city and prefecture of Osaka. … ”

*The following articles were originally posted on May 13, 2014.

The Asahi Shimbun, May 13:

” Politicians at the national and local level have taken offense with depictions of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in a long-running manga series that until now had focused on food and gourmet cooking.

Installments of “Oishinbo” published in the April 28 and May 12 editions of the weekly Big Comic Spirits magazine also touched a nerve among those in Fukushima who felt the representations jarred with reality. … ”

Jiji Press, May 10:

” Environment Minister Nobuteru Ishihara has criticized a manga story for linking nosebleeds to exposure to radiation […] He underscored the importance of keeping unfounded rumors in check [and] that doctors with special knowledge have denied a causal relationship between exposure to radiation after the nuclear accident and nosebleeds. ”

Mainichi, May 10:

” Katsutaka Idogawa, 67, [Futaba’s] former mayor […] is featured in the popular comic series “Oishinbo.” […] Idogawa says his nose bleeds regularly and that there are many others in Fukushima who have developed similar symptoms. […] Idogawa told a news conference on May 9 in Tokyo […] his nose bleeds every day, especially in the mornings. “There is no way I would retract my comments in the manga,” Idogawa said. Responding to Environment Minister Nobuteru Ishihara […] Idogawa commented, “The minister has no business with my physical condition.” ”

Author Tetsu Kariya interview, translated by Toshi Nakamura, Jan. 13, 2014:

” […] after I got back [from Fukushima] and was having dinner, I suddenly started bleeding from my nose, and it wouldn’t stop. I thought, “what on Earth?” I’ve rarely ever had a nosebleed so it was quite a shock. After that, I had nosebleeds at night for days after. But when I went to the hospital, they said “there’s currently no medical connection between nosebleeds and radiation” and they severed a capillary in my nose membrane with a laser. Also, after I went, I felt a great deal of fatigue. The staff who went with me and the chief of Futaba-machi suffered from nosebleeds and fatigue. They say the radiation levels are low so there’s no harm, but I wonder about that. ”

Japanese version

Statement from Tetsu Kariya summarized by Yoshihiro Kaneda, May 7:

” It is possible that those who have supported me would walk away from me. I don’t understand why people criticize the truth which I have collected data in Fukushima 2 years and I write it as it is. Do people want to close my eyes against the truth and write something good lies for somebody or other? […] I can only write the truth. I hate self-deceiving. Today’s Japanese society is surrounded by the atmosphere of hating inconvenient truth and desiring lies of feeling good. ”

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