Associate Professor of Music and Ethnomusicology at UC Santa Barbara
This talk considers the recent mix of “sound demos,” art installations and antinuclear music festivals in contexts of political protest in Japan since the tsunami and subsequent nuclear disaster at Fukushima Daiichi on March 11, 2011. I focus on a performance festival called Project Fukushima! organized by experimental musician Ôtomo Yoshihide, poet Wago Ryoichi and punk rock legend Endô Michirô to provoke public discourse about nuclear power and the future of the partly-evacuated city (the name of his hometown, Ôtomo said, should not become a generalized reference to nuclear accident — “another Chernobyl”). Only a few months after the meltdown in 2011 and again in August 2012, this group of underground performers brought audiences in the thousands back to Fukushima. Bands performed on stages, in the streets, and on local trains; the audience sat on a gigantic furoshiki cloth tapestry conceived to protect them from the irradiated ground. In addition to his role as primary organizer and performer in Project Fukushima! Ôtomo has written powerfully on the role of arts and culture in the response to the Fukushima Disaster, and gives regular public talks about cultural activism, as well as authoring widely circulated blogposts and tweets about the antinuclear movement. Through my ethnographic research in Tokyo, Osaka, and Fukushima in 2012 and 2013, I contextualize Project Fukushima! as part of an ongoing series of public actions of music and noise making and “reclaim-the-streets” performance tactics that galvanized public response to the nuclear restart and the future of energy policy in Japan.