Podcast: The Sounds of Japan’s Antinuclear Movement

In this podcast for post, ethnomusicologist David Novak brings you to the noisy scenes of Japan’s 2012 antinuclear protest movement in Tokyo, Osaka, and Fukushima, mixing commentary with field recordings, musical examples, and interviews about the role of arts and culture in the ongoing political crisis. How do these performances of protest interpret the dangers and social impacts of nuclear power? How do improvised drumming, carnivalesque atmospheres, costumes, and other tactics of protest performance help the Japanese public to navigate the often charged context of grassroots action? And what do these contexts of sound, music, and noise contribute to public affect and political discourse in post-3.11 Japan?

Scroll down to listen to a streaming version online and to access supplemental videos featuring some of the artists described in the podcast.

Anti-Nuclear Clowns
Photo by David Novak 2012 under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license

This material is based, in part, upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Cooperative Agreement No. 0938099. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

Podcast: The Sounds of Japan’s Antinuclear Movement

Podcast: The Sounds of Japan’s Antinuclear Movement

Since the nuclear accident at Fukushima Daiichi on March 11, 2011, Japan has exploded with an unprecedented series of spectacular public protests, with crowds of up to 200,000 citizens gathering in front of government buildings in Tokyo to beat on drums, play instruments, and chant slogans opposing the restart of nuclear plants across the nation. Events such as Sayonara Genpatsu (Goodbye Nukes) and the Human Chain protest that surrounded the Diet Building in Hibiya Park marked the summer of 2012 as Natsu Datsu Genpatsu (“Summer to End Nuclear Power”); cartoon characters such as Monju-kun appeared in costume to explain nuclear dangers to children and their parents; spontaneous public gatherings and sound demonstrations grew into weekly assemblies and carefully planned music festivals to highlight the antinuclear message. Over the past two years, a growing community of activist artists, musicians, and performers such as Chim↑PomShiroto-no-ran, and Otomo Yoshihide have crystalized their creative energy in guerrilla pieces and organized public events that concentrate public attention. In the context of a near blackout of mainstream media coverage, the combination of social media, musical performance, and street protest took on increasing importance in generating public dialogue about the risks of radiation and articulating fears about the consequences of Japan’s energy policy.

Related Videos

“No Nukes 6.11 Swinging Tokyo Street Funky Protest” Shinjuku, Japan

“You can’t see it, and you can’t smell it either” By Rankin Taxi & Dub Ainu Band

“We Shall Overcome” By Jintaramuta

“Monju-kun Ondo” Performed by Ugoku! Monju-kun

Additional Links

David Novak’s UCSB webpage

Japanoise: Music at the Edge of Circulation

Performing Antinuclear Movements in Post-3.11 Japan (essay)

Project Fukushima!

Noriko Manabe

Marié Abe

Subscribe to our newsletter

Related Content

Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook’s Relational Tableaux 

Articulations of the relational have been shifting in parallel with the recent turn in global contemporary art toward validating ecological and indigenous practices. This shift invites a consideration of what exactly constitutes the relational among artistic and curatorial efforts within the global contemporary. And among Southeast Asian exemplars, the multimedia practice of artist Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook…

In Memoriam: Kavita Singh (1964-2023)

Kavita Singh was a distinguished and beloved art historian, curator, and pedagogue. She passed away in New Delhi on July 30, 2023, following a brave battle with cancer. In this 5 Questions interview, conducted when she visited The Museum of Modern Art as a C-MAP Asia speaker in 2016, Singh shared her critical insights into questions of canonicity, location, representation, and translation in the era of globalization.