Fukushima one year later: art & action inspired by the nuclear disaster

Yesterday marked the one-year anniversary of Fukushima, the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl. Last March, a 9.0 earthquake set off a tsunami and an atomic meltdown. Nearly 16,000 people were killed, 6,023 people were injured, 3,282 people are missing and 333,000 are living in temporary accommodations.

Recovery has been impressive but frustrating as the government ignores radiation dangers and other countries, including the United States, fail apply the lessons of the tragedy to their own power plants. Without romanticizing what happened and what continues to happen, I want to highlight some of the creative ways people have responded to the triple disaster.

music: Kazuyoshi Saito’s “They have been telling a lie- they’ve cheated us” is a folksy indictment of the government of Japan. (Watch the videos in full screen so you can see the translated lyrics).

“You can’t see it, and you can’t smell it either” by Rankin & Dub Ainu Band is a wake up call and a great music video.

And “Free From Nuclear Power Plant” is a surprisingly political song from Seihuku Kojyo Iinkai, a pop teen idol group whose members rock school girl uniforms.

visual arts: PBS has a slideshow of the exhibit Real Times, organized by the Tokyo-based art collective Chim↑Pom.

The Washington Times has a slideshow “2:46 and Thereafter” an exhibition of artists who responds to the earthquake, tsunamis (that struck at 2:46 pm March 11th) and nuclear disaster.

poetry: The amazing site Words Without Borders posts the poem “Do not Tremble” by Hirata Toshiko. The opening of the poem, which Toshiko wrote weeks after the disaster, is,

It trembles

It is trembling again today
I did not know that the earth
Is an unruly cradle
A cruel cradle that lets
Neither adult nor child sleep

Read the rest of the poem here.

In the poem “Noisy Animal,”  Ohsaki Sayaka writes

Do not believe in words

Do not believe in “blue sky”
Do not believe in “shining earth”
Do not believe in “the light of hope”
I am a noisy animal
I am an animal that walks about speaking endlessly
I am not unable to speak only about what I have seen
You are not unable to speak only about what you have seen
Words lie and words tend to dream

Read the full poem here.

Action: The governor of Fukushima prefecture called for terminating nuclear power and promoting renewable energy. On Sunday Yuhei Sato said “We will call for all nuclear power stations in the prefecture to be shut down so that an accident like this never happens again….Fukushima aims to create a society that enjoys sustainable development by promoting renewable energy and not depending on nuclear power.”

Yesterday, Japan held a moment of silence at 2:46, during which sirens sounded and trains stopped.

On Sunday, over 12,000 people participated in an anti-nuclear protest, hold candles and forming a “human chain” around the parliament building in Tokyo. Check out moving images here.

In this video, we meet a farmer who bought a radiation tester for his own food and then turned his house into a community center where others can have their food tested.

Yesterday, The Greens/European Free Alliance held a “Never Again” conference and symbolic action at the European Parliament in Brussels, saying that “There should never again be a nuclear accident like in Fukushima and we need to end nuclear power.” Here is a beautiful video of the symbolic act, with balloons and time lapses.

And more locally, yesterday, hundreds of  of anti-nuclear protesters stood outside the entrance of Indian Point,  to demand that the nuclear power plant,  located 25 miles from New York city and considered the most dangerous one in the United States, be shut down. The protest was followed by a concert featuring performers Dar Williams , Dan Einbender and the Rivertown Kids, James Durst, Hope Machine, Lydia Adams Davis, Sarah Underhill, Roland Moussa, Taeko Fukao, The Raging Grannies and others.


Born and raised on the mean streets of New York City’s Upper West Side, Katie Halper is a comic, writer, blogger, satirist and filmmaker based in New York. Katie graduated from The Dalton School (where she teaches history) and Wesleyan University (where she learned that labels are for jars.) A director of Living Liberally and co-founder/performer in Laughing Liberally, Katie has performed at Town Hall, Symphony Space, The Culture Project, D.C. Comedy Festival, all five Netroots Nations, and The Nation Magazine Cruise, where she made Howard Dean laugh! and has appeared with Lizz Winstead, Markos Moulitsas, The Yes Men, Cynthia Nixon and Jim Hightower. Her writing and videos have appeared in The New York Times, Comedy Central, The Nation Magazine, Gawker, Nerve, Jezebel, the Huffington Post, Alternet and Katie has been featured in/on NY Magazine, LA Times, In These Times, Gawker,Jezebel, MSNBC, Air America, GritTV, the Alan Colmes Show, Sirius radio (which hung up on her once) and the National Review, which called Katie “cute and some what brainy.” Katie co-produced Tim Robbins’s film Embedded, (Venice Film Festival, Sundance Channel); Estela Bravo’s Free to Fly (Havana Film Festival, LA Latino Film Festival); was outreach director for The Take, Naomi Klein/Avi Lewis documentary about Argentine workers (Toronto & Venice Film Festivals, Film Forum); co-directed New Yorkers Remember the Spanish Civil War, a video for Museum of the City of NY exhibit, and wrote/directed viral satiric videos including Jews/ Women/ Gays for McCain.

Katie is a writer, comedian, filmmaker, and New Yorker.

Read more about Katie

Join the Conversation