The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus Newsletter
Newsletter No. 7. 2015        

February 16, 2015

New Articles
Special Issue
Art and Activism in Post-Disaster Japan
Edited by Alexander Brown & Vera Mackie

Alexander Brown & Vera Mackie


On 11 March 2011, the northeastern area of Japan, known as Tōhoku, was hit a by an unprecedented earthquake and tsunami. The disaster damaged the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, one of a number of such facilities located in what was already an economically disadvantaged region. This led to a series of explosions and meltdowns and to the leakage of contaminated water and radioactive fallout into the surrounding area and eventually into the sea and far beyond. Around 20,000 people were reported dead or missing, with a disproportionate number from the aged population of the region.

As we approach the fourth anniversary of the triple disaster, hundreds of thousands of people are still displaced: evacuated to other areas, living in temporary accommodation, or living in makeshift shelters in former public buildings. There has been despoliation of the environment and contamination of food, air and water. Primary industries like fishing and dairy have been devastated. Livestock have suffered excruciating deaths due to injury, radiation sickness and starvation, or have had to be "put down". The nuclear power industry in Japan is effectively shut down, and people are enjoined to save electricity (setsuden) in order to cope with the reduced capacity for power generation.

The disaster has reverberated throughout Japan - in the local communities immediately affected, in civil society groups who have sent volunteers to the region, in more distant places which have welcomed refugees from the disaster, in the responses of local and national governments, and in international expressions of solidarity and concern.

This special issue focuses on artistic and activist responses to the disaster, demonstrating how "art" and "activism" have intertwined in response to crisis. In the wake of a disaster with such immense social implications, all of the diverse ways of attempting to communicate about the disaster - whether documentary or artistic - have political dimensions. Indeed, many of the contributors to this issue reflect urgently on the near impossibility of communicating the experience. At the same time, it is difficult to dismiss the artistic element in many of the political responses - such as the use of music, drumming, rapping, street theatre, masks, costumes and posters in demonstrations - all of which make possible communication to a broad national and international public in ways that pose questions about the response of the Japanese state and the future of nuclear power.

Quick Links
Follow us on TwitterLike us on Facebook