Video: Japan's Post-Fukushima Nuclear Protest Music

By Max Fisher

In the U.S., the phrase "protest song" is synonymous with the Civil Rights movement, the Vietnam War and its draft, and the nuclear arms race of the Cold War. More recently, that same protest song paradigm has been sporadically adapted to the war in Iraq. But, in Japan, protest music can tend to be associated with something much more specific: nuclear power.

The first wave of Japanese anti-nuclear songs came in the 1980s after the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl, but saw scant release because some of the largest record labels were owned by companies that were also involved in the nuclear industry. Now, however, a rash of songs responding to the nuclear disaster at Fukushima have proliferated online, where it is more difficult for labels to stop their release.

The New York Times profiles these new songs, as well as their 1980s predecessors. Here, also, is the video for "You Can't See It, And You Can't Smell It Either" by Rankin' Taxi. In typically sponge-like Japanese pop culture form, it is a pitch-perfect appropriation of something wholly non-Japanese: dance hall reggae. The playful, darkly humorous, surprisingly catchy song captures the invisible but inescapable anxiety that has permeated Japan, much like the radiation still lingering over Fukushima.



Here are the lyrics:

Look out! Look out! Nuclear... Look out! If anything goes awry...
Look out! Look out! Fukushima... Look out! Look out! They've really screwed up...

Radiation is strong, Radiation is powerful, it doesn't discriminate, and you can't beat it
Radiation is strong, Radiation is powerful, it doesn't discriminate, and you can't beat it

Just one accident will cause total panic, like the Titanic just before it sank
Chernobyl is now a ghost town, innocent kids with thyroid cancer
Hello, so you're the famous Plutonium! The myth of 'safety' died at Fukushima
No more farm produce... how far will the contamination go, and for how long?

Radiation is strong, Radiation is powerful, it doesn't discriminate, and you can't beat it
Radiation is strong, Radiation is powerful, it doesn't discriminate, and you can't beat it

Even if you're...
Gaddafi, Obama, Sarkozy, Berlusconi,
Hirose Takashi (anti-nuclear journalist), Rankin' Taxi (composer of this song)
the Prime Minister, Hanshin Kyojin (comedy duo), the pro-nuclear and anti-nuclear camps
Tokyo Electric and Kansai Electric and all the other electric power companies
Men, women, children, adults
Asahi (newspaper) Bunshun (magazine), Ebisu and Kirin (beer)
White people, black people, Seiyu and Daiei (rival supermarkets)
Toyota and Nissan (cars), Iraq and Iran

Radiation is strong, Radiation is powerful, it doesn't discriminate, and you can't beat it
Radiation is scary, Radiation is dangerous, you can't see it, and you can't smell it

Nuclear power - safe even with a leak of the primary cooling water!
Nuclear power - preserving world peace 24 hours a day!
A populace that will forgive anything short of a catastrophe
Idiotic slip-ups that occur even with vigilance
Well orchestrated PR campaigns, a subliminally transmitted innocuous image
Big money buying full-page newspaper ads
Everyone's taken in till the wind starts blowing

Radiation is strong, Radiation is powerful, it doesn't discriminate, and you can't beat it
Radiation is scary, Radiation is dangerous, you can't see it or smell it, and you can't run from it

Even if you're...
Beyonce, Bae Yong Joon (Korean actor), the Alien, Ampan-man (cartoon character)
Ultra Seven (superhero), crisis level 7,
Dub Ainu Band, green island, Soft Bank (mobile phone company), hard punk,
Matsumoto Kiyoshi (pharmacy chain), Matsumoto Hitoshi (comedian)
Zack (Alberto Zaccheroni - Japan national football coach) and Mac
Godzilla, Mothra, police and thieves, bosses and leaders
Michael (Jackson) and geiko (student and fully-fledged geisha), Tamori and Takeshi (comedians)
Matsuya and Sukiya (fast food chains), Takata (online shopping network) and Starbucks

Radiation is strong, Radiation is powerful, it doesn't discriminate, and you can't beat it
Radiation is scary, Radiation is dangerous, you can't see it or smell it, and you can't run from it

Die from a dose of radiation? No way!
Did you say an unstoppable leak? No way!
Do I want to be an object of hate for unborn children? No way!
Do I want to lead a life of unhealthy luxury? No way!
Can radiation deepen love? Can radiation make us wiser?
Can radiation stop wars? Can radiation bring a smile?

Radiation is strong, Radiation is powerful, it doesn't discriminate, and you can't beat it
Radiation is scary, Radiation is dangerous, you can't see it or smell it, and you can't run from it

Can't see it, can't smell it, can't run from it
Can't see it, can't smell it, can't run from it
Can't see it, can't smell it, can't run from it
Can't run, Can't run, Can't run, Can't run, nuclear!
Can't run, Can't run, Can't run, Can't run, if there's a screw-up
Can't run, Can't run, Can't run, Can't run, nuclear!
Can't run, Can't run, Can't run, Can't run, if there's a screw-up
It's safe! It's safe! It's safe! It's safe! Nuclear!
It's safe! It's safe! It's safe! It's safe! until there's a screw-up
It's safe! It's safe! It's safe! It's safe! Nuclear!
It's safe! It's safe! It's safe! until it's not, until it's not, until it's not, until it's not,
Stupid!

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2011/07/video-japans-post-fukushima-nuclear-protest-music/241372/