Okinawa musicians against United States military base


This video is called Lucy Nagamine: Okinawa‘s folk music heritage.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Okinawa‘s musicians provide a focus for Japanese protest against US bases

With Barack Obama visiting Japan in April, resentment at plans for the US Futenma military base is finding a musical voice

Justin McCurry in Okinawa

Thursday 17 April 2014 15.50 BST

If an island of 1.4m people can be summed up in a sound, it is that of the sanshin. Where there are people on Okinawa, a Japanese island almost 1,000 miles south of Tokyo, the distinctive tones of the three-stringed instrument are never far away.

Music is deeply rooted in Okinawa’s tragic place in Japan‘s history and the conduit for its modern grievances against the glut of US military bases on the island. As Barack Obama prepares to visit Tokyo to meet Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, later in April, the anti-war message of sanshin players such as Shoukichi Kina and Misako Oshiro is back in vogue as the subtropical island confronts its biggest political challenge since it reverted from US to Japanese rule in the 1970s.

In his mid-60s, Kina cuts a controversial figure as spiritual leader of Okinawa’s activist musicians. Since the release of their first single Haisai Ojisan (Hey, Man!) in the 1970s, Kina and his band Champloose have done more than any other artists to secure Okinawan music against competition from mass-market Japanese J-pop and the more innocent musical motifs of the mainland folk genres minyo and enka.

“Our job as musicians should be to celebrate the good and do something about fixing the bad,” said Kina, who some have called Okinawa’s answer to Bob Marley. “That’s why I hate the military bases here, but I love Americans.”

Though it accounts for less than 1% of Japan’s total area, Okinawa is now home to about 75% of US bases in Japan and half its 50,000 troops. Military facilities take up a fifth of the island. Obama and Abe are expected to discuss the controversial relocation of Futenma, a sprawling US marine base, from a heavily populated part of Okinawa to an unspoiled location on the island’s northeast coast, as the allies attempt to lessen the island’s military burden. The move is opposed by most islanders, including the residents of Nago, whose city lies near the proposed site for the new base.

The spirit of resistance pioneered by Kina is to be found in the more eclectic music of Tatsumi Chibana, a quietly spoken 33-year-old university graduate and perhaps the most visible of Okinawa’s new generation of rebel artists, fusing traditional sounds with rock, reggae and hip-hop.

After a US military helicopter from the Futenma US marine base crashed into Okinawa International University in 2004, Chibana was moved to write his best-known song, Tami no Domino (People’s Domino), a collaboration between his band Duty Free Shopp and local rapper Kakumakushaka.

The incendiary lyrics reflect the feeling of many residents towards the ever-present threat to safety posed by the island’s 27,000 US troops and their hardware: “Surrounded by weapons in the land of disorder; what the hell can you tell me about peace in a place like this?”

Most of Chibana’s music eschews the sanshin and other traditional instruments, but his background looms large, he said. “I’m always aware of my Okinawan identity when I make music. OK, so I wasn’t brought up listening to folk songs, but the spirit of that old music is in mine. It doesn’t matter whether I play reggae, hip-hop or rock, it’s still Okinawan music.” …

Like Kina, Chibana occasionally sings in the Okinawan language Uchinaguchi – an artistic choice that renders his lyrics unintelligible to many Japanese, but which exemplifies the island’s historical and emotional sense of detachment from the mainland.

In the 16th century, where the sanshin’s origins lie, Okinawa was part of the Ryukyu kingdom, which, while politically independent, had tributary relations with Ming dynasty China. Forced annexation by Japan came in the late 1800s, followed in the 1940s by the carnage of the Pacific war.

Less than a century after it was forcibly made part of Japan, Okinawa was the scene of one of the second world war’s bloodiest battles. An estimated 240,000 Japanese and Americans died, including more than a quarter of Okinawa’s civilian population, after US forces invaded in June 1945. Japanese troops distributed grenades to civilians, urging them to commit suicide or risk being raped and murdered by American soldiers.

“There are lots of songs about how terribly the Okinawans were treated in the war,” said John Potter, the author of the only English-language book on Okinawan music and a prolific blogger on the subject.

Okinawa’s return to Japan in 1972 – almost three decades after the war – fuelled the local sense of “otherness” from the mainland.

Not all Okinawan musicians draw inspiration from the island’s bloody past, Potter said. “Many songs come back to what a fantastic place Okinawa is. Lots of artists sing about their culture and being island people, and their pride in being different.”

Poverty – Okinawa is Japan’s poorest prefecture – and the looming clouds of conflict sent many people in search of new lives overseas, creating a diaspora whose youngest members are making their presence felt on the island’s contemporary music scene.

Lucy Nagamine, a Peruvian-born singer whose grandparents left Okinawa shortly before the war, learned classical Ryukyu music from her grandmother and picked up her deceased grandfather’s sanshin at the age of 10.

Before settling in her ancestral homeland several years ago, Lucy often sang for Okinawan immigrants in Peru who were desperate to preserve the emotional ties with home. “Now I’m here in Okinawa, away from the country of my birth, I know how my grandparents and other immigrants felt,” she said in between songs at her regular venue, a restaurant in Naha.

“In those days immigrants had nothing to do except sing and play the sanshin. It was a central part of their existence, and why music and the Okinawan lifestyle are closely intertwined, even today.”

Less polemic are Nenes, a group of four whose lineup has gone through several reincarnations since they were formed by the legendary artist and producer Sadao China in 1990. Nenes perform classic Okinawan songs for groups of tourists from the mainland.

One rare departure from their otherwise “safe” repertoire is their stirring version of Keisuke Kuwata’s Heiwa no Kyuka, which simmers with resentment over Okinawa’s bloody wartime sacrifice. “Who decided this country was at peace,” the song asks, “Even before the people’s tears have dried?”

“Now that we’re confronting the base issue again, this is a good time to sing about peace,” said 24-year-old Mayuko Higa. “It’s important that the people who come to see us perform know why it’s an important subject here.”

Nenes’ tourist-friendly melodies can seem a world away from Kina’s ceaseless quest for social and political change, an artist who implores the world’s armies to swap their weapons for musical instruments. His decade-old feud with NHK, Japan’s national broadcaster, proves that Japan’s mainstream media and firebrand politics can be uncomfortable bedfellows.

“They demanded that I drop any references to peace from my performance,” Kina said, his arms in motion again as he recalls his incredulity. “I refused, of course, and they haven’t invited me back since. The message for Okinawan musicians has always been that if you want to get on in this industry, then keep your mouth shut. But I’ll say what I like.”

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Fukushima disaster commemorated in Britain


This video is called Children Of The Tsunami: The Heartbreaking Stories Of Fukushima‘s Survivors.

By Luke James in Britain:

World marks Fukushima anniversary

Tuesday 11th March 2014

Ministers urged to learn the lessons of Japanese nuclear disaster

Anti-nuclear campaigners told Con-Dem ministers yesterday to learn the lessons of the Fukushima disaster “before it’s too late” for Britain.

Activists issued the demand before the third anniversary today of the incident which has left 160,000 Japanese people refugees in their own country.

Tens of thousands of people have rallied in Japan urging their government not to make the same mistakes again.

More than 15,000 people lost their lives in the immediate aftermath of an earthquake and tsunami that swept away homes along Japan’s coast.

And the radiation released by the wrecked Fukushima plant has left the surrounding area empty.

Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament leader Kate Hudson warned a meeting in Parliament yesterday that it presents a “stark lesson” for Britain.

“Just because the UK doesn’t experience earthquakes or tsunamis doesn’t mean we’re safe from the kind of catastrophe which occurred in Japan,” she told the Morning Star before the lobby.

“The Fukushima Daiichi plant suffered three meltdowns ultimately because power was lost to the cooling systems.

“That can happen anywhere and for a multitude of reasons, from a targeted attack, to technical malfunctions, to natural disasters causing power failures and structural damage – as recent flooding in the UK has made all too clear.”

Ms Hudson pointed out that recent flooding and earthquakes were near the proposed site of the new Hinkley C reactor.

She accused government ministers of making nuclear the “foundation” of their energy policy despite the risks and “exorbitant” cost.

“Nuclear power has shown itself to be a dangerous and expensive form of energy – we should learn the lessons of Fukushima before it’s too late.”

But campaigners will continue a week of action this evening with a candle-lit vigil outside the Japanese embassy in London to show solidarity with families still suffering the effects of the disaster.

Japanese Against Nuclear UK spokesman Shigeo Kobayashi said it would also send a message to Japanese PM Shinzo Abe to stop his bid to restart nuclear reactors.

He said: “Quite a majority of Japanese people here are against restarting mothballed nuclear power plants.

“But the Abe government is trying to mix the energy source and open them up again.

“All these nuclear power plants in Japan are coming to the end of their life and any similar nuclear accident would be a complete tragedy – the end of Japan.”

The Ghost cities of Fukushima — 60 Minutes: here.

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Good whale news from Japan


This video is called Humpback Whales – BBC documentary excerpt.

After bad news from Japan about taxpayer-funded killing of whales … and good news about Japanese demonstrating against whaling … now some more good news.

From Wildlife Extra:

Japan saves humpback breeding grounds

March 2014: It’s good news for humpbacks as Japan has designated the Kerama Islands and surrounding waters in Okinawa Prefecture as the country’s 31st national park and the first in three decades. These waters are also famed as a breeding ground for whales, including humpbacks who migrate to the tropical waters for mating between December and April every year.

The designated area includes 30 islets and reefs, and covers 3,520 hectares of dry land and 94,750 hectares of ocean. It lies 35 kilometres west of Okinawa Main Island and is famous for its rich aquatic environment. It is home to 248 species of coral.

A report in the Japan Times says that the ministry will also designate surrounding waters shallower than 30 metres as a marine park and will strictly restrict development within them, such as the extraction of sand. It also plans to build coral restoration facilities to counter the damage done in the past.

Blue whales and many other marine animals will receive important new safeguards by Chile’s declaration of two new marine protected areas (MPAs) along its southern coast: here.

March 2014: The future of Japan’s whaling activities in the Antarctic could be reviewed as the International Court of Justice in The Hague has announced that it will deliver its preliminary judgment in the case between Australia and Japan at the end of the month: here.

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Fukushima news update


This video from Japan about Fukushima says about itself:

March 11, 2013 2 year anniversary of man-made nuclear accident and tsunami

Hiroaki Koide, Master of Science in Nuclear Engineering, Assistant Professor at the Kyoto University Research Institute, Nuclear Waste Management & Safety Expert:

The cesium-137 that was released into the atmosphere by Units 1 through 3 was 168 times that of the Hiroshima bomb, according to the Japanese government report to the IAEA, an international organization which promotes nuclear power.

Very high levels of accumulated radioactive cesium have been detected in the mud of hundreds of reservoirs used to irrigate farmland in Fukushima Prefecture, where agriculture is a key industry: here.

”As if the hazards at Japan’s crippled Fukushima Daichi nuclear plant needed to worsen, more highly radioactive water has leaked in one of the reactors. Wayne looks at growing international unease in the aftermath of the meltdown and the surrounding political winds. Colin follows up with Arnie Gundersen, a former nuclear industry executive and now chief engineer at the Fairewinds organization“: here.

Fukushima disaster, USS Ronald Reagan sailors, and Alaskan ringed seals: here.

As the third anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake approaches, new studies of the ongoing effects of the triple disaster of earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown show that the disaster is far from over: here.

Illegal nuclear dumping in Shiga raises alarms: Culprits not ID’d; 8,700 tons of cesium-tainted chips missing — The Japan Times: here.

U.S. Military personnel sickened after Fukushima face long recovery: here.

Three years after the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the Japanese government is moving to restart the country’s nuclear plants, all of which remain shut down. A draft energy plan released late last month officially designates nuclear power as a long-term base power source, setting the stage for the resumption of nuclear plant operations: here.

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Fukushima radioactive leak again


This video says about itself:

Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant leaks radioactive water; 20 February 2014

New Highly Radioactive Leak At Japan’s Fukushima Plant

Around 100 tonnes of highly radioactive water have leaked from a storage tank.

By Will Morrow:

Japan: New radioactive water leak at Fukushima

24 February 2014

The Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) revealed last Thursday that one of the 1,000 makeshift tanks used to hold radioactive water at its Fukushima nuclear plant had leaked more than 100 tonnes of highly contaminated water over the previous day. The leakage—the largest since August 2013—occurs two weeks after revelations that TEPCO deliberately suppressed, for six months, its own findings of extremely high radiation levels in groundwater near the sea.

TEPCO spokesman Masayuki Ono said the company was sorry for “worrying the public with such a leak,” and claimed it was “unlikely” that the radioactive water had reached the ocean, which is just 700 metres away. The water had a radioactivity of 230 million becquerels per litre, 23 million times greater than the legal limit for drinking water.

The company has immediately sought to present the leakage—which occurred because the tank overfilled—as a result of human error. The company claims that valves controlling the flow of water along a pipe that fills the tank were mistakenly left open by an employee. However, TEPCO has admitted that one of the three valves was closed and is investigating why this did not prevent the tank from filling.

The leakage is a direct result of the short-term measures put in place by the company to address previous problems. The radioactive water breached a concrete perimeter around the tank by passing along a rainwater gutter. The gutters were installed in November to prevent rainwater from building up inside the barrier. Heavy rains the previous month flooded the storage area and allowed radioactive water to breach the concrete walls. Ono admitted that “this incident revealed [the gutter’s] weak point. We have to redesign it.”

The March 2011 earthquake and tsunami resulted in a failure of power supplies at the Fukushima plant, a partial meltdown, several hydrogen explosions and damage to the spent fuel rod pool at a fourth reactor. The failure of the reactors’ cooling systems meant that water had to be continuously injected into the cores, producing huge quantities of highly radioactive water. The company is now storing hundreds of thousands of tonnes of contaminated water in more than 1,000 tanks at the plant and the quantity continues to grow.

At every stage, TEPCO has sought to cut costs, creating further dangers. Yoshitatsu Uechi, an auto mechanic at the plant from December 2011 to June 2012, told the Asahi Shimbun in January that duct tape was commonly used to seal holes in storage tanks, and that wire nets rather than reinforcing steel bars were used in the storage tank foundations. Waterproof sheets were placed along the joints of the metal tanks to save on sealing agent. Uechi told the Japanese newspaper: “I couldn’t believe that such slipshod work was being done, even if it was part of stopgap measures.”

No faith can be placed in any of the claims of TEPCO or the government’s Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) about the extent of water leakage or the amount of radioactive waste that has reached the environment. TEPCO has a long and documented history of cover-ups and falsifying safety reports, with the collusion of the government’s nuclear supervisory organisations.

On February 7, TEPCO released its own findings on radioactivity levels in groundwater in the area around the plant—only 25 meters from the sea. The samples were taken in July and analysed by September 2013. Groundwater passes through the plant due to the natural weather cycle, becoming contaminated in the process. Between 300-400 tonnes of radioactive groundwater passes every day into the ocean.

TEPCO revealed that the groundwater at one of its monitoring wells contained five million becquerels per litre of Strontium-90, which is highly poisonous as it can replace calcium, accumulate in the food chain and build up in the bones of humans. This is more than five times the 900,000 becquerels per litre that the company reported at the time for all isotopes emitting beta radiation, including Strontium-90.

The company has given no explanation for the delay in releasing the data. NRA official Shinji Kinjo told Reuters on February 13: “We did not hear about this figure when they detected it last September. We have been repeatedly pushing TEPCO to release strontium data since November. It should not take them this long to release this information.”

The NRA was set up as a merger of two previous organisations, in a bid to dispel mass opposition to the Fukushima disaster and the collusion of regulatory bodies with giant energy companies such as TEPCO. Despite its history of deception and cost cutting, TEPCO has been left in charge of the massive task of dismantling the Fukushima reactors and cleaning up the site.

The latest storage tank leak is the largest since last August, when it was revealed that approximately 300 tonnes of radioactive water had leaked from a tank. Leaks are occurring regularly, however, and it is unclear how much of the water has already reached the ocean. Also on February 7, TEPCO announced that video footage taken by a robot used to clear debris from the damaged number three reactor showed highly radioactive water—containing large amounts of cesium and cobalt—leaking to the reactor’s drainage ditch.

The Japanese government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, like its predecessors, is completely beholden to the interests of the big energy corporations. Last month, the government approved—in the face of popular opposition to nuclear power in Japan—TEPCO’s plan to restart its biggest nuclear station, Kashiwazaki Kariwa, this summer.

The government has vested interests in suppressing evidence of the catastrophe caused by the Fukushima disaster. Abe is determined to ensure that Japan maintains its capacity to produce nuclear energy and, if ordered by the government, nuclear weapons. At the same time, Abe has downplayed the threat to the population posed by nuclear leaks at Fukushima as part of his bid for the 2020 Olympic Games.

BBC News – North American scientists track incoming Fukushima plume: here.

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