Upswell Magazine 2014 -2015


Established in 2014 Upswell was an online magazine of radical politics and culture based in Australia.
Content is from the site's 2014-2015 archived pages providing a glimpse of what this site offered its readership.




Welcome to the first issue of Upswell, a new magazine of the radical left based in Australia.We aim to publish a persity of left-wing perspectives that challenge liberalism and capitalism in an accessible and engaging way. All types of contributions are welcome, including articles, personal accounts, stories, fiction, poems, interviews, reviews, video or picture pieces. To submit, contact us at


2014 1st Issue FEATURES



The first budget of the Coalition Federal government has exposed fractures that cut across Australian society. The budget is a serious attempt to reorganise the operation of the state in a way that responds to the current needs of capitalism in Australia. It seems smart to consider it as such: not simply as a piece of outrageous legislation but rather an attempt by the state to act in.



Anti-Nuclear Love Songs: The Music of Resistance in Post-Fukushima Japan

Music has been one of the movement’s most powerful means of communication. At that first large demonstration on the 10th of April, protesters paraded to the sounds of marching bands, DJs, rappers, reggae musicians and punk and rock and roll bands that played from the back of trucks in the middle of the demonstration. Musicians shared their musical messages via social media. Fans became filmmakers and distributors...


Fifteen thousand people turned out on Sunday the 10th of April, 2011 for the "Genpatsu Yamero" (Stop Nuclear Power) demonstration in Tokyo to protest against nuclear power. It was one month since the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami had devastated Japan's north-eastern Tōhoku region and triggered an explosion at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. The demonstration was not widely reported in the mainstream Japanese media, but it attracted worldwide attention via the internet. A little more than a year later the numbers on the streets had swollen to more than one hundred thousand as people gathered at anti-nuclear protests outside the Prime Minister's Residence in Tokyo on the 29th of June, 2012, where they moved from the pavement into the streets in defiance of police.

Music has been one of the movement’s most powerful means of communication. At that first large demonstration on the 10th of April, protesters paraded to the sounds of marching bands, DJs, rappers, reggae musicians and punk and rock and roll bands that played from the back of trucks in the middle of the demonstration. Musicians shared their musical messages via social media. Fans became filmmakers and distributors, when they recorded the performances that took place during demonstrations and live shows, and uploaded them to video sharing sites. Musicians and fans organised concerts and live performances—from small underground shows to major festivals. A thriving culture of resistance through music has become a decisive feature of the anti-nuclear movement.

In this article I share some of the songs of the anti-nuclear movement and explain how they critique nuclear power and propose alternative values. I show how musicians used social media, took part in demonstrations and held concerts in order to break through the silence that reigned following the nuclear disaster. I go on to explore the musicians struggle to frame the nuclear disaster as the result of a human error and refute claims that it was the result of a natural disaster of “unanticipated” scale. I then turn to an analysis of the way anti-nuclear songs criticise the money-values of the nuclear industry and celebrate other values like life, nature and love.

While the Fukushima nuclear disaster was widely reported around the world, in the days and weeks that followed the mainstream Japanese media downplayed the danger of radiation leakage and reported the situation at the plant as stable. In this context, music, distributed through online video sharing sites such as Youtube, was a powerful medium for communicating about the disaster, expressing anger and organising resistance.

Rock star Saitō Kazuyoshi was one of the first musicians to use social media to express his anger about the disaster. His solo performance of his own composition "It Was Always a Lie" (Zutto uso datta) appeared on Youtube in early April. In it, Saitō criticises the government and electricity companies for maintaining that nuclear power was safe prior to the disaster and mourns the environmental damage caused by radiation.

Explaining his motivation for the performance during an interview with Music Magazine, Saitō explained that “it felt wrong that even though everyone was surely angry, there was an atmosphere in which you couldn't speak out.” This atmosphere, in which it was difficult to express one's opinion openly about the disaster, was referred to by many as a “mood of self-restraint” (jishuku mūdo). Matsumoto Hajime, one of the organisers of the abovementioned 10th of April demonstration also complained of this prevailing mood in the weeks following the March disaster on his weekly blog. He called on his readers to “smash this horrible mood of self-restraint and head into the streets” on the 10th of April. When fifteen thousand people turned out for the demonstration in Tokyo's Kōenji district, it became clear that Saitō’s song had struck a chord. Some of the participants even sang it as they marched along. The 10th of April demonstration boasted a full slate of bands, DJs and solo artists organised into three blocs: a "Dance Bloc" featuring DJs and rap and reggae performers, a "Live Bloc" which included various bands and a "Silver Bloc" marching band in which anyone was welcome to participate.

In Japan, demonstrations like this which include live music performances, DJs and marching bands, are known as sound demonstrations (saundo demo). They originated during the anti-war movement of 2003­–2004 and became popular on its radical fringe. Between 2004 and 2009, sound demonstrations were adopted by the growing number of casual, temporary and contract workers known in Japan as "freeter". With large PA systems mounted on the back of trucks, “sound demos” are able to project the sound of demonstrations beyond the limits imposed by the Tokyo Metropolitan Police, who typically restrict demonstrators to a single lane of traffic at the side of the road.

The Fukushima disaster prompted hip hop artist Rumi to take her first step into street politics. Like Saitō and Matsumoto, Rumi felt that there was something wrong with the strange silence that prevailed in the wake of the Fukushima disaster. On tour in London when the earthquake and tsunami struck on the 11th of March, Rumi returned to Japan expecting to find people openly expressing their anger towards the government. Instead, she encountered the “mood of self-restraint” prevailing in the music scene. No-one was holding live performances and the clubs in the entertainment district of Shibuya were closed. What struck Rumi in particular was the contradiction between the rebellious image of the hip hop, club and hardcore music scenes she performs in and their silence in the face of the disaster. She explained in an interview with music critic and anti-nuclear activist Futatsugi Shin how this contradiction motivated her to join the 10th of April demonstration:

            "Why was it that people who had been angry when everything was calm and peaceful weren't angry 
             now? At that time I was invited to a demonstration and I thought it’s now or never."

Rumi told the Japan Times how surprised she was to find herself being drawn into political activism:
           "The impression of protest in Japan is that it is for extremists on the right and left …  I never expected 
           to get involved in demonstrations or that sort of thing."

However, while participating in a street demonstration may have been a new experience for Rumi, dealing with problems of self-expression and challenging an atmosphere of silence has been central to her entire engagement with hip hop. As a child Rumi became conscious that in school and in the wider world there were certain things that one could not say. In hip hop she discovered a space where expressing one ’s opinion was permitted and indeed celebrated. In one of Rumi's most beautiful raps, "AKY," from her 2009 album Hell Me Nation, she criticises the social phenomenon known as "KY". This term is used particularly among school children for bullying others who are “unable to read the atmosphere” (Kūki ga Yomenai) and therefore fail to conform to expected group behavior. Rejecting this conformity, she describes herself in the lyrics as deliberately refusing to read the vibes (aete kūki yomimasen) and celebrates thinking for oneself and speaking one's mind. Performing this rap at the 10th of April demonstration, Rumi criticised the mood of self-restraint and the fear of speaking out.

In Rumi's 10th of April performance in Kōenji she told the crowd to "cry out" and “raise your voice against the stillness of the night.” Claiming a space for political expression through music, artists such as Saitō and Rumi overcame the prevailing atmosphere of self-restraint in order to take part in the struggle over nuclear power. They were soon joined by other musicians who joined in demonstrations, released their music through social media or held concerts in which music and song became a medium for communicating a critique of a broader nuclear culture. Anti-nuclear songs brought a “breath of fresh air” and produced a space in which to talk about the Fukushima disaster and its consequences.


In his online performance piece, Saitō Kazuyoshi reacted to the nuclear disaster by criticising the fundamental myth of Japan’s nuclear industry: that nuclear power is safe.

“It was always a lie”, he sang, “that nuclear power was safe”. He rejected the idea that claims for nuclear safety were the result of genuine errors or miscalculations. The nuclear industry, Saitō asserted, “realised that a situation like [the Fukushima disaster] was possible”. An investigation by the National Diet, Japan’s legislative power, later confirmed this, revealing that the scenario which occurred on the 12th of March, 2011, when the tsunami cut off diesel generators which should have provided backup power for reactor cooling, had been flagged as a possible risk years before. On Saturday the 12th of March, 2011, the day after power to cool generators at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant was cut off, the Asahi and Yomiuri newspapers, two of the largest circulation dailies in Japan, both carried banner headlines declaring the accident to have been the result of circumstances which were “unanticipated” (sōteigai). Saitō subverted this idea in his song, singling out the use of the word “unanticipated” by the nuclear industry as simply an attempt to cover up the fact that the potential for accidents was well known prior to the Fukushima disaster.

Kyoto-based rock and roll group, Frying Dutchman also insisted in their passionate seventeen minute spoken word piece “human ERROR” that the nuclear accident was not a natural disaster but a “human error”. The band gave live performances of “human ERROR”, shared these performances via social media, released a single of the song and took it with them to street protests. It attracted thirty thousand views on Youtube in the first month after its release. The group also organised a global protest through their website, with the title “HumanERROR One Million Person Parade”, to coincide with the one year anniversary of the 11th of March disaster. They asked people to pledge to play the song on the 11th of March, whether alone in their room, on the corner, in a car or at a demonstration, to “mourn the victims of the earthquake disaster” and “think about shutting down the nuclear reactors.” By the 10th of March, 2012 they had received more than sixty-six thousand pledges from people promising to participate in the “parade.”


Another group from a very different musical genre who have joined in the struggle to frame the Fukushima accident differently is the idol group Seifuku Kōjō Iinkai (SKi). Idols are young artists who perform, appear for photo opportunities and appear in the media. SKi differ, however, from mainstream idol groups such as AKB48, who confine themselves primarily to singing childish love songs and appearing in a wide range of corporate marketing campaigns. Since it was founded in 1992, SKi has addressed a variety of social issues in its lyrics, from bullying to environmental and anti-war activism. Like Saitō and Frying Dutchman, Ski’s lyrics challenge the way the disaster has been framed. In their song “No, no, no nuclear power” they sing “no immediate effect on human health, what's that!”, rejecting claims made by then Chief Cabinet Minister Edano Yukio that the disaster would have “no immediate effect on health”.

Saitō Kazuyoshi’s song goes into some detail about the way in which the myth of nuclear safety was constructed in Japan. He blames textbooks, implicating the Ministry of Education and government, and commercial advertising as well as the large electric power companies. In addition to criticising the role of commercial advertising in promoting nuclear power, Saitō confessed to Music Magazine that he was troubled by a sense of being complicit in the production and reproduction of a nuclear culture. Saitō intended his intervention to be humorous as well as critical, but the “humor” in the song is dark and ironic. “It was always a lie” is a parody of Saitō's own original song, “I always loved you” (Zutto suki datta), which was originally conceived as part of a commercial tie-in for cosmetics giant Shiseidō. He adapted this song to criticise the advertising industry for its complicity in promoting the myth of nuclear safety.

Collectively, the electric power industry is Japan's biggest advertiser, spending more than US$1 billion per year even though their government-guaranteed monopoly means they have no need to market their product. Record companies and radio stations, who rely heavily on these advertising revenues, maintained “self-restraint” regarding the nuclear issue in the weeks after the accident, contributing to the atmosphere of silence. This upset many artists who wanted to express their views on this important issue. On the 27th of April, 2011, one of Japan’s biggest daily newspapers, the Asahi Shinbun, reported that Saitō's record company, Victor Entertainment, had distanced itself from the online performance of "It was always a lie". They apparently asked for the video to be taken down after it appeared online, claiming it was a clip made for private use that was inadvertently leaked. The newspaper cited a statement from Saitō’s agency’s which claimed that after discussions between themselves, the artist and the record company (Victor), the decision had been taken to not release the clip publically in order to avoid doing damage to “related companies,” and out of respect for the different opinions that exist on the issue. The Asahi points out that Victor is itself owned by a manufacturer of electrical appliances.

At the Genpatsu Yamero demonstration in Kōenji on the 4th of April, 2011, Rumi began her performance with a strident critique of the corrupting influence of money:

           Money here, money there - special interests (riken)
           Riken, riken, riken, riken
           Riken, riken, riken, riken

The Japanese word riken refers to concessions that are granted to private companies as a result of collusion with government or public officials. Framing her performance with this word, which she yelled out over and over again, Rumi pointed to the factor that has caused perhaps the most anger regarding the Fukushima disaster—the collusion between government regulators, politicians and the Tokyo Electric Power Company.

Frying Dutchman's Tabasco compares the values of nuclear energy and money with the value of a life lived in harmony with nature. He explains that renewable energy sources are not vigorously pursued in Japan, despite the fact they can cheaply substitute for nuclear energy. He argues that this is because of “powerful interests [who] hide this fact from us ... because of money.” However, Tabasco not only criticises the power of money but also suggests that other values might provide an alternative, saying “sure, money is important, but there are more important things than money!” SKi president Hashimoto Mika explains that for her group, too, some things are more important than money. SKi’s producer operates an independent record label which enables the group to voice their dissenting views on a variety of social issues. Hashimoto explains that Ski:

            are not idols for the purpose of making sales ... SKi's goal cannot be expressed through numbers or 
            something easily visible. It involves thinking about the issues in any given era that we are uncertain about 
            and raising problems. Listening to the voices of people who are in a weak position in society and then 
            communicating through song.

In opposition to the money-values associated with nuclear power, many anti-nuclear musicians embrace the value of “life” (inochi) itself. On the 16th of July, 2012, numerous musicians and bands took part in the “Goodbye to Nuclear Power Plants” rally and march in Tokyo organised by the anti-nuclear organisation “Ten Million People's Action to Say Goodbye to Nuclear Power Plants.” One band that performed at the march was Tsuchikkure, a folk-rock outfit based in the Tama region of western Tokyo. Opening their performance, lead singer Hana-chan spoke the refrain that is repeated throughout the song:

            There is only one important thing
            The joy that exists between different forms of life


            We don't need no nuclear power plants

Frying Dutchman's Tabasco also refers to the value of a life lived in harmony with nature, which he contrasts with the power of money. Indeed, his lyrics link the nuclear disaster to a more fundamental “human error” that preceded the development of nuclear technology and lies rather in the emergence of “civilisations dependent on material things”, through which:

            people have made money by destroying nature and irresponsibly making dangerous products, all while 
           using the media to deceive the masses and inflicting horrible pain and suffering on those living in harmony 
           with nature.

The celebrations of a life lived in harmony with nature in anti-nuclear songs reflect the continuing influence of the anti-nuclear “New Wave” of 1988, which was infused with the ideas and values of Japan's hippie subculture. In 1988 a series of protest actions against the Ikata Nuclear Power Plant in Shikoku took place, which were heavily influenced by the counter-culture and its festive style of protest. Following these protests in the early part of the year, a music festival, the Festival of Life (Inochi no matsuri), was organised for August. Subtitled "No Nukes, One Love", the event attracted an estimated eight thousand people over eight days. By thinking about anti-nuclear politics in terms of the celebration of life, nature and love, the Japanese "New Wave" and the hippie sub-culture reflected the continuing influence of the global counter-culture of the 1960s and 1970s and helped transmit these values to today's movement.

Political conceptions of love such as those raised by the counter-culture and the anti-nuclear “New Wave” continue to play an important role in the anti-nuclear movement. In her performance at the 10th of April demonstration, Rumi considered the nature of love in the context of a political movement. Opening her song with a call to “question what is right“ and “hang on to that fragile sense of justice”, Rumi asks us to join her in crying out in protest. However, while she incites a cry of protest she insists that there is “no time to cry out love like your half-crazed” (han kyōran de ai o sakebu yoyū mo arishinee). This “half-crazed” cry recalls the hype which surrounded Katayama Kyōichi's 2001 novel Crying Out Love at the Centre of the World (Sekai no chūshin de ai o sakebu). With the aid of a major cross-media marketing campaign, this juvenile tale of a tragic “pure love” between two teenagers went on to sell over three million copies and was adapted for film, television and comic book serialisation. But as literary critic Ōzawa Masayoshi pointed out in a 2007 essay, the “centre of the world” in the novel's title refers to the private world occupied by the two lovers. The novel's success can be interpreted as reflecting a tendency to disengage from society and a retreat into private and self-involved notions of romantic love and inpidual consumption.

Positing a different conception of love in the following verse of her song, Rumi stated that “justice without love is not justice”. Here, she implied both a re-thinking of the notion of justice as well as a conception of love which is not confined within the private sphere but takes account of others. Frying Dutchman express their motivation to protest nuclear power in terms of the love of children. “They’re our future!”, Tabasco cries, asking “if we don’t protect them, who the hell will?”. In the final stanzas Tabasco proposes a transformation of society based on love. “It's not just pretty words”, he proclaims, yelling out “LOVE!”. Tabasco's performance reinforces the idea that love is not just a “pretty word". His "crying out love" is full of anger and passion. He cries out “it's love." "love!” over and over again as the simple backing rhythm of his band builds to a crescendo. In the outdoor performance of the song, Tabasco incites the audience to “have a go at saying it ... love!” He turns from one member of the small crowd to another, urging them to cry out love in response. In an ecstatic performance he turns from crying out love to crying out “idiot” and “stupid.” Tabasco rejects the “pretty” words of romantic love songs and escapist literature and performs a kind of love that is compatible with anger and political action. Like Rumi's, Tabasco's love is a political love that is expressed not through the romantic couple but in mass political action. It is a love that is inseparable from the struggle for justice.

In the music of the anti-nuclear movement, different musical and political traditions, from hip-hop to reggae to rock and roll, engage in dialogues that go beyond the critique of nuclear power to embrace a broad-based critique of the social relations behind it. They criticise the money-value that justifies nuclear power and celebrate other values such as nature, life and love. Frying Dutchman compare some of the things that can be bought with money with those that cannot.

            You can buy a house, but you can’t buy a home
            Money buys you a watch, but it can’t buy you time
            You can buy a book, but you can’t buy knowledge
            You can buy a bed, but you can’t buy sleep
            Money pays the doctor, but it can’t cure disease

Home, time, knowledge, sleep, health, love, wisdom, peace and joy. These are some of the values and affects that are contrasted with the value of money and celebrated in the music of the anti-nuclear movement.


The songs of the anti-nuclear music after Fukushima helped break the silence of Japan's tightly-controlled media and entertainment industries as well as the “self-restraint” produced by the sense of overwhelming loss that accompanied the terrible earthquake and tsunami disasters. The songs of the anti-nuclear movement challenged the way the Fukushima nuclear disaster was framed by politicians, power company officials and the mass media. By parodying the language of the powerful, song undermines dominant narratives and provides alternative ways of understanding the disaster. In the songs of the anti-nuclear movement, the critique of money-value itself coincides with a rejection of the values of a failing industrial society. Reggae artist Rankin Taxi, who performed in the “Dance bloc” at the 10th of April 2011 demonstration, has been a long-term opponent of nuclear power. In his song “You can't see it and you can't smell it either,” originally written in response to the Chernobyl disaster of 1986, he asks whether the material prosperity offered by economic growth is really desirable. “Do I want to lead a life of unhealthy luxury?” he wonders, answering decisively in the negative: “No way!” Many of those who have taken to the streets since the 11th of March, 2011 would seem to agree with him, as they protest for the right to value human health over material prosperity.


While they critique money-value, the songs of the anti-nuclear movement also celebrate a range of other values that are counter-posed to the values of nuclear-fuelled economic growth. For anthropologist David Graeber, the question of what is valuable and how we determine value is central to political struggles. In Towards an Anthropological Theory of Value he observes that the “ultimate freedom is not the freedom to create or accumulate value, but the freedom to decide (collectively or inpidually) what it is that makes life worth living.” In the songs of Japan's anti-nuclear movement, we can see the values of money and material prosperity that sustained the nuclear industry unraveling and in their stead, a celebration of other values. After Fukushima we can begin to make out the contours of a new kind of “love song” which celebrates social and political forms of love rather than simply romantic and private ones. As Frying Dutchman warn, this love may not be “pretty,” but Rumi reminds us that “justice” is not possible without it.






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