COMMENTARY/ Ryuichi Sakamoto: Japanese will have to continue raising voices against nuclear energy

June 15, 2012

SPECIAL TO THE ASAHI SHIMBUN

I have always felt discomfort about the way decisions are made in Japan based on "the mood" rather than "logic," and without proper discussions regarding principles.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda in some sense personifies that discomfort.

When Naoto Kan was prime minister, a mood developed that no progress was being made in rebuilding after the natural disasters struck in March last year. Based solely on the internal procedures of the Democratic Party of Japan, Noda was chosen prime minister.

Although the Kan administration had called for moving away from a dependence on nuclear energy following the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, that stance was allowed to wither away without any serious debate.

In a news conference to explain his intention to resume operations at the Oi nuclear power plant, Noda said, "As the individual responsible for national politics, I cannot abandon the responsibility to protect the daily lives of the people."

Noda repeatedly referred to protecting the lifestyles of the people. But I wonder who he was referring to when he said “the people.” I took it to mean that he wanted to protect the people who were living in "the nuclear energy village."

The argument that the Kansai region would face a 15-percent electricity shortage unless the Oi plant resumed operations is a form of intimidation because the public has no way of verifying if that is true. Such intimidation is effective because electric power companies have a regional monopoly in which principles of competition do not apply.

Public opinion polls show many people still hold doubts about nuclear energy. If decisions to resume operations at nuclear plants are made in such a manner, we cannot say that democracy in Japan has matured.

At the same time, I also felt hope because people began acting and speaking out as individuals after the nuclear accident.

Feeling they can no longer trust those in government or the mass media, people have begun using dosimeters to measure radiation levels and creating databases by entering such information on maps. Young people have become connected through the Internet and have organized a new style of demonstrations.

This may be an unprecedented expression of individual initiative in Japan.

With that as background, if operations at the Oi plant are resumed, I am concerned that a sense of despair will spread among people who will give up hope of ever having their opinions heard or who will not want to become committed to politics or society because nothing will change.

It would be simply unbearable if individuals who took a stand for the first time were to become despondent, leading to the return of a society in which no one said anything.

Such feelings led me to organize a musical event to be held in early July titled "No Nukes 2012."

While a demonstration or meeting would have been viable alternatives, I felt the most sincere form of transmitting a message about moving away from dependence on nuclear energy would be through music that is my profession.

I have not yet given up. I will continue to raise my voice by staking my very existence on it.

In the West, it is only natural for individuals, be they famous or not, to state their opinions on social issues.

Even in Japan, between the late 1960s and 1970s, rock musicians made political statements. However, for some reason, there was a change and musicians were criticized as hypocritical for even taking part in charity events. That led to a very difficult period when musicians were only expected to make music and not become involved in politics.

But after 3/11, that mood also has changed.

We should welcome that natural development of having musicians, performers as well as others of various standing provide support to the disaster-stricken areas in their own way.

I believe the only way to change society in the end will be to continue to raise our voices without giving up or becoming disappointed, but with perseverance.

(This article was compiled from an interview by Junko Takahashi.)

***

Ryuichi Sakamoto formed Yellow Magic Orchestra from 1978 and won an Oscar in 1988 for best original score for the music in "The Last Emperor." He has been involved in various projects to provide assistance to survivors of the Great East Japan Earthquake.

SPECIAL TO THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
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Ryuichi Sakamoto (The Asahi Shimbun)

Ryuichi Sakamoto (The Asahi Shimbun)

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