Strange Fruit

What you’re looking at is what some believe to be radioactive produce from Fukushima.

Photos are making the rounds online and fear is likely spreading with each click of the “share” button. Probably not so great for the businesses trying to revive Fukushima’s manufacturing centers. Once a major producer for Japan’s agricultural and fisheries industry, Fukushima is a long way from recovery in those sectors.

Even if clean-up and recovery efforts are successful, it will probably be several generations before the fear of contamination disappates. Volunteer-led efforts to inform and empower the public (like Safecast) continue, refusing to wait for the powers-that-be to call all the shots about the coast being clear.

In more local news (for this particular Robot), radiation contamination scares persist in the Gobi Desert, where herders living near uranium mines have reported births of two-headed goats and baby camels born without eyes. It rallied a handful of nationalists fond of Nazi fashion to call for more monitoring of mining sites, and government action, but the eccentric dressers have gained more global attention than the environmental concerns they’ve tried to raise.

Two headed peaches and mutant baby goats. They make great memes, but at some point – hopefully before we’re all sprouting extra appendages – they probably warrant a closer look beyond the Reddit hits.

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281_Anti-Nuke’s Art and What it Means For Japanese Politics.

Art has the power to provoke ideas and inflame passions. Politics and art, in this way, go hand in hand. When an event of historical magnitude occurs, it’s only a matter of time before an artist emerges and addresses it.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s economic plan (Abenomics) as the story of the hour in news circles, it’s easy to forget that Japan endured a nuclear catastrophe just 2 years ago. In March 2011, the Tokyo Electric Power Company’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant underwent a partial meltdown from the 3.11 Earthquake and Tsunami.

Approximately 157,000 residents were forced to flee their homes due to radioactive contamination in Fukushima prefecture with little hope of ever returning. Critics blamed the disaster on negligence and incompetency concerning safety regulations willingly overlooked by TEPCO and the Japanese government.

Flash-forward to today and the public carries on as if it’s business as usual. The earthquake, tsunami, or even Fukushima rarely comes up in casual conversations. On the surface, it appears that the populace and Japanese government have forgotten the disaster altogether.

One artist hasn’t.

The man calling himself 281_Anti Nuke designed stickers, posters, and indiscreetly plastered them throughout Tokyo. His most recognizable piece is a small girl in a slicker with “I hate rain” printed beneath. It isn’t until you glimpse a nuclear trefoil inscribed beneath the text that its message dawns on you and all the events broadcasted from yesteryear return to you in a flood of regret.


His ‘mock’ propaganda is a sharp–albeit intrusive– reminder of the gravity of what happened in Fukushima not so long ago. It’s a tragedy that he claims the government created. It’s a tragedy that he believes they coerced the public to forget.

Giant Robot Magazine previously reported sightings of his art in October 2011. Back then, information on 281 was scarce. Two years later, major outlets like The Economist, Financial Times, and Wall Street Journal have featured photos of his art in articles about national politics. Others like Japan Rolling Stones, Channel 24, and The Japan Times have even interviewed the enigmatic artist himself.

Besides his distrust of the Japanese government and his drive to hold them accountable, almost no one knows anything about 281′s personal life–let alone his actual name.

The retrospective at the Pink Cow bar in Roppongi on June 6th, 2013, was held to raise awareness of his work and offer a little more insight into the artist himself. The retrospective hosted a preview screening of filmmaker/photographer Adrian Storey’s self-titled documentary about 281.

Storey formerly featured some of 281′s designs in a segment that he submitted for Ridley Scott’s Japan in a Day documentary. 281 contacted Storey and requested permission to use the images from Japan in a Day for his own personal website. Story agreed on the condition that 281 consent to be the subject of the aforementioned self-titled documentary. Filming began in January of this year.

Stroey’s documentary not only depicted the platform for 281’s opposition to the corruption of Japanese politicians and nuclear industry, but also further illuminated some of the seedier undercurrents of Japanese politics and why 281′s anonymity is so imperative.

People known as the Netto Uyoku (Right-wing netizens) accuse 281 of secretly being a Zainichi Korean (Korean born in Japan) and vandalizing public property. Certain right-wing groups in Japan often associate foreigners and the Zainichi with delinquency and organized crime.

The preview featured numerous posts on message boards from the Uyoku discussing 281’s art. One in particular contained a disturbing rant from someone reacting with a wish to kill all minorities in Japan. 281 doesn’t admit it explicitly, but several of these posts accumulated to enough threats against him that he temporarily shut down his Twitter and personal webpage.

He was also originally slated to attend the retrospective and answer questions from attendants, but backed out at the last minute and held a Skype conference with visitors instead.

Ryan Roth, his manager, explained that prior to the gathering, he took precautions to ensure 281′s safety. “We had to make sure that there was a back exit,” Roth said. “Just in case things got hairy.” There was a lingering anxiety that one of the Netto Uyoku would appear and start trouble.

Roth holding a skype conference with 281 at the Pink Cow's artist retrospective

Roth took in interest in 281’s art after seeing it on the streets of Tokyo. He contacted 281 online and they agreed to meet sometime between July and August, and Roth offered to represent him through his art investment company, Roth Management. Because he is a client, Roth is one of the few people who have seen 281’s face and know him by his true name.

As severely paranoid as that sounds, it’s not without precedent. The popular Japanese image board, 2Chan, is notorious for its death threats posted liberally throughout its forums.  It reached a point where the police had to intervene and crack down on these incidents. As with the case of the “Neo-Mugicha Incident” and imitations of the “Akihabara Massacre,” which originated as threats online, observers have every reason to take these threats seriously.

Additionally, even though the image board concentrates mainly on anime and popular culture, David W. Marxy of the Neojaponismé blog pointed out that posts on the board possess a heavy footed right-wing bent.

As a result, there’s a comically predictable tendency for Japanese right-wingers to accuse people with disagreeable opinions of being “Secret Koreans” much in the same way that they responded to 281’s art. For example, online netizens have erroneously accused New York Times journalists Hiroko Tabuchi and Norimitsu Onishi when they wrote about historical tensions between Japan and South Korea.

This and the threats inveighed against 281 even had Storey treading lightly around the topic of the Uyoku in the documentary. “Notice that I simply depicted what they wrote,” Storey said. “I didn’t take any of it out of context.”

All of this adds up to a dire portrait of Japan’s political dynamics. A poll for the Asahi Shimbun claims that 59% of the people oppose Abe’s nuclear power policy. This means that the Uyoku defending this policy are in the minority.

Admittedly, the Netto Uyoku already dwell on the fringes of society and demographically don’t possess a dominant votership in Japanese elections.

And that’s precisely the problem. It doesn’t bode well for a country if the tyranny of the few can bully someone with a dissenting opinion into silence.  Despite the high number of people who share 281’s views on nuclear energy, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s cabinet seems intent on restarting the nation’s reactors again in the near future. While economic matters are the forefront of the Japanese public’s concerns, one has to wonder what will happen if “Abenomics” fails to deliver. Prime Minsister Abe may be enjoying a high approval rating at the moment, but he’s arguably done little to placate his countrymen’s anxieties about the hazards of nuclear energy. One has to wonder whether voices like 281’s will grow louder once the intoxicating effects from Abenomics dissipate and bring a looming hangover.

A special thanks to Ryan Roth of Roth Management who represents 281_Anti-Nuke. To learn more about Roth Management, visit: http://roth-mgmt.com/. All inquiries to the artist should be directed to [email protected].

For more information, visit: http://www.281antinuke.com/. Follow 281 on Twitter @ 281_.

A trailer for Adrian Storey’s documentary can be accessed here. To learn more about Storey and his work, visit: http://www.uchujin.co.uk/. Follow him on Twitter @Uchujinphoto


281_Anti-Nuke Art Retrospective in Roppongi


Things are heating up again in Japanese politics. The House of Councillors election for the Japanese Diet’s upper house is expected to take place in July 21, 2013. As a result, it’s J-Politics all the time in the Japanese news cycle and until then, we won’t find out whether the ruling party, LDP, will have a firmer foothold.

Until then, you can get your fix of both art and politics at  281_Anti-Nuke’s exhibition at the Pink Cow bar in Roppongi, Japan.Tourists and Tokyoites may have seen 281′s work conspicuously stickered on public property throughout the city. Giant Robot did a brief entry on sighting on his designs last Fall. Since then, 281′s prominence has grown as more news outlets have reported on his work.

His art stands on its own, but his agenda is a bit bit clearer now that he’s agreed to a few interviews. His position on nuclear energy is a given. Most of this is an extension of his opposition to Japanese politicians in general who he feels carelessly put the country in harms way due to poor regulation of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plants that underwent a meltdown after the Earthquake and Tsunami in March 11,2011. He agrees with critics who accuse the Japanese government and TEPCO of (unintentionally) ‘creating’ the nuclear disaster through their own corrupt mismanagement and incompetence. Hence why both ex-PM Yoshihiko Noda from the political ‘left’ and current PM Shinzo Abe from the ‘right’ are targets of his rage. They’re each a part of the establishment that enabled TEPCO to haphazardly play dice with the country’s future. It’s this political context thatt has led connoisseurs to deem him Japan’s ‘Banksy,’ an English graffiti artist who–like 281–operates anonymously.

Most of 281′s art is still visible on the streets of Shibuya, Shinjuku, and other parts of Tokyo. However, a lot of it has either faded or been defaced, so it’s more preferable to see his art in a more preserved state at The Pink Cow. Even if political activism is beneath or beyond you, you can at least act like you know.

The Pink Cow
5-5-1 Roppongi Roi Bulding B1F Minato-ku,
Tokyo 106-0032

For more information: visit www.thepinkcow.com.


Abandoned Dogs with PTSD

The dogs that roamed free for over a year are exhibiting the “issues” that you’d probably imagine they have. A study showed that, “The dogs from Fukushima showed significantly lower aggression toward unfamiliar people, trainability and attachment to their caretakers,” Nagasawa and colleagues wrote. “Also, urine cortisol levels in the dogs from Fukushima were 5-10 fold higher than those in abandoned dogs from another area of Japan.” (LA Times – Fukushima dogs)

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Nuclear Reactor Turned On Despite Protest in Japan

Despite the protest effort of so many, the first reactor goes online. Nothing the masses can do about it at this time, but the public in Japan have spoken and their voices were heard. Great work, peoples, it’s fairly new ground. (Boston – Japan Reactor)

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Fukushima Suicides

160,000 evacuees, suicides and more. This is a video that sort of catches up on what’s going on as the news of Fukushima gets quiet. It’s about Mikio Watanabe who’s wife commit suicide. He’s now suing TEPCO – the company who runs the Fukushima nuclear plant. There are many sad videos about Fukushima, and this is just one of them. (CNN – Fukushima Suicides)

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Japan’s Softbank to Market Radiation-Detecting Smartphone

Nearly 15 months have passed since a 9.0 earthquake and tsunami resulted in the triple meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, and with the prospects of a resolution of radiation-spewing disaster yet decades away, Softbank announced today that its soon to released Pantone 5 107SH smartphone will be the first in the world with a built-in geiger counter.

Since the Fukushima disaster, we’ve seen companies release mobile radiation detectors like Scosche’s iPhone-compatible RDTX, an accessory that plugs into an iPhone to give users a reading of nearby radiation levels. The Pantone 5, however, eliminates the need for dongles and attachments. The front of the phone features a button, just beneath the screen, that provides access to a radiation sensor. Once you press the button, the phone launches an app that reads the number of microsieverts, the unit in which radiation is measured, in the surrounding air. [WIRED ~ Gadget Lab]


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Photographs of Tōhoku

As previously posted on GR, I made several trips to the northern countryside of Japan in the days and weeks following the disaster of 3/11. And, though the intent of these ragtag “missions,” was primarily humanitarian, I took many photos along the way, posting them with my reports on these pages.

I recently culled the most evocative of those shots for display at the 12th incarnation of the always delightful Nippon Connection Japanese Film Festival, held last week in Frankfurt. Going through these images was difficult and, needless to say, brought back some very sad memories. What a year.

GR readers will have seen many of these images before, but here they are (again) as collected for their recent showing at the festival. I know many among you are probably experiencing disaster burnout, but I think it’s worth having another look, and pausing to contemplate the awesome power of nature and, indeed, the transience of our own existence.

From Tokyo,


All photos copyright © 2012 Michael Arias. All rights reserved.


Shittake Mushroom Farmer and Others Going Out of Business

Shittake mushrooms aren’t quite delicacies, but they do absorb radiation. Shinichi Sakuma basically says he’s screwed and although received money for compensation by the government, it’s running out. As the stories grow older, we soon forget. (CBS – mushrooms)

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Tsunami Survivor Interview in the Huffington Post

The best quote from Mikuni Fumitaka:

What can we learn from this disaster?
The most important thing is the connections and bonds between people.

It’s also interesting that not having a TV kept him more calm.

(Huffington Post – Survivor Story)


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22% of Affected Business by Tsunami Closed Down

Sometimes you have to hang it up. If your business got ruined by a tsunami, is it worth reopening? Will you have the same amount of business or will it be a struggle? Is there a need remaining from the affected people? (Dispatch – 22%)




Also check out this video out. It’s about Japanese homeless who can’t go home.

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Inside Japan’s Nuclear Meltdown by PBS

This is new and is a haunting film that’s leading up to 3.11, one year later.


Watch Inside Japan’s Nuclear Meltdown on PBS. See more from FRONTLINE.

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Fukushima Devil’s Chain Reaction Averted

Imagine 30 million people needing to evacuate Tokyo at once. This new report explains that the government weren’t ready. Of course it was kept secret. People who now? Much of the public is already having a hard time to believing the government. TEPCO (the owners of the plant) officials were ordered to stay and work on the reactor rather than abandon it which possibly saved Tokyo. (PRI – Fukushima)

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TEPCO – The Fukushima People and Their Yakuza Relations


A book released has the huge title of Yakuza and The Nuclear Industry: Diary of An Undercover Reporter Working at the Fukushima Plant (ヤクザと原発-福島第一潜入記-鈴木-智彦). With that title you can figure out that it’s a tell all.

Yet today, theatlanticwire published an article that is frightening. It tells of the corruption that takes place in a company (TEPCO) that’s partially responsible for the nuclear meltdown. Yes you can’t prevent a giant tsunami wave that crashed your buildings and caused three meltdowns, but you can come clean about what’s going on and who you’re hiring – which then translates into where the donation money is going. Yet, it’s been going on for years, and only now that this problem occurred is it something we care about. Who are these yakuza members? Supposedly 3 of the Fukushima 50 are Yakuza members and their relationship with nuclear companies is nothing new. The reconstruction efforts are all joint with Yakuza based construction companies. (Atlanticwire – TEPCO Yakuza)

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Clean Up of Fukushima to Take 40 Years!

Will it ever be clean? Also once it’s clean, what will go here? Apartments? In 100 years or even 200 years, many will forget, many will say the area is totally clean and yes lofty ocean front apartments will get made just as they do on top of toxic landfills. 40 years sounds like a good timetable but why make something when it takes decades to remove it? (CBS – 40 Years)


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Fukushima Disaster Led to 14,000 Excess Deaths?


This article has been staring at people for the last couple days. The study ranges from March 20, just 9 days after the disaster through June 20th. 14 weeks. Does this mean that the US population got infected and died from the disaster? Did it speed up already ill people? Surely there will be some effects elsewhere in perhaps minor or even major ways, but this number seems off. You’d think the numbers would be 10 times worse just in Japan alone but it’s not.Who is this researcher?! (Medpagetoday – Fukushima 14000)


Wild Monkeys to Measure Radiation

Wild Monkeys are going to measure radiation? At first it sounded like some kind of training involved but all it is, is a meter reading strapped on. Yes there are plenty of wild monkeys in the region near the stricken areas near Fukushima. How will they react? Do they know something is wrong? Again, poor animals. They’re always getting taken advantage of. (TelegraphUK – monkeys)

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Famous Mayor of Stricken Japanese Town is Now Infamous

Katsunobu Sakurai the mayor of Minamisoma who was named top 100 influential persons thanks to his YouTube video which got the word out that his town needed financial support is now under fire. Some say that the fame has gone to his head. The town is 15 miles from Fukushima and it’s been reported that 8% of the land in Japan has too much Cesium (we’re not quite sure how bad it is), it’s obvious that his town of Minamisoma has to be part of the 8%. He’s still pushing for people to come back and live there, so he’s facing scrutiny. Either way, it’s another great way for him to get in the news to renew some interest in his town, which he’s fighting to rebuild. (LA Times – Minamisoma)

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8% of Japan’s Land Contaminated

Japan’s Science Ministry reports that 8% of the country’s surface is contaminated. Surely, it’s possible, but really? The report looks thin but who knows. (ABCau – 8%)

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Fukushima Clean Up Cyborg Suit by Cyberdyne

This is supposed to be a robot suit that’ll help clean up the Fukushima disaster. It’s supposed to lighten the load of the 132 pound nuclear suit and relieve pressure in general. But will it really? Supposedly so. There is video of people walking with the bottom portion of the outfit on, but really, all they do is walk. Surely it’s easier to walk without it. The weird thing is the company who makes this suit is called Cyberdyne, ironically the same as the evil company in Terminator! In case you didn’t notice, the suit is called HAL. The irony and fun of cleaning up a 30 year mess. (Atlanticwire – Hal)

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