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.


Earthquake Early-warning System Successful During Recent So. Calif. Temblor

OH, CALM DOWN… We note that there was a presser March 13 announcing that the beta-test of an earthquake early-warning system had been a success during the 4.7 temblor (I love that word) that shook the desert in California’s Riverside County, ironically, on Monday, the second anniversary of Japan’s humongous 9.0 on 3.11.2011. Experts told a reporter from the L.A. Times that the system would give scientists “up to 30 seconds” warning of an impending quake. “Scientists”? What about us? [LAT ~ Earthquake early-warning system successful during quake]

Monday, the local news in L.A. was airing comments of those who experienced the strongest shaking:  “I just grabbed my baby and ran out of the house!,” one woman said. A teacher at a local elementary school recounted proudly how she directed her students to huddle in a doorway.  <Buzzer Sounds>  Sorry, contestants. You lose!

Japan has had an early warning system in place since 2007. The program alerted some 50 million residents ahead of the Fukushima earthquake in 2011. Yeah, but what do you do when it’s a 9.0? Reminds me of those Cold War era drop drills in case of a nuclear war.

According to a Japanese study, residents of tsunami vulnerable Tohoku region had between 10 and 19 minutes warning to evacuate to higher ground. The same study compiled with UNESCO found that 90% of the nearly 19,000 who died on 3.11 drowned, and that ~ and here’s the kicker ~ 70% of those who were swept away by the sea that day did not bother to evacuate.  [Japan-UNESCO-UNU Intl Symposium ~  Great Eastern Tsunami and The Tsunami Warning Systems: Policy Perspective  ~Rachel Roh


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LA Memorial for 3.11

3.11 in Japan memorialized in LA at the LAPD headquarters. It had to happen somewhere and not sure why at the LAPD headquarters. You’d think they could do it in various locations, except at the LAPD headquarters. (LA Times – 3.11)

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Tsunami, Then and Now

Amazing images of how things changed or didn’t too much in Japan. (Rocketnews24 – Tsunami)

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Change is Growing

The Tohoku Cotton Project is one of the many ongoing efforts to recover and empower the land and people who were affected by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

Cotton was planted in the salt-soaked rice fields that had made the region famous. Farmers were given new hope to keep the land alive, and members of the community volunteered to plant and harvest the crop that would speed the recovery of the soil.

Watch the film about the project.

On the whole TCP is genius. It’s about better land usage, rebuilding people’s lives, becoming less dependent on imported raw materials, and moving forward.

Follow the Tohoku Cotton Project on Facebook, and if you’re in Japan, keep an eye out for the logo appearing on goods produced with Tohoku cotton.

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Dead in the Water

The Japanese whaling industry is dying, but the government is still spending millions to keep it alive. It’s getting a renewed financial boost now. Where is the money coming from? Taxpayer dollars and funds earmarked for tsunami disaster relief.

Despite a decline in the demand for whale meat, nearly 30 years of a moratorium on commercial whaling, a Japanese public ambivalent to keeping the industry afloat, and international pressure to abandon the program, conservatives in government continue to shovel money into its gaping mouth.

The Guardian reports on it, as there’s been increased concern about the government subsidy as the Japanese economy works to recover from the financial crisis topped with the fallout from March 2011.  In an interview with Australian media, Masayuki Komatsu – the man who engineered the “research” program that kept the Japanese whaling fleet in business after the 1986 moratorium on commercial catches – says it’s time for an end to the subsidy. C’mon Japanese people, get mad and put an end to it.


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Dock Washes up in Washington

We were messing with puns in the title, but oh well. That said, yet another piece of possible tsunami debris washes up, and it’s another exciting dock. It’s also gigantic, yet poses no threat thus far to the environment. (Seattletimes – Dock)

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Billions for Tsunami Repair Went Elsewhere

What else can go wrong for 3.11 in Japan? Lying politicians and company chairpersons, lack of safety, false information and now this. (LATimes – Billions Elsewhere)

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Tsunami Harley Davidson is Now on Display

The Harley Davidson motorcycle that went across the Pacific in a storage container via the Tsunami in Japan, is now on display at the Harley Davidson Museum in Milwaukee, WI. (LA Times – Tsunami Harley) We previously wrote about the finding of the bike and what Harley Davidson was intending to do with it. Glad they got it all done quickly. (GR – HD)

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Tsunami Miracle Pine “Preserved”

It’s called preservation, but in the end, the “miracle pine” that survived the tsunami is actually dying from the salt water. Yet, it’s preservation basically means putting a carbon pole into the trunk and reattaching the branches. It’s basically dead and stuffed at a cost of nearly 2 million dollars. The 270 year old tree will stand in Rikuzentakata as a symbol for much longer time. (ABC – Pine)

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Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom on HBO

Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom – some playdates. It’s a nice documentary that has it’s harrowing parts, ut overall, it’s has some hope in the way of flowers.

Other HBO playdates: July 18 (12:15 p.m.), 24 (4:15 p.m.) and 28 (6:00 a.m., 3:15p.m.)

HBO2 playdate: July 18 (9:00 p.m.)

(Monstersandcritics – Tsunami)


The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom – Trailer (2012 ACADEMY AWARD NOMINEE) from Tsunami Blossom on Vimeo.

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40,000 Protest Against Nuclear Restart in Tokyo

Some say 20, some say 40,000 people are protesting in Tokyo over the restart of the nuclear plants. (Bangkok Post -Japan protest) Strangely, it’s hardly in Japanese news.




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Do You Live Inside a Nuclear Evacuation Zone?

[Click to enlarge]

SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO, Calif. ~ This week there’s been talk of restarting the Edison International-operated nuclear reactors at San Onofre.  Located between Los Angeles and San Diego, the two operational pressurized water reactors there ~ units #2 and #3 ~ have been shut down since January 2012, when an inspection found that new pipes that carry steam to and from the reactor’s generators showed unexpected corrosion less than two years ago after they were retrofitted. Any other time in the atomic age, the public might have just shrugged and accepted all the assurances of the giant utility. “Not to worry, folks.”

But it’s only been 15 months since the triple meltdowns at Fukushima Daiichi, and three of the Japanese reactors there are still leaking radioactive becquerels and bucky balls of toxic isotopes and a tsunami-shattered fourth reactor building houses some 1,500 spent fuel rods that some say could create another nuclear disaster that will dwarf the one that the beleaguered Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) and the Japanese government will be battling for the unforeseen future.

The movement against the restarting of San Onofre #2 and #3 is growing. Warnings by the Southern California power companies that the absence of cheap and clean nuclear energy might cause rolling blackouts and limited time for junior on the Xbox don’t seem to carry the same fuzzy feelings as they did BF ~ Before Fukushima.

One month after Japan’s triple 3-11 disasters, our friends over at Gizmodo published a timely story entitled “How a Fukushima-Level Disaster Would Affect You in New York, L.A. or Chicago.”  The story featured some maps that were chilling then and that are even more compelling today factoring in what we didn’t know about the on-going nuclear mishaps in Japan.

Gizmodo notes that while Japan opted for a 30-kilometer or 18.6-mile radius long-term evacuation zone, U.S. scientists tipped their hand last March when they advised any American citizen inside an 80-kilometer ( 49.7 mile) radius of Fukushima Daiichi to leave. If that same policy were applied in the case of meltdowns at reactors near the three top urban populations centers of the U.S. ~ New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago, this would be the scenario, according to Gizmodo:

♣In the worst case of an meltdown at Indian Point Nuclear Station in Buchanan, NY, more than 20 million people in the metro area would have to be evacuated, leaving the city deserted, from Long Island to the Bronx.

♣If a Fukushima-like accident were to hit San Onofre, Southern California, although the city of Los Angeles itself would fall outside the evacuation zone, some 15 million souls would be told to evacuate from  most of Orange Counnty, Huntington Beach, Long Beach, Rancho Palos Verdes to the north;  greater San Diego to the south;  Fontana, Whittier and Pomona to the east; and Catalina Island and Pacific Ocean to the west.

♣A disaster at either Dresden Nuclear Power Station in Dresden, IL or Braidwood NPP, Braidwood, IL outside Chicago would see at least 9.7 million people evacuated from the Windy City and metro area.

Meanwhile, The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission announced the first of a series of public meetings on the issues that have shuttered the San Onofre nuclear plant for more than four months. The NRC meeting will take place June 18 from 6 to 9 p.m. at the San Juan Capistrano Community Center. [Gizmodo ~ How a Fukushima-Level Disaster Would Affect You In New York, LA or Chicago] [Nuclear Energy Institute ~ State-by-State Nuclear Facts]


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The Need to Restart Reactors

The Prime Minister of Japan says there’s a need to restart two reactors for the livelihoods of Japan. This was bound to happens since fossil fuels cost and there’s not enough alt energy in place that’s willing to be adopted. This brings up a better discussion of what can really replace nuclear power? What are people willing to sacrifice and vote for? Bummer for the locals of the Ohi Plant, but that’s how things are going to work at the moment. (Business Week – Ohi Reactors)


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Invasive Species From Overseas Floating Objects

Invasive species are coming. It’s like Aliens, at least for the affected species that it’s hurting. As interesting as floating objects may seem, they’re actually harmful.

“The dock, torn loose from a fishing port on the northern tip of Japan, was covered with 1.5 tons of seaweed, mussels, barnacles and even a few starfish. Volunteers scraped it all off, buried it above the high water line, and sterilized the top and sides of the dock with torches.” (Knoxnews – Invasive)

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Derelict Dock from Tsunami?

A dock washes up in Oregon. For some reason, the corner casters? look too clean for it to have travelled across the pacific in a year, but then again, it also appears to have floated “wheels” up and it’s huge. There’s a metal placard on it, that mentions “service” but that’s all we can read from it. (KVAL – Dock)

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In His Own Words: NYC Artist Naoto Nakagawa’s Thousand Portraits of Japan Disaster Survivors

“When the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown struck northern Japan, I felt powerless to do something substantial to help my homeland. Family circumstances took me to Japan a few months later, and I resolved to visit the devastated area to see it with my own eyes. While I was there I decided to draw portraits of people who are living in shelters, to give them some token that a visitor from far away in America cares about their plight.

“I remembered that after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York City, school children in Japan sent 1,000 paper cranes, a symbol of healing and good fortune, to my children’s school. I decided to make 1,000 Portraits to give to people in northern Japan – a symbolic way to demonstrate that others care for them and that we support each other in a crisis.

“During five subsequent trips to Japan, I was assisted by a humanitarian aid group, which arranged for me to visit schools and shelters. The response was overwhelming; when I focused on my subjects, they started to talk, or sometimes to cry. One woman told me that she had lost all her family photos in the tsunami, and was so grateful to have my portrait of her.”

Nakagawa is shown (above) with NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly after sitting for a portrait last year. Ironically, Commissioner Kelly briefly lived in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture, one of the areas hardest hit by the 3-11 earthquake and tsunami.

Nakagawa’s “1000 Portraits of Hope” will be on display from June 18 through Aug. 8 as part of “Voices From Japan: Despair and Hope From Disaster” at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, 1047 Amsterdam Avenue at 112 Street. For more information, visit stjohndivine.org

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Harley Davidson Classes It Up for Tsunami Victim

Harley Davidson did the classy and offer the tsunami victim, Ikuo Yokoyama, who lost family members, a full restore of his bike, but he one upped them. Yokoyama asked Harley Davidson to keep the bike and put it in their museum and a monument.

“The Harley-Davidson Museum is honored to receive this amazing motorcycle to ensure that its condition is preserved and can be displayed as a memorial to the Japan Tsunami tragedy,” said Bill Davidson, Vice President of the Harley-Davidson Museum.” (Foxnews – Harley)

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Tsunami Wake: Bones to Wash Ashore

Bones to Wash Ashore. Sneakers with parts of feet in them might have floated across the Pacific. Surely there’s more boats as well. It’s a sad reality, yet it’s going to happen.

“We’re expecting 100 sneakers with bones in them,” Curt Ebbesmeyer told the audience Monday at a tsunami symposium.

Anyone who discovers such remains should call 911 and wait for police. DNA may identify people missing since the March 2011 tsunami hit Japan.

(Huffington Post – Bones)

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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.