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5.Festival FUKUSHIMA!

This section covers each of the programs on the day of Festival FUKUSHIMA!, held on August 15, 2011, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., at the Prefectural Azuma Ball Stadium and Fukushima Village of Four Seasons.

Fukushima Big Furoshiki

9 a.m., August 15. The festival started by spreading out the Big Furoshiki over the lawn that occupied large parts of the park. Experts were also there to take radiation dosage readings of the venue that day.

 Over the next 2 hours, the Big Furoshiki, spanning a total of 6000 square meters, was placed over the lawn. The sight of the multi-colored Big Furoshiki spread across the entire venue was an amazing spectacle indeed. The Big Furoshiki was a message, an effort to prevent surface irradiation, and inadvertently tracking home radioactive materials, and symbolized the extraordinary nature of this festival, of being held at a venue where radioactive cesium had fallen, which no one had ever experienced before. Upon closer inspection, messages from the different people who had sent the fabric could be seen everywhere. The multi-colored fabric that had been stitched together seemed to represent the festival itself, which had been promoted and realized by individuals of different stripes coming together and connecting to form a network.

Fukushima Music Liberation Zone

 At the venue covered by the Big Furoshiki, a program suggested by Otomo, called the Fukushima Music Liberation Zone was held from 11:00 to 14:00. More than 60 groups of musicians, professional and amateur, came in response to an open invitation, and spread out across the expansive venue, to each perform in their unique style, be it a music performance, or art installation.

With Otomo, Endo and other host musicians in attendance, the Music Liberation Zone was off to a relaxed start. During the morning hours, when there were still not many in the general audience, the participants were pretty much performing as they saw fit, uncoordinated as it were, setting up shop wherever they liked, and performing at their own pace. What was noteworthy took place in the afternoon, when a passing shower struck. Until then, the groups were performing uncoordinated at the venue, which did not have many roof coverings, but in seeking shelter from the rain, they ended up huddling close together under the tents and large trees. For the first time that day, the close proximity triggered a natural conversation among the participants. Some exchanged instruments, and from almost nowhere, a performance began, leading to an improvised session right there on the spot. Where before, the individuals were all unconnected, the rain brought everyone together, resulting in the creation of music together, which was very near what Otomo had vaguely envisioned as the ideal state of the Liberation Zone. Observing the fortuitous scene brought about unexpectedly by the rain, Otomo says now that he felt at that moment that the festival would succeed.

Food and Beverage Area

At the festival's food and beverage area, 16 concession stands were set up by local restaurants and producers who had responded to the open recruitment. As explained, the 11 operators selling or using Fukushima Prefecture produced agricultural products measured their food for radiation prior to the event, and received recognition as official booths, presenting official certificates noting the measurement results (however, there were also existing concession stand operators for the park, doing business outside of the official area, selling at least some amount of food produced in Fukushima Prefecture, so it is difficult to say whether the consumers truly understood that there were officially recognized operators). Most of the official booths had no radiation detected in their food, but 23 becquerel/kg of radioactive cesium (a total of cesium 134 and 137) was detected in peaches produced by a farmer in Fukushima City. The results were published based on an agreement between both sides, but it is a fact that the disclosure of these numbers affected the sales. The need for a much deeper understanding of the criteria for food contamination, as well as the huge issue of credibility in the government's restriction levels were felt very seriously. Ironically, the peaches from 2011 were especially sweet, having been blessed with fine weather. In stark contrast to reality, the peaches gleaming red in the basket were the picture of deliciousness, a sight that I can still recall clearly.

Orchestra FUKUSHIMA!

The performance by Orchestra FUKUSHIMA!, an improvisation mega orchestra, first proposed by Otomo, was seemingly the climax of the festival, even though it was held during the afternoon hours when it was still light. Although an orchestra usually denotes a classical orchestra, this one used a very different set of various instruments. There were only a few classical instruments such as the violin, as the orchestra was made up mostly of any kind of "instrument" that could sound a sound, such as guitars, ukuleles, Japanese kotos, various percussion instruments, ethnic instruments, washbasins, frying pans, and even desks. There were only 2 conditions to participating. One was to be able to play a sound, and the other was to take part in the School FUKUSHIMA! School of Music, held prior to the event. About half of the participants were from Fukushima, the remainder from outside of the prefecture, from Hokkaido to the north, to Oita to the south, ranging in age from 4 to over sixty. The participants numbered a total of 220, and included complete amateurs who had never really played on a musical instrument before, to professional musicians, including Ryuichi Sakamoto, Yasuhiro Yoshigaki, and Masahiro Uemura, among others. The eclectic members of the improv orchestra followed Otomo's lead, as he conducted giving simple cues, playing at times in a controlled rhythm, or breaking out into a disharmony of noise, hurling a mass of sound up against the Fukushima skies. At the very end, the approximately 2000 people in the audience joined the circle, and the venue was enveloped in a celebratory mood.

The Orchestra FUKUSHIMA! members residing in Fukushima have continued to offer multiple performances after the festival, in Mito, and Tokyo, an indication of the broad spread of Project FUKUSHIMA! activities.

Fukushima Gundokudan 2011 "Fukushima Renshi"

As the excitement of Orchestra FUKUSHIMA! lingered, the main stage was immediately taken over by Fukushima Renshi, initiated by Wago. A Renshi (linked poem) had been created in a workshop, the School FUKUSHIMA! School of Poetry, held prior to the event, and the idea was to do a Gundoku (group recitation) of the poem by the 40 workshop participants (a group recitation is to read a poem out loud, similar to the chorus of a song).

In the School of Poetry, the participants first reflected back on their lives since March 11, and split up into groups of 5 to 6 people to share their experiences. They each developed a poem of 3 or 5 lines that were all linked, to express their thoughts about Fukushima. In the second session, Wago reconstructed the participants' linked poems and created the Fukushima Renshi, which the participants practiced reciting out loud, at times as a small group, or solo, in preparation for the actual festival. An interesting point to note is the profile of the participants. Unlike the School of Music, the School of Poetry participants were all living in, or from, Fukushima Prefecture. That's the reason why their strong feelings about Fukushima, devastated by the earthquake, reverberated so powerfully from each of the words that flowed. I especially remember the self introductions at the beginning of the workshop, how several members spoke of their feelings that they had likely kept bottled up inside since the quake, with tears streaming down their cheeks, and the organizers, who likewise had spent their days in Fukushima since the quake with similar feelings, listening in complete concentration, their eyes red with tears.

At the end of the group recital, consisting of 20 minutes of words created entirely by the participants, Wago read out loud one additional phrase that he had added. "The future is in our hands." This phrase, which is also the slogan of the festival, uttered by the participants, who had given tearful introductions at the workshop, who were living in Fukushima in the midst of the turmoil of the nuclear plant accident, was especially moving for me, knowing how the people of this region tend to be shy, deferential, and reticent about their own thoughts. Yes indeed, the future is definitely in our own hands. To personally think, act, and develop networks. This truly was the message of the project.

Three Stages - Meltdown FUKUSHIMA!

Three stages, the Water Stage (and sub-stage), Flower Stage, and Stadium Stage, were set up in two venues, at the Village of Four Seasons and Azuma Ball Stadium about 1 km away. Titled Meltdown FUKUSHIMA! rather provocatively, the quintessential outdoor festival program in the evening hours featured a total of 25 groups of musicians, such as Ryuichi Sakamoto, Tabito Nanao, Ikuko Harada, Kenji Endo, Zuno Keisatsu, Group Tamashii, Shibusa Shirazu, and local bands from Fukushima. As all of the artists that made an appearance cannot be mentioned here, please refer to the website for a list of musicians.

The fact that the organizing staff and the musicians that made an appearance all came pro bono is indicative of how this festival was an extraordinary one even for the musicians.

Of all the evens, the most closely watched was the one-time only session by two of the joint representatives, Ryoichi Wago, and Yoshihide Otomo, along with Ryuichi Sakamoto. Wago's chilling reading of his Shi no Tsubute, interlaced with improvised music from Otomo's guitar and Sakamoto's piano. Despite being more than 50 minutes long, the several thousand people in the audience listened intently with bated breath, hardly moving at all. Perhaps influenced by the two musicians' improvisation, Wago's poetry recital became less about reading out loud from a script, and became more like an improvisation, of words being spun out of air. After the performance, as Wago himself commented afterwards, the performance, based on the Shi no Tsubute with the words "Fukushima" and "Inochi (Life)" mixed in numerous times, prompted the people of Fukushima Prefecture to think deeply about their home struck by the disaster, and also, with its mind blowing force, gave people from outside of the prefecture a direct awareness of the howls of the Fukushima people, burdened by the double and triple tragedies of the earthquake and radiation.

One unique aspect of the festival was the inclusion of the "Shinzo Kimura Report," in addition to the regular music programs, only because the festival was being held in Fukushima City at this time. Dr. Shinzo Kimura came to the main stage at the Village of Four Seasons, to give a report covering his research of Chernobyl of more than 10 years, providing comparisons to the current situation in Fukushima. Of particular note is the video message that he shared, from a couple running a medical clinic in Narodychi, a highly contaminated area about 70 km west of Chernobyl, speaking in tears to the people of Fukushima, which no doubt was a powerful message for the people of Fukushima, suffering from the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. Dr. Kimura's closing remarks, that he planned to move to Fukushima, to create a research base there, were met with a huge applause from the audience.

Lastly, I would like to mention Michiro Endo's stage performance that he poured his heart and soul into. Endo had insisted on the festival being on August 15, likening the situation that Fukushima and all of Japan were in directly to the war, yet that was not the message that he vocalized at the top of his lungs that day. But watching the siren sounded from the red siren held high in the air, the signature trademark of the legendary punk band, The Stalin, and the image of Endo, screaming and running around the stage, working his incredibly fit body not looking a day over sixty, it occurred to me that his show was forcing us to come face to face with the issues presented by the nuclear accident, and also carried a gentle hope for a better future.

Festival FUKUSHIMA! Synchronized and Global

The festival was centered on Fukushima, but was also positioned as a global multi-location event, encouraging events in various areas on or around August 15. Individual, groups, and live houses that supported the aim of the project responded, with 90 FUKUSHIMA! associated events in 14 countries and regions, ranging from Hokkaido to Okinawa domestically, and Asia, Europe, North America and South America globally. Unfortunately, there are only a few documented photos and videos, but the multiple locations hosting the coordinated events and their global scale can be seen on the Project FUKUSHIMA! website.