|Abe's "take back Japan" posters in one of the yet-to-be beautified |
locales in rural Japan. The sign in the foreground says "danger,"
the arrow points left.
The Narrow Road to the Radiant North
As the third anniversary of the earthquake-tsunami-meltdown disaster comes around, there is too much to possibly say, so I’ll be brief and say it with a picture.
The sketch above is a mash-up of a famous sketch by the 18th-19th century artist Hokusai, who is better known for his colorful woodblock prints such as the Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji. The sketch above depicts the famous 17th century Haiku master Matsuo Basho who wrote about his journey to the great beyond in The Narrow Road to the Deep North. The scene depicts him on the road, but now with a thyroidectomy scar on his neck and a contemporary scene in the distance.
Some might think it is wrong to rework national art treasures to make a satirical point about energy policy, but I think the old masters would approve of any action that protests what has become of the country they revered in their art.
When Shinzo Abe was prime minister for the first time in 2006, his stump speech referred often to a wish to make a “beautiful country,” as if Japan was not beautiful, or never had been, or had to be beautiful once again. In his second coming in the 2012 campaign, he conjured up more vague wishes saying “take back Japan” or “Japan is back.” He never specified how it had been taken away, or what it was back from or back to. The implication, of course, was that he and his party were the rightful owners.
When it comes to all this talk of restoration and making a beautiful country, we have to keep in mind who turned Japan into a nuclear waste repository, and who is busy denying that the stunning spike in childhood thyroid cancer rates has anything to do with a cloud of radioactive iodine that blew over the deep north. If anyone is angry that treasured art has been defiled, they should ask themselves the very old question of whether art or life is more important. Those children awaiting treatment for thyroid cancer might like to know how their fellow citizens would answer the question.