"Kageboshi" (Shadow), an amateur folk group based in Nagai, Yamagata Prefecture, began singing about nuclear power generation when the Chernobyl nuclear accident that left a vast area of land off-limits raised the following question: If a nuclear accident occurred in Japan, will there be any place for people to flee?

Fumio Aoki, the group's bassist, immediately came up with this poem: "When contamination spreads all over Japan/ Where do we go?"

Nuclear power generation was on Aoki's mind again when he wrote a song to decry the selfishness of the big cities that refuse to handle their own garbage and dump their dirty work on the provinces.

Referring to the presence of nuclear power plants in the Tohoku region, Aoki wrote, "Every risky thing, like nuclear power generation, is shoved down Tohoku's throat ... What a lousy, worthless deal for Tohoku."

When the group got a chance to perform this song at a TV station in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture, a studio manager rushed over before the program was to go on the air and begged the group to skip the part about nuclear power generation. He said this was out of consideration for Tohoku area prefectures, which host nuclear power plants.

That was about 10 years before the Fukushima disaster occurred in March 2011.

"To our eternal regret, we complied with the request," said Kotaro Endo, the group's banjo player. "The first thing I thought about when the Fukushima disaster occurred was that even though we'd been singing about such an eventuality, we were powerless to avert it. We may have failed in getting our message across."

Feeling this sort of regret and self-recrimination is probably natural for people who believe their songs may have the power to change something.

Determined to deal squarely with nuclear power generation this time, the group has created a new song titled "Hana wa Sakedomo" (Even Though the Flowers Bloom). Whenever their schedule permits, the group goes around Japan, including Fukushima, to perform this song.

April 26 marks the 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster. And the Fukushima disaster unfolded five years and 46 days ago.

--The Asahi Shimbun, April 26

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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.