Photo/IllutrationKageboshi performs “Tohogu” in Nagai, Yamagata Prefecture, on Nov. 23. From left: Kotaro Endo on banjo; Masaaki Funayama on mandolin; singer and guitarist Yoshiichi Yokosawa; and bassist Fumio Aoki (Hideoki Kozuki)

NAGAI, Yamagata Prefecture--A local folk group hopes to send a sharp message about Tokyo’s perceived insensitivity to the triple disaster that befell northeastern Japan in 2011.

Kageboshi (Shadow) was so incensed by a remark uttered in 2017 by the reconstruction minister that it wrote a song which it plans to perform in the capital’s Nagatacho district, the nation’s political center, in spring.

The inspiration for the song, titled “Tohogu,” lay in a comment by Masahiro Imamura, who headed efforts to rebuild areas devastated by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami. He said, “It was good that it happened over there, in the Tohoku region.”

Kageboshi performed “Tohogu” live for the first time at an event held in this city on Nov. 23 to celebrate its 45th anniversary. The song is expected to be released in CD format this winter.

The song, which lasts less than three minutes, expresses the group’s anger against the central government, which it says has long exploited the Tohoku region.

“People of Tohoku sent their loved ones to war and offered rice (to pay land taxes) as ordered by the central government,” said bassist Fumio Aoki. “Their anger has built up like magma in the deep recesses of their minds. I wanted to tell them it’s OK to let it out.”

Aoki, 66, chose to write the lyrics of “Tohogu” in the local Nagai dialect, which features subtle nuances in vocabulary, to appeal to people of Tohoku on an emotional rather than logical level.

The song starts out: “Come to think of it, there was a minister who said, ‘It was good that it happened over there, in the Tohoku region.’/ The government still clings to its age-old ‘Shirakawa-ihoku Hitoyama-hyakumon' view.”

That phrase is said to have been used by the new Meiji government army to insult Tokugawa-affiliated feudal domains in Tohoku, which were defeated in the Boshin Civil War about 150 years ago.

Kageboshi contends that the underlying prejudice of that phrase and Imamura's remark is the same.

Later in the song, the group poses a question: “Is the government saying it’s OK as long as Tokyo escapes damage even if 20,000 people died in tsunami and many others lost their homes following the nuclear disaster?/ Is the government saying it doesn’t matter if the Tohoku region was hit by disaster?”

Kageboshi, whose lineup includes farmers, wrote about the reality farmers and others in rural areas are facing. One of its popular songs is titled “Hyakusho Banka” (Elegy of peasants), which criticizes the central government’s agricultural policies.

“Hana wa Sakedomo” (Even Though the Flowers Bloom) was released in response to “Hana wa Saku” (Flowers Will Bloom), a heavily publicized song produced by Japan Broadcasting Corp. (NHK) to support recovery from the 2011 disaster.

“Hana wa Sakedomo” struck a chord with disaster victims because it captures the frustrations of people in areas affected by the triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, triggered by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

The lyrics go: “Even though the flowers bloom/ No one can walk again/ where they love and once knew/ Above the earth/ tainted with the toxic fumes.”

Among the audience of 300 or so at Kageboshi’s Nov. 23 concert was Kenichi Hasegawa, 66, a resident of Iitate, Fukushima Prefecture, who was forced to close his dairy business due to the nuclear accident.

“The Abe administration has stopped making an issue of the nuclear accident, which has a negative image, as the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics are approaching,” he said. “That makes me feel we are forgotten.”

Hasegawa was delighted by Kageboshi’s performance, saying, “The group serves as a source of mental support because it tells the reality (of the disaster) through songs.”

At a session planned in Nagatacho, Kageboshi intends to pour its feelings into the chorus of the song: “Who is to blame? Show yourself!”

The line is reminiscent of phrases used by Namahage demons that warn children behaving badly during a traditional ritual in the Oga Peninsula of Akita Prefecture, part of the Tohoku region.