In 1972 boy's manga anthology Shonen Magazine changed the rules of engagement in the publishing world when it replaced the swarthy sports stars on its covers with teen cutie pie Minami Saori. The aftermath turned the idol industry into a sexual arms race barreling towards the Apocalypse, with junior high bikini models and AKB 48's spit-swapping commercial riding shotgun.
There's one group that has agreed to an armistice under the terms that they don't strip, don't do doe-eyes, and reserve the right to say NO—the Seifuku Koujo Iinkai (SKI), or Uniform Improvement Committee. Originally formed in 1992 with the pledge "To be pure, proper, and pretty," they recently rewrote their charter with a left-leaning political bent to make sweeping reforms for the country.
Their first order of business: Abolish nuclear power.
No! No! No more nukes!
No! No! No more nukes!
I don't care if it's national policy
I can't let this one slide
You spouted lies about the danger
"No immediate health impact?" Hah!
I don’t care if it's a wonderful invention
They didn't teach us these words in school:
Becquerels of cevert, meltdown, turbine building
High level of microsieverts detected!
I can't forget, you nuclear proponents
If it's so safe why don't you live there?
Look at the mess you made
You're an embarrassment to grown-ups
The generic sound of Da! Da! Datsugenpatsu, or Say NO! To Nukes may not pose a challenge to the pop music status quo, but pick away the cotton-candy auditory fluff and you'll find a string of zingers begging to be retweeted. And with gaffe-happy politicians like ex-Chief Cabinet Secretary Edano "No immediate health impact" Yukio feeding them material, they'll never be short of targets to attack.
Although the rabble-rousing is somewhat of a publicity stunt, it's for a good cause. Last August the girls sponsored an anti-nuke concert at the Hibiya Open-Air Concert Hall located a short march from the National Diet Building. Proceeds from the single were donated to the Fukushima dairy farmers forced to slaughter their cows producing radioactive milk. Too late in life for a career change and having lost everything in the blink of an eye, some of the elderly chose suicide rather than beg for handouts from the government that betrayed them.
|Group leader Hashimoto Mika|
The girls have managed to sell around 3100 copies of the album to date but their good intentions are only worth just under a million yen—a pittance compared to major acts. This is precisely the criticism levied against the industry by SKI president and former member Hashimoto Mika. She disses AKB48 as empty-headed "dolls" who have sold out their personal values for the sake of record sales. To Hashimoto, celebrities and performers in AKB's position should make efforts to influence popular opinion, not simply ride it out for the cash. She sees musical genres not as categories but a type of segregation. Who says that idols don't have meaningful things to say about the issues?
Indeed, this call for social revolution through song harkens back to the musician activists of the Zenkyoto student protests from the 60's and 70's, where Panta from the anarchist folk band Zuno Keisatsu (Brain Police) launched incendiary speeches at Red Army rallies. While students armed themselves with wooden 2-by-4s and construction helmets, his group bandied acoustic guitars, bongos, and provocative poetry. Their first LP was immediately banned for its cover art featuring the still at-large criminal who pulled off a bank heist disguised as a police officer, not to mention the politically-charged anthems, Declaration of World War and Grab Your Guns.
Grab your guns and shout/ Who has the right to judge us?
Grab your guns and shout/ Who spoiled this great land?
The ignorant laughs of the ignorant fools
Echo through this country shackled in lies
Grab your guns and shout/ We won't be fooled
By their fairytales anymore
Those bastards just don't get it
Can't even stand to look at them
|Panta and Hashimoto|
Zuno Keisatsu went through a series of breakups and revivals over the years. Like an old war hero who knows he's past his prime, Panta put the project on the back burner to focus on his true calling—educating the next generation of revolutionaries. The beaming, snaggle-toothed smiles of SKI provide the saccharine coating needed to swallow his bitter pill of change.
There's a lot (of power brokers)/ In the world who hate (to see people happy)/ Fat cats and their money
At some point (the dojo loach Noda)/ Got out of hand (and big in the head)/ Bribes and collusion their life's work
Your promises are no good / Your policies are no good/ Your cabinet is no good/ It's all no good
Laugh it up (just a lapdog) for Mr. Obama (profits first)/ Too elite for common sense
Your bipartisanship (split up power)/ You don't do a thing (for the quake victims) / Eating free lunches from the relief moneyHippie peaceniks forming angry drum circles are easy enough for a political to dismiss. But when you have a gaggle of schoolgirls wagging their fingers at you for being a bad, bad man, you know your political days are numbered. Akuma/Noda/TPP is the hot single from SKI's aptly-titled new album, "The Protester," which tackles both domestic and international issues. The track Save the Children aims to raise awareness of the Vietnamese villages America bombed with Agent Orange, while Hate the Crime (Not the Criminal) spreads a message of peace through justice, not vengeance—and having the heads of top TEPCO executives on a platter is the only acceptable form of justice.
If there's a good cause, chances are SKI is championing it, no matter how trivial. Assuming their uniforms had sleeves, they'd roll them up in support of the pedestrian smoking ban, cell phone usage restriction law, and citizen activists for the improvement of bicycle safety and manners. More controversial was their involvement in the signature campaign for the 1997 Anti-Stalking Law that sought to fight organized harassment and cyber bullying from Sokka Gakkai, the Buddhist cult-turned-political-party with more clout than competing fringe groups, namely the Social Democratic Party.
The SDP could only be viewed as radical in a country as conservative as Japan. Their current platform calls for the abolishment of nuclear power in favor of wind energy, the dismantling of U.S. army bases, and absolute adherence to the non-military clause of Article 9 of the constitution—all goals shared with SKI. The two have been holding hands ever since the Anti-Stalking Law brought them together, with SDP and Japanese Communist Party newsletters promoting SKI events.
Having friends in high places is nice when you have big dreams. And boy, can SKI ever dream. Their recent press release reminds us that, if the politicians aren't listening, we need to cut them out of the equation by redirecting the flow of money from capital hill to the citizen lowlands as follows:
1) Create a self-sufficient network.
2) Manage your own money and stop depositing it into financial institutions.
3) Create a new bank free of sovereign debt.
4) Create an organization (or political party) whose members are free to run the country, no strings attached. Leverage this group to smash the opposition in elections and assume majority control to return sovereign control to the citizens. If we don't go this far, it will be business as usual with an administration that can't even rebuild the areas stricken by the 3/11 earthquake and tsunami.
Lofty as these goals may be, the government seems to be cracking under the combined weight of protest, one dissenting body at a time. Last September, Noda revealed his intentions to wean Japan off nuclear power and onto renewable energy over a 30-year period.
It's still much too early to feel optimistic about this statement for it hints at an even more immediate problem in the nation’s future—a Godzilla-sized carbon footprint. But two can play the lobbyist game. It's only a matter of time before Big Energy hires AKB48 producer Akimoto to preen their multi-million dollar multi-member PR camp. The next wave of social-issue idols will be doing the can-can to Kick the Kyoto Protocol and winking that Natural Gas is the Natural Choice. Better start preparing for the imminent sexual meltdown before it's too late.