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The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus
In-depth critical analysis of the forces shaping the Asia-Pacific...and the world.

Amid Invisible Terror: The Righteous Anger of A Fukushima Farmer Poet 見えない恐怖の中でぼくらは見た−−福島農民の義憤

Norimatsu Satoko, Maeda Arata

Amid Invisible Terror: The Righteous Anger of A Fukushima Farmer Poet

Maeda Arata with an introduction by Satoko Oka Norimatsu

A farmer’s poem, "Amid Invisible Terror, We Were Witnesses", first appeared in the July 18 edition of Shimbun Nomin (Newspaper “Farmer”), a publication of the Japan Family Farmers Movement “Nominren,” and was immediately recited at anti-nuclear rallies across the nation. Maeda Arata, a seventy-five year old farmer, poet and writer, lives in Aizumisato-machi in eastern Fukushima. The poem was written four months after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster of March 11, 2011. Now, a year later, the fury and despair that the poem conveys continues to speak for hundreds of thousands of residents who lost their homes, land, family members and livelihood. Nothing is more devastating for farmers than the radioactive contamination and destruction of the food they grow with love and care. On March 29, 2011, a sixty-four year old cabbage farmer in Sukagawa hanged himself, all hope shuttered following the newly announced government restriction on the consumption of cabbage from Fukushima. To Maeda, national policy that deprives farmers of livelihood, and life itself, is reminiscent of the wartime events that sacrificed people’s lives for a purported national interest that prioritized colonial subjugation and exploitation of neighbouring countries. Goto Nobuyo, an economist who teaches at Fukushima Medical University, read this poem at a conference on the Fukushima nuclear crisis at UC Berkeley in October 2011, moving the Berkeley modern Japanese historian Andrew Barshay to translate it into English. Goto observed that most of the artistic and literary expressions responding to the Fukushima crisis revolve around uncritical cheerful messages such as “I love Fukushima” and “Ganbare (Chin up) Fukushima!” They suppress, in effect, the widespread anger at TEPCO and the Japanese state, still more the protest movements such as those of Fukushima women demanding the protection of children from radiation, and the anti-nuclear movements that surged over the last year. William Pesek, a Bloomberg columnist described a recent comment by Prime Minister Noda “jawdropping” – one in which he said, “no individual could be held responsible for the nuclear fallout and that everyone should ‘share the pain,’” in the country where CEOs of big corporations like Olympus, and even a prime minister got jailed for book cooking and bribery.1 Maeda’s literary voice is, therefore, all the more precious, inviting us to reflect on questions of responsibility and appropriate action in the face of Japan’s multiple disasters.


1 William Pesek, “Forget the yakuza, the nuclear mob should be the ones sent to jail,” Sydney Morning Herald, March 10, 2011. Link 


Amid invisible terror, we were witnesses

Maeda Arata*

Translated into English by Andrew E. Barshay**


Assaulted by an invisible terror

Even now, after four months 

We remain driven from our hometown


At Level 7, with no change in the situation at all

Tens of thousands of livestock starved to death

In the deserted villages, only the stink from their corpses

Rises into the air


Across the mountains and rivers of our home country,

Stolen away by something that will not show itself,

The seasons change, as if nothing at all had happened


There, where the cuckoo calls, can it now be

Only in our dreams that we toil and sweat?

There, we cannot even set foot!


Once national policy drove us to Manchuria

There, in defeat, forced to commit suicide together

While others abandoned little ones to escape back home


Now as then, our lives,

Built through hard struggles

Are smashed to bits by the failure of national policy


And this time, it’s a painless, slow death

Yet just as on that day, isn’t this forced collective suicide,

the live experiments of Unit 731 all over again?


Friends, we can’t just stand here grieving and crying

Over these four months, amid invisible terror

What we have seen with our own eyes

Is the true face of terror that says:

For profit’s sake, the reactors must stay on


All right then! If that’s how it is

We’re ready to take them on, for the sake of our posterity


Just like the Kwantung Army before them, these bastards

hid the facts and were the first to run from danger

And now they put on an innocent face and prattle about

safety and reconstruction

No way will we let them take these lives so easily!


Oh, but friends, my friends who are dead



*Maeda Arata: member of Fukushima Farmers’ Alliance, resident of

Aizumisato, Fukushima Prefecture

**Andrew E. Barshay: Professor, University of California at Berkeley

Satoko Oka Norimatsu is a writer and educator based in Vancouver, BC, Canada. She is Director of Peace Philosophy Centre and a Coordinator of The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus. Her upcoming book co-authored with Gavan McCormack, Resistant Islands: Okinawa Confronts Japan and the United States is forthcoming at Rowman & Littlefield, 2012.

Recommended citation: Maeda Arata with an introduction by Satoko Oka Norimatsu,'Amid Invisible Terror: The Righteous Anger of A Fukushima Farmer Poet,' The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol 10, Issue 11, No 9, March 11, 2012.





前田 新(福島県農民連会津美里町在住)



























なかまよ 悲しんで泣いてはいられない
















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Authors: For all articles by the author, click on author's name.   Norimatsu Satoko, Maeda Arata