An antinuclear artist continues his anonymous crusade

WHILE THE ANTINUCLEAR MOVEMENT HAS faltered since its summer 2012 heyday, one man continues his anonymous battle against the industry and its political backers.

Since his first stickers appeared in Shibuya in the aftermath of the March 2011 disaster, the artist known as 281_Anti nuke has augmented his portfolio of street art with designs that take a swipe at everyone from Tepco to the pro nuclear administrations of Yoshihiko Noda and Shinzo Abe.

281_Anti nuke, like many who joined the post Fukushima antinuclear movement, took little or no interest in political activism before the disaster. Stick thin, softly spoken and selfeffacing in his appraisal of the impact his work could have on the national nuclear debate, he is an improbable environmental warrior.

“I don’t think my art will have a direct impact on politics . . . but it does have the power to make individuals stop and think,” he says. “And if Japanese people change together, then Japan too will change.”

His Facebook page and twitter account, with over one thousand followers, is full of messages of support. But his work has also attracted the attention of online right wingers who denounce him as a traitor.

Given the antipathy he has aroused, 281_Anti nuke’s determination to conceal his identity is understandable. On the night we meet, he is disguised in a surgical mask and a pair of dark sunglasses, the hood of his top pulled loosely over his head, despite the brutal humidity.

He won’t give his age “just say I am in my thirties,” he says refuses to discuss his home life, and agrees to talk about his art on condition of anonymity. He says he has managed to conceal his activism from family and colleagues by designing and printing the stickers when alone at home or at his workplace.

The artist is disturbed most by Japan’s apparent drift into a state of collective amnesia over Fukushima. “People are forgetting about Fukushima . . . they want to forget,” he says.

“There are people who see the stickers, and people who see them and think about what they mean,” he adds. At the end of a month in which the situation at Fukushima Daiichi has taken a dramatic turn for the worse, even 281_Anti nuke’s detractors can have little argument with the message of one of his most combative designs: “311 is not over.”

— Justin McCurry

This month, 281_Anti nuke’s images are being displayed at the FCCJ.