"Let's not put politics into music."

This seemingly innocent phrase rose to prominence in June as a lightning rod for social media protest against the appearance of student political leader Aki Okuda at the Fuji Rock music festival. It also taps into a popular sentiment among Japanese people about how the spheres of entertainment and politics should — or shouldn't — interact.

Despite the line's popularity, however, music and politics in Japan have rarely been closer. From the government's use of AKB48 member Haruka Shimazaki in a military recruitment advertising campaign to its funding of pop culture as a form of "soft power" through initiatives like Cool Japan, music has been used by the establishment to advance various goals. Meanwhile, movements from the anti-nuclear protests to Okuda's SEALDs student group have used music to grab attention and rally support for their causes.