A controversy has broken out on social media after the name of a high-profile youth activist appeared last week on the list of artists attending this year’s Fuji Rock Festival.
The unexpected name: Aki Okuda, a leader of the Students Emergency Action for Liberal Democracy-s, better known as SEALDs.
SEALDs is a group of young people aligned against the security laws enacted last year after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declared a new take on the government’s long-held interpretation of the Constitution, sidestepping war-renouncing Article 9 to expand the legal scope of the Self-Defense Forces’ missions abroad.
Okuda was invited to Fuji Rock to be a guest speaker on a talk show hosted by the anti-nuclear group Atomic Cafe on July 23. The show is a side event to the mammoth rock festival hosted annually by the Naeba Ski Resort in Yuzawa, Niigata Prefecture.
Right after the list was released, a Japanese Twitter hashtag (“ongaku ni seiji wo mochikomu nayo,” meaning “don’t politicize music”) was created to express opposition to Okuda’s appearance.
Some critics said the well-known rock festival shouldn’t feature a “left-wing” activist like Okuda, while others said he deserve no place at the event because he’s not a musician.
But other people including famous Japanese rock musicians and commentators defended Okuda’s billing, pointing out that the annual festival has hosted a number of political side events in the past.
“People who don’t know about Fuji Rock say, ‘Don’t politicize Fuji Rock.’ Until now many NGOs and artists have repeatedly expressed their various opinions on stage,” Masafumi Goto, the main singer for Asian Kung-fu Generation, tweeted in Japanese on Sunday.
“We need to argue back by saying something like, ‘Hey shut up, idiots.’ Otherwise I feel a little bit of freedom will be eroded,” Goto said in the tweet.
The Fuji Rock Festival was started in 1997 with the goal of “Coexistence of Nature and Music.”
Preservation of the environment is a key theme of the event, and attendees are urged to clean up and recycle their garbage at the venue, the festival’s website says.
According to Atomic Cafe’s website, the anti-nuclear group has been holding talk shows at the Fuji Rock Festival since at least 2011. This year’s festival will run from July 22 to 24.
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