Text by Sohrab Saadat Ladjevardi
Daniel H. Rosen was recently featured in a Japanese news story about the Earth Day Celebration in Sado (Western Japan), but what makes him particularly interesting is that he is an American who was put in charge of this celebration after years of involvement on the Japanese arts scene. This appointment also coincided with the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami that hit in March.
I had never met Daniel H. Rosen when I lived in Japan, but he was there when I was there. Last year in December I got a newsletter from Rosen which made me contact him to find out how he found out about DooBeeDoo. He told me that he found DooBeeDoo via internet just by chance and put us sporadically in the mailing list.
Checking his website I found out that he had spent twenty years in Japan as a visual artist, writer, curator and creative director of events, films and multimedia projects. And last year he joined the artist collective TokyoDex. Knowing this I felt like, “Shit, why didn’t our paths cross in Japan when I was there?” because I was always looking for foreigners who had been in Japan for a longer time, knew about Japan and could speak Japanese. My belief at that time was that in order to create something new in Japan, you could do it only through a collaboration with inside foreigners, more so than with local Japanese artists who were more attracted to foreign cultures and not as intent on trying to understand what their own culture was about.
By his last newsletter I found out that Rosen has been working as production staff at Kodo’s Earth Celebration for fifteen years which is one of the big world music festivals in Japan. This year he had the rare opportunity to bring a social media team up to Sado to report live from the event, and live-stream the main concerts for the first time ever. A news crew from Niigata Television (TeNY) followed him for two days and made a short documentary of him that aired right after the festival.
After watching the video, I couldn’t believe that Daniel really believed that “The first step toward rebuilding is letting the rest of the world know that Japan is OK.”
Not at all: it’s a fact that Japan is a nuclear polluted country. Food, water, air, pregnant mothers, everybody in Japan is still affected by nuclear radiation. The Fukushima plant is still alive! Japan’s disaster is one of the worst disasters in mankind’s history! Worse than Chernobyl!! And it seems that many, many Japanese still don’t get it. And the ones who know about it, such as farmers and fishermen, are so helpless, hopeless and disgusted that they just give up, kill themselves or get homeless. The recent projections state that it may take up to 30 years just to clean up the country. This part of Daniel’s interview sounded discordant with reality, really a softening of the situation, just to coax reluctant visitors back into tourism. And this was a celebration of the Earth, what better time to make an environmental statement, and still bring people to a great musical festival.
I do understand that Rosen’s job as the festival PR guy was to get as many people to attend the festival, but was this the right way to promote it? And I do understand why he’s committed to this festival, but by what I saw in the video I got the impression that Rosen wasn’t showing the whole picture. He wasn’t critical and focused enough about what he said about the present Japan. His report was used by a Japanese media, Niigata Television (TeNY), to camouflage the situation in Japan. Now with the global “Occupy something” movement Earth Celebration had a chance to be an “Occupy Japan” movement or statement! But it fell short of this and simplified the entire situation. There could have been demonstrators in Kabuto Cho (Tokyo’s Wall Street) showing that the government needs to be more transparent and honest with the public in times of emergency, as well as Japanese environmentalists using this opportunity to educate the public about alternative energy policies. Nothing of this sort was emphasized.
I can’t believe after staying in Japan for such a long time, speaking very good Japanese and liking this country that he couldn’t present Japan in an objective and pluralistic way. In a way that Japanese people can learn from him and use him to make changes in their country. Maybe I am asking to much from him?
But speaking of myself, when I was in Japan for a very, very long time in most cases I knew more about Japan than the Japanese people around me because as a foreigner (a gaijin in Japanese) and outsider, I had the ability to scrutinize the Japanese society and was somehow allowed to express my critical feelings and thoughts. I had to tell them that Japanese culture was a real culture even though it came mostly from China. I had and still have much respect for what Japanese culture stands for. And I am very disappointed and also angry that the Japanese in general lost their identity, although they still have their Japanese kokoro (heart in Japanese). But at the end of the day, I found out that nobody was really listening to me.
It’s unbelievable that even after the Tsunami, the Japanese haven’t changed. Yes, they knew after a couple of weeks that the government and media went hand in hand fooling them around and not telling the truth. I couldn’t believe that no big group went on the streets! In fact the foreign media, blogs, scientists, environmentalists, etc. warned the Japanese that they were in deep shit, and were willing to assist them.
All this said, I am still wondering what is going to happen to my second home country? Next year I might visit Japan with my horn. I hope by then some positive changes will be happening.