If the rest of the world would have its way, they would have you see only the negative images of Fukushima. But if the citizens of Fukushima would have their way, guess what–they would want the world to know that they are quite happy, thank you very much, and more than keeping their chins up!

Japan’s third-largest prefecture has been at the center of controversy since the nuclear crisis occurred amid the devastating earthquake and tsunami of March 2011. But the producer of a new cover video inspired by Pharrell Williams’ megahit “Happy” is out to paint a different picture of Fukushima to the world. One that is not full of sickly people dying from radiation, nor terror-stricken families anxiously fleeing its borders.

She’s out to show the world, quite simply, a “Happy Fukushima.” 

To appease a few of the skeptics out there who seem convinced that this footage can’t be from the prefecture that is home to the stricken nuclear plant, yes, the people and the scenery featured in this video really were filmed entirely in Fukushima Prefecture, and no, the real Fukushima is not a Fallout-esque nuclear wasteland.

In the half-year since its release, thousands of people across the world have been inspired by Williams’ original music video featuring ordinary, “happy” people dancing about their daily lives to create their own video parodies. One of our recent favorites is “Harajuku Happy Times,” which features an interesting mix of people grooving through the streets of Tokyo’s eclectic fashion district. In fact, this latest Fukushima cover version produced by social media CEO and author Ms. Hitomi Kumasaka has even taken stylistic cues from the Harajuku video.

“Fukushima Happy” involved over 200 citizens of Fukushima from all walks of life dancing to Williams’ song. In her YouTube video description, Ms. Kumasaka makes her overall goal for the video loud and clear:

“Many people might think that Fukushima has been unhappy since 311 [March 11, 2011]. But it’s not true. With this video I want you to know that we are also happy and healthy just like you. Please enjoy our dance and share our happiness!”

But not everyone can latch onto such an optimistic stance, especially with all the contradictory information circulating on the web, the mishandling of the situation by Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), and apparent cover-ups by the Japanese government. It’s hard for anyone to know where the truth ends and the lies begin. English-speaking foreigners online were quick to doubt the true happiness of people in Fukushima, as evidenced by the following YouTube comments:

“The people in Fukushima are happy? What in the world are they saying?”

“TEPCO’s got everyone real good.”

“The people have been completely fooled by government propaganda.”

“Where’s the proof that this was actually shot in Fukushima?”

“Why is no one coming out wearing a mask?”

Another stimulus for making the video was the negative publicity that Fukushima received after long-running cooking manga Oishinbo featured a scene in which a character blames his recent nosebleeds on leaked nuclear radiation and claims that “people should not live in Fukushima today.” Ms. Kumasaka has seen the detrimental effects of this incident on the morale of Fukushima residents, and has consequently chosen to highlight their fighting spirit instead in her video. And to all the people who would try to “bring her down,” she has this to say:

“Fukushima is a big place. There are many kinds of people who are all living their lives differently. Unhappy people do exist, like anywhere, but you can also find lots of happy people. And there are without a doubt plenty of people with bright futures ahead of them right here in Fukushima.”

Next, you can either watch the video right away or scroll down to meet some of its cast first.

▼”Happy Fukushima”

First, let’s meet the Uda family, whose glowing smiles perfectly capture everything that this video represents. Mr. Uda works at a TV production company in Fukushima City, and his job often involves sifting through data from the nuclear plant region. Despite having more of an inside view of the potential dangers of the nuclear plant than most others, he and his wife have decided to remain in Fukushima to raise their adorable son.

“Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth”


Now here’s an unusual sight–some usually stoic Buddhist monks dancing along to the music! The head monk of Jōrin-ji (成林寺), a Buddhist temple in Date City, enthusiastically agreed to participate in the video when asked by Ms. Kumasaka, and even went so far as to invite two of his other head monk friends. Jōrin-ji is at the heart of providing support for disaster victims of the surrounding area.


The man who gets off the bullet train in the opening shots of the video is none other than Mr. Kano, the station master of JR Fukushima Station. According to Ms. Kumasaka, it would have taken too much time to get through all the red tape if she were to film him in his official uniform, so he agreed to dress as a normal businessman instead.


Grinning widely just outside of the station we have a Fukushima comedian known as “Nasubi,” who also apparently just returned from a trip to Mt. Everest.


Riding the bike is Mr. Kobayashi, the mayor of Fukushima City.


…And the list goes on and on. Even if they are not famous, the people of Fukushima are proud to display their love for home. Here’s a small sampling of some of them who appear in the video:





Akabeko–A traditional red cow toy from the Aizu region of Fukushima; also a famous symbol of Fukushima in general



▼You’ll never meet a happier hair stylist than this guy!




▼Fukushima farmers taking a moment to dance



▼”Hey, you should be dancing too!”


▼Some foreigners getting in on the fun!


▼Have you ever seen someone so happy to be walking through rice paddies before?


▼A final mosaic of the various people involved in the production of this video.


Also amusing is the “Happy Fukushima” making-of video:

▼Behind the scenes video

This is certainly not the first time that people have taken to music to boost the morale of Fukushima residents. This writer would also like to bring to your attention a charity song that was created through a collaboration of musicians from Fukushima shortly after the events of March 2011. It features Japanese celebrities from all 47 prefectures of Japan lip-syncing along to the lyrics and offering messages of hope to Fukushima. The song itself has a warm and catchy refrain in English that is easy to sing along to. No matter how many times I watch it, I often find myself tearing up by the end of the video.

“I love you & I need you Fukushima”

If you come to Fukushima, you’ll see that the people in “Happy Fukushima” are not just acting–those are their genuine smiles. They are going about their daily lives as always, despite the negative publicity from the rest of the world. And how do they deal with that psychological burden? By constantly smiling and remaining upbeat throughout the day.

Let’s close this piece by reflecting on one of Ms. Kumasaka’s favorite comments regarding her video:

“Awesome. What a reminder that happiness is a choice not a situation.”

Sources: grape, Yahoo! Japan News
Images: YouTube