Union Songs

Nuclear Gypsies (Genpatsu Jipusii)

A Song by Tokiko Kato©Tokiko Kato 1981

- [play]

Exposed all over, to the invisible rays
Till the red buzzar screeches
In the dark world, with the masks on
Swaggies on the road
Swaggies on the road

Identity is not required, good only for the day
Counting the number of scars on the body
Peek over the glass walls, at the hell
Swaggies on the road
Swaggies on the road

To a coastal town, at a small inn
Drifted along, in search of a job
A sweet deal or a death blow
Swaggies on the road
Swaggies on the road

The setting sun flames and the sea gleams
On the beach, the sea splashes
The devil's furnace casts its huge shadow
Swaggies on the road
Swaggies on the road


The refrain is literally "travelling gypsies" but it should be something like "swaggies/swaggers on the run/on the road"? Or does the word swaggies/swaggers conjure more of a hobo kind of old fashioned bohemian image? The red buzzer refers to the "radiation dosimetre" nuke workers are required to wear. When the level of daily allowable radiation is reached, it goes off (and the worker is not meant to keep on working that day, but in reality, they either ignore the warning themselves or they are told to continue working to finish the job). The workers even take protective masks off because they cannot keep on working in humid and hot confinement.

All fifty five reactors sit on the coast in Japan, like the ones in Fukushima.

Kato is probably the most radical mainstream singers who continuously succeed in writing and performing songs of important social themes without alienating the mass audience.

Her social conscience is evident not just in her materials. More recently, she gave a free concert to the villagers of Iitate, just before the entire village was to evacuate because of the incredible amount of radiation fall out from the crippled nuclear power plants in Fukushima.

Genpatsu Jipusii (Nuclear Gypsies) Inspired by the book of the same name written by Kunio Horie. Genpatsu is an acronym meaning the nuclear power plant. The term may be offensive, yet, the author who had spent a few years working with them to write the book, this is exactly the term used by those transient workers. The nuke plant needs to be stopped once a year or so for maintenance. These "gypsies" do the worst kind of jobs imaginable, cleaning and fixing the power plant, constantly exposed to high level of radiation. They migrate from one plant to the other because the "occupational safety" regulation stipulates that they cannot continue working once they have accumulated certain amount of radiation.

Kato's song was originally recorded and released in 1981 as "Genpatsu Jipusii", only to be recalled a few weeks later by the record company. She had to alter the title to "Kage no Jipusii (Gypsies in the shadow)". The record company then insisted the use of the term "Jipusii" is offensive. Subsequently, she altered the lyrics as well as the title. The version now available is called "Yami no naka de" (Kept in the dark).'

Return to top of page