Due to the nepotistic, old boy network that masquerades as democracy in Japan, it’s not hard to understand why voter turnout is low, and apathy reigns supreme. A passing down of the positions of power that arguably makes the current, old Etonian filled cabinet of Britain, seem positively revolutionary.
But thankfully there are signs that changes are afoot, with anti-government, and particularly anti-Abe protests becoming commonplace. A movement that has been galvanised further by the Prime Minister’s recent reinterpretation of Japan’s pacifist constitution — this hugely controversial move coming only months after the same government rammed through a similarly contentious secrecy bill. The latter law making a mockery out of any kind of press freedom, while at the same time giving those in power all the freedom they need to block stories or restrict information.
A massive shift to the right, and a worrying nod to the past, that tie in precisely with Abe’s hawkish, backward looking agenda. Policies that are being successfully rushed into being, while his much-touted, and politically motivated Abenomics, continues to falter.
But as mentioned, opposition and public unrest is growing. Many people aren’t happy. Not by any stretch of the imagination. And the target of their anger is Abe.
Of that there is no mistake.
Well said. The words go with the pictures.
It’s something I feel very strongly strongly about, so good to hear they work well with the images.
I suppose the fact that these people are able to protest can be taken as an indication that this alleged fascism has not yet reached full thrust. Lets hope it never does. And that the amendments to the constitution do not lead to undesirable action.
Yes, that’s a very good point. But already such demos and far more extreme protests — like the man who set himself on fire last week — don’t make the likes of NHK. Their silence is truly deafening…
And yeah, that’s the big fear. A fear that one can only hope is unfounded.
Yeah I didn’t like him the first time he was in charge anymore than I do now. Last picture says it best if you ask me. Thanks for a good post Lee!
Likewise, although at least last time he was harmless. Definitely not the case this time…
Thank you. It’s something I feel strongly about, so glad you appreciated it. Good to know.
Hans Ter Horst says
Cheers, there is hope still for Japan Too bad the media are prohibited to report on any of this by the new laws aimed to muzzle any report that is not toeing the official line.
There is. Certainly hope so anyway. Unfortunately polite protests that the media barely — if at all — mention, probably won’t do it. But what will I really don’t know…
Bernadette Marchetti says
With the news that the Xu Caihou from the Chinese Communist Party is under investigation for corruption, it seems everyone is having issues. Here in the US, they just ruled that since corporations are people (that’s something that was decided in 1819), they have the right to refuse paying for insurance that covers birth control for women (even if women are taking it for health reasons not related to pregnancy). They can refuse on religious grounds. BUT the company that started this whole mess, Hobby Lobby, still pays for vasectomies and erectile dysfunction medication. Just when you think some progress has been made, it seems we take three steps backwards.
Whenever my friends ask me if I want to move to Japan, I say, “No way! I’ll visit, but I’ll never want to live there. I want to move to Luxembourg. They’re happier.” After I’m done learning Japanese and Irish, I’m going to learn Luxembourgish. Because it would be pretty cool to say I know Luxembourgish.
It certainly would. Definitely not a standard language to learn!
I know what you mean. Hard to comprehend it’s 2014 considering the shocking number of backward looking and archaic views/policies that are put forward. Technology is definitely advancing, but society-wise we often seem to be going in completely the opposite direction…
Bernadette Marchette: Typical internet foolishness. If you are taking the time to learn ” Luxembourgish”, you should take the time to learn how to read English. The ruling allowed small corporations that are 50% operated/owned by 10 or less people to raise religious objections to covering certain, government approved medical procedures. In the case of hobby lobby, they objected to 4 out of the 18 government mandated “birth control” medications because they viewed those 4 medications as inducing abortions. Hobby lobby was fine with the other government approved pills.
Additionally, the ruling does not prohibit women/men from accessing birth control: it prohibits the government and people with a gross sense of entitlement making an employer/someone else pay for it. They can always go, at their own time and expense, to the Rite Aid or Walgreens and purchase the pill of their choice for about $9.99 a package.
Thanks for these; it’s so rare to see any kind of popular activity from Japan – these days anyway. Oh, I suppose there were the Fukushima protests too… But there weren’t a lot of these people making noise, right? Most Japanese are completely “meh”, yeah?
Unfortunately, I have no regard for anyone using Nazi or Hitler symbolism in their protests; it’s been well established by psychologists, sociologists, political scientists, and many others – as counterproductive. It almost immediately turns the message into being viewed by regular folks as promoted by cranks. Not very smart on the part of anyone trying to popularize their message.
Agreed. The LaRouche Democrats have been using posters of Obama with a Hitler ‘stache since he was elected president. I am no rabid supporter of Obama but this kind of thing makes me immediately dismiss their message. Let us hope that no one ever earns a legitimate comparison to Hitler past the 20th century (although there are some who are trying). Putin’s direction in Russia is also worrying. It’s amazing to live in a time of such backwards thought.
Good call on the Hitler/Nazi symbolism. Hadn’t really thought about it like that (no doubt because their anti-Abe message resonates with me), but yeah, it’s probably going to alienate rather than attract new supporters. A shame as they are genuinely committed.
Protests such as this have become refreshingly common over the last few years. Anti-nuclear, anti-secrecy bill and now anti-Abe/Article 9 reinterpretation have all been very visible. Very vocal too I’m happy to say. That said none of them have made the slightest a bit of difference. Even despite huge numbers protesting the re-starting of Japan’s nuclear plants.
More direct, aggressive protests may well be the only way to get more attention, but of course that could be used by the government to discredit them. Plus nothing like that has been seen in Japan since the 1960s.
In a culture where a high value is placed on conformity does nearly any and nearly all non-mainstream expression become considered unimportant or “kooky” by the general populace? And the more aggressive the message then the more obstinate the attitude of those wanting to, and likely being encouraged to ignore them?
This model seems like an ideal society to be controlled by a recognized authority that speaks to whatever that society’s interests may be.
That’s a very good point. Sadly probably very near the truth too.
The only positive I would say is that the number of protests over the last few years, and the increasing number of people participating in them, does give me some hope. There are always a huge mix of people involved as well. It isn’t just the young. Or mainly students. It’s a broad mix of ages, and seemingly backgrounds. So maybe, just maybe, attitudes are beginning to change, and with them a shift in society. Only time will tell I guess.
In the first picture the two police look like they are thinking ‘what can I arrest him for’ whilst the protester looks like he’s saying ‘Oh shit we’re in trouble now, there’s a gaijin taking photos’
Haha, quite possibly!
It was the expressions of the coppers and the protestor that made the photo for me. Immediately noticeable, but impossible to really know their meaning.
Abe’s plans for the military is getting press in the United States too. We definitely heard about the man who set himself on fire. We also seem to keep a close eye on changes with Japan’s nuclear power plants. Thank you for posting these. It looks as if the demand for change is felt much stronger there.
Side note: I am impressed with the signs of the protestors. Very well organized and nicely made. Also, why does it look like the cops are holding light sabers?
You are more than welcome.
That’s also the case in regards the British press. Plenty of coverage. Well, especially in regards the big issues. If only it was the same in Japan…
They do look like light sabres, don’t they?! Sadly nothing so out there, just batons that light up and are always used when there are big gatherings/roadworks to guide people in the right direction.
That would explain the large english text, I thought it looked a bit out of place.
For the future security of Japan and much of Asia, one can only hope the slim minority of those photoed above never attain power.
Considering what has (or perhaps more importantly has not) happened in the 70 years since Japan’s pacifist constitution was introduced, unlike those preceding it, I’d beg to differ.
It should also be noted that a majority of Japanese oppose any change to the constitution. So whilst it may be a small minority protesting, they are speaking for the majority.
â€œConsidering what has (or perhaps more importantly has not) happened in the 70 years since Japan’s pacifist constitution was introduced, unlike those preceding it, I’d beg to differ.â€
In order to properly consider what â€œhas notâ€ happened in the past 70 years, one would actually need to consider â€œwhat wasâ€ happening those 70 years. During the last 7 decades, the United States guaranteed the security of Japan. In addition to US security guarantees, none of Japan’s neighbors posed an existential threat to their security. If anyone has been paying attention to the news, all these assumptions have dramatically. A few examples:
Chinese ships lock on to Japanese destroyer:
Chinese declare an Air Defense Zone over the Senkaku Islands
Chinese begin construction in disputed spartley Islands
China moves oil rig into Vietnamese waters
China claims 90% of the China Sea
During the â€œ70 yearsâ€ you mention, events like this did not occur: now they are occurring with alarming regularity (not only to Japan but other countries in Asia). Additionally, they see a dithering US administration that appears to have the same grossly naÃ¯ve ideology of those you photographed above.
Japan’s survival as a nation depends on open sea lanes. To emphasize this point, nearly 60% of its food is imported. If those imports are blockaded, Japan could face mass starvation since it cannot produce enough food to meet domestic demand.
Given the threats that now exist and the shifting political environment, it would be extremely foolish not to revise its constitution and allow more flexibility on its military front to defend Japanese interest. If Japan gives up its sea lanes to the Chinese, they might as well be a Chinese province given Chinese behavior with regards to much weaker countries that can’t defend their claims (i.e. Vietnam and the Philippines).
â€œIt should also be noted that a majority of Japanese oppose any change to the constitution. So whilst it may be a small minority protesting, they are speaking for the majority.â€
Do you have a source to show that? Sources I have dug up show differently:
Additionally, I doubt many Japanese would sanction over-the-top propaganda and the gross disrespect of these protestors (which is why such a pathetic number of them are outwardly protesting). While some may disagree with Abe, comparing him to Adolf Hitler is over the line.
I won’t for a minute support many of China’s actions. I’m definitely no China apologist either. The country was horribly wronged in the past of that there’s no doubt, but since then China can’t act the wronged innocent, not by any stretch of the imagination. But that said, Japan can defend itself and its territories. That’s why it has the aptly named Self Defence Force. It’s no tinpot dad’s army either. Japan is the world’s 6th biggest military spender (and the budget was increased further this year), along with numerous military bases on Japanese soil owned by the world’s 1st biggest spender. Japan can look after itself.
In regards opposition to constitutional change, it clearly depends what article you read, as this poll emphatically backs up my point: http://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2014/05/02/editorials/protecting-the-peace-constitution/#.U8XhYlZ6KwI
I should also add that the link you refer to is from last year. The way Abe has rode roughshod over public opinion, and some would say democracy, by pushing through the recent secrecy bill and constitutional change via the back door, has changed many of the public’s perception of him.
The comparisons of Abe to Hitler, are I admit, out of line. On that we can agree on. But I totally disagree with your disrespectful view of those protesting. For starters they are anything but a pathetic number. (http://rt.com/news/169448-japan-protest-military-law). And why on earth should people be criticised for standing up for and defending something they truly believe in? Should they instead just lie down, soak up the lies, and carry on supporting the powers that be like good little citizens?
“But that said, Japan can defend itself and its territories. That’s why it has the aptly named Self Defence Force. It’s no tinpot dad’s army either. Japan is the world’s 6th biggest military spender (and the budget was increased further this year), along with numerous military bases on Japanese soil owned by the world’s 1st biggest spender. Japan can look after itself.”
True. It has one of the most powerful navies in the world….currently. Yes I am also intimately aware that the largest US military presence in Asia(excluding Korea perhaps) is in Japan; however, given the actions of a particular neighbor, the country needs to look out into the future and build relationships with other countries in the region. Additionally, it needs to diversify its options and not be so reliant on the United States for its security. In order to do so, it needs to be allowed to enter into NATO like alliances with other countries and to actually assist allied ships if they come under attack (http://news.yahoo.com/japan-able-aid-us-ships-under-attack-says-234430470.html)
“I should also add that the link you refer to is from last year. The way Abe has rode roughshod over public opinion, and some would say democracy, by pushing through the recent secrecy bill and constitutional change via the back door, has changed many of the public’s perception of him.”
This one I agree with you. There should be no reason why he could not simply make a public case why the constitution needs to be changed. There is a plethora of material out there showing why the change needs to take place; there is no need to use backdoors around the process. I would argue that the polls you cite; however, reflect the way the change was enacted, not necessarily the merits of the change itself.
“But I totally disagree with your disrespectful view of those protesting. For starters they are anything but a pathetic number. (http://rt.com/news/169448-japan-protest-military-law). And why on earth should people be criticised for standing up for and defending something they truly believe in? Should they instead just lie down, soak up the lies, and carry on supporting the powers that be like good little citizens?”
They absolutely have the right to protest, blather illogical gibberish or make the most ridiculous comparisons to their hearts content. I too have the right to point out their BS and criticize their methods/purpose.
You do. That’s very important. And likewise I have the right to defend them, and their views. Debate is important. As is compromise. And that’s one of the biggest problems with the Abe regime. There is no debate. Just very controversial laws and constitutional changes being pushed through the diet. That is a very worrying trend…
Gee Daigo says
I love your website and regular here, but I thought it was a bit alarming some items you mentioned are not true. I am 100% Japanese, but I do support the constitutional amendment. It’s old, and does not fit the current system. And let me tell you, I am liberal as it can get. But I do not believe in these protesters’ messages. I have no friends actually opposing to the constitutional changes either.
Regardless, the constitutional was not created by any Japanese, nor constitutional scholars. “Sengo Regime”(Postwar regime) can definitely go this time.
First off, cheers! Very nice of you to say so.
As for what I wrote, obviously I can’t speak for Japanese citizens, but the polls I read and linked to suggested that a majority were against change. The same is true in regards the people I have actually asked about it. Although I have to admit that the latter especially is in no way a definitive answer, as it was only a small number of people I spoke to.
Similarly I can’t argue with it not being a Japanese decision in the first place.
The only thing I can say for certain is that to me, with Japan’s already strong military — at least in regards technology if not actual personnel — the country is more than capable of defending itself. Plus participation in humanitarian and peacekeeping missions are possible. Isn’t that enough? Hasn’t it served Japan well?
Lastly, what I personally fear isn’t actually change itself, despite want I said about believing the current constitution having served the county well. Rather, it’s the people currently in charge. I worry where they may take us…