Wednesday, June 15, 2011

6.11 No-Nukes Demonstration in Japan: Ground-Zero Report by "J" in Tokyo (Guest Post)

My friend's friend's friend "j" attended not just one but two demonstrations in Tokyo (one in Nerima-ku, and the other, bigger one in Shinjuku-ku) and sent her level-headed and frank observation (original in Japanese).

Several interesting bits of information that I've never seen elsewhere in the news:

  • The Social Democratic Party (former Japan Socialist Party) was there big-time, as if to try to hijack the grassroots movement;

  • Lack of anger toward the government agencies and organizations who have promoted nuclear energy;

  • Volunteer organizations collecting donations during the demonstrations in a manner that ordinary Japanese find hard to say no.

The first point is not surprising to me. It is like the neoconservative right claiming to be the leaders of the "tea party" movement in the US. But I've never read about their presence in the demonstration anywhere else.

The second one is not so surprising either. Trust in the government runs deep, not just in Japan but elsewhere. It is more likely that TEPCO has been obliged to do whatever the government has ordered them to do, including not disclosing the information, but the people's anger are being cleverly directed to the big bad greedy capitalist TEPCO.

The last one reminds me of a street musician group in Paris 10 years ago. They were playing wonderful music, but as we listened, a person with a donation box came and stand in front of the audience, stuck the donation box in front of my face and asked for money. I thought that was crass, not befitting the superb music they were playing.

Still, "j" seems to think it was a significant event, just to show to the rest of Japan and the world that there are people in Japan who are anti-nuclear across the different political and social spectrum.

The following is her personal observation on 6.11 No-Nuke demonstrations in Tokyo, Japan:


Yesterday [June 11]'s Shinjuku had a sizable crowd (though not that big considering how big Tokyo is) and a decent action, enough to dispel my vague dissatisfaction with the "Nerima Action" demonstration in the morning.


But things didn't feel quite right for me, and that feeling started from the Nerima demonstration in the morning.


I decided to participate in the "6.11 No-Nukes One Million People Action" event for 2 reasons: One, it was a grassroots movement; and two, it was to appeal for no nuclear energy.


But then, the Japanese Social Democratic Party was right there at the demonstrations, free-riding the grassroots movement.


I thought this was the people's movement, the small individual citizens groups got together and joined forces. I was rather disgusted to see the Social Democrats there.


The Party's flags were waved in the Nerima event, same in Shinjuku, then the Party's PR car came and some party Representative started to make a speech.


For me, participating in the event as an ordinary citizen, it felt like I was forced to become a supporter of the Social Democratic Party. If a political party was going to be involved, I would have liked to know it from the beginning.


The Social Democratic Party became a coalition partner when the Democratic Party of Japan first became the ruling party. That means these Social Democrats accepted the DPJ's manifest of promoting nuclear energy. Now they're trying to hijack the movement saying they have been anti-nuke all along? Give me a break.


Makes me wonder whether I should participate in a no-nuke demonstration from now on.


I'm not happy with the slogans at the demos either.


The whole point of the demonstration was to appeal for "no nuke".


Not about accusing TEPCO.


"Shimzu [TEPCO's president], come out!!" or "Do something quick about Fukushima I Nuke PLant!" (they ARE doing something at Fukushima I) - that's another demonstration, isn't it? I'm OK with the statements like "TEPCO should stop all nuke plants and decommission them" and "TEPCO should disclose all information."


If you're going to hold TEPCO responsible, you should also demand the dismantling of the government corporations for nuclear energy which haven't done sh-t [her word], and shout "NISA, come out! Everyone who's promoted nuke plant, come out!"


It felt strange to me, holding only TEPCO responsible. Not that TEPCO is not responsible, but they are not alone, are they?

あとはさ、アルタ前広場ってのは良くなかったね。いや、良かったのか? あそこは広場と名がつくものの、実は狭~いので、多少のヒトが集まるとそれ以上のヒトが集まっているように見える「アルタ前広場効果」なるものがありますからねぇ。

And then, the choice of the Alta Plaza [for Shinjuku demonstration] wasn't good. Oh wait, was it good? It's called "plaza" but the place is actually very small. So, even the small number of people could look big. The "Alta Plaza Effect", so to speak.


Tokyo doesn't have a big space like the Concord Plaza [Place de la Concorde, in Paris, France]. To me, a big demonstration is the one that would fill the Concord Plaza.


Also, donation solicitation was pretty awkward.


The event, as far as I knew, was voluntary. But people came for money in Nerima and Shinjuku, saying it cost money to prepare for the demonstrations so please donate. They stuck a donation box in front of the participants. As a Japanese, it was difficult to say no, but I didn't like it. In Nerima, I donated 10 yen [12 cents] (I'm cheap) because they were what they said they were. But in Shinjuku, I couldn't tell who they were. So I ignored them.


Same with signature gathering. No one beside me seemed to care very much who they were signing for and gave away the personal information like name and address. It's not safe to give away your information in the excitement of the event, without much thinking.


Overall, my feeling was that Japanese people are inexperienced when it comes to demonstration. Still, I think it achieved the purpose of appealing [to the rest of Japan and the world] that there are people in Japan who are against nuclear power, regardless of the social status or political leaning.


I think in the future it may be better to organize the event as some kind of a festival in a big venue like baseball stadiums, soliciting donations beforehand to plan for the event, and selling tickets (500 yen for admission and a drink, something like that) for people to participate.


Antony said...

Thanks "j" for that report. If you want to have some idea of how anti-nuclear events can be staged I think you should look at which is about the recent referendum in Italy. If you cannot read English, sorry, please try to get someone to help you. You will see that it requires A LOT MORE organization and a lot more people getting out on the street. Unfortunately, the Japanese are nowhere near reaching the critical mass required to make politicians sit up and listen. Also sorry to hear about the Social Democrats. If they were a little more sensitive they would be able to let the people have their own demo and give them political backing and moral support rather than trying to take over the whole thing (as you make it sound - and I believe you).

Anonymous said...

I was in Matsumoto city on June 11 and I saw people demonstrating against nuclear plant. The problem is that it was a specific group of people, all were wearing clothes from India shops. It was probably a kind of hippie community.I could`t feel this was a demonstration of whole Matsumoto society. It`s not a solidarity. I don`t want to join a specific group. It does not have a power.

Kim and Kame said...

I really believe that everyone needs to get out and demonstrate, individually or in a group, it doesn't matter. Make your own sign, gather your friends together or go on your own.
No one will take notice if we do nothing.
I went to the demo in Shinjuku on my own with my handmade signs. I didn't care which groups were there because I was there for myself and my beliefs.
:-) I hope everyone can do the same.

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