Saturday, 31 October 2015

I didn't fight the law, and the law won.

Chikako Kobayashi shared this image to facebook
Left, from top: Asahi, Mainichi, and Tokyo newspapers Right, from top: Yomiuri, Sankei, and Nikkei newspapers

You probably saw images from the August 1st protests in Tokyo (unless, of course, you read Japan’s more pro-government papers, which had strikingly different front pages the next day). It was actually a national day of action, and Tiger had wanted to attend our local protest. After a very upsetting “peace education” experience last year (he came home having learned that Japan was just sitting around peacefully minding its own business when America suddenly dropped a nuclear bomb on Hiroshima, and therefore Japan should kill all Americans. None of which was specifically said by his teacher, but she didn’t interject when children made these statements in presentations to the class) we talked a lot about war. We talked about what happened in Okinawa, in particular, and about how the people who decide to start wars are rarely the ones who actually suffer and die in them. He got very excited about signing a petition against constitutional revision, and then wanted to attend the rally as well. I was very happy to take him, until…

Until I heard about the intimidation and harassment of protesters at previous rallies. I work at a university, and I hear things that aren’t getting reported on the nightly news or discussed in the newspapers. Students talk about police photographing them at rallies, then calling their parents: “Did you know your child was creating a public nuisance? Who is paying for their education? Is this the lifestyle you planned to fund?” Others had their landlord called by police as part of “routine inquiries”: “Do many radicals gather at the building you own? Do you rent to any foreigners? Do you know if political meetings are being held on your premises?”

My visa was up for renewal two days after the protest. As a foreigner, attending a political rally is a valid reason for my visa renewal to be refused. I thought about the consequences if it was declined before we had a valid visa to take Tiger to Australia. In fact, I was even cautious about publishing this post, which is why it is appearing so late. I told him that we couldn’t go to the protest. This is, of course, the exact response the intimidation aims to elicit. Every person who attended was risking something. A promotion, their living allowance, getting into the university of their choice, something important. That might be hard to grasp for readers for whom political engagement is a natural part of democracy, but it’s just the reality in “democratic” Japan. Yet, tens of thousands took the risk.

The Education Ministry on October 5 announced its plan to issue a notice putting restrictions on high school students’ political activities as a measure to respond to the implementation of the 18-year-old suffrage.

The planned notice will impose a ban or restrictions on political activities which senior high school students are engaged in outside of school. Students will be prohibited or constrained from demonstrating in political movements within school-bounds even on holidays and after school. In addition, any such action will not also be allowed in student councils and school club activities.

This notice will not only cause students to hesitate to take part in political activities, but also restrain students from even thinking about and discussing political matters.
Essentially, Japan’s government just ordered all of the country’s public universities to end education in the social sciences, the humanities and law.
A controversial new Japanese personal identification system came into effect on Monday. My Number IDs will unite personal tax information, social security and disaster relief benefits, but critics worry about possible leaks and invasions of privacy.
Protester Hitoshi Ogawa said he is concerned My Number might be abused by the government to collect the most sensitive details of citizens’ lives, from health records to political ideology.
Share this article :


  1. i really appreciate this post.
    i'm in the states but i've been thinking of moving or at least visiting japan for several years now. i've always been annoyed with blogs who do not discuss the social issues that are obviously present there like they are anywhere else, and instead focus on tourist bait.

    thank you for being honest.


Because of all the spam lately, comments on old posts will now be moderated. This means it may be some time before your comment appears. You can always email me directly, check the contact page for details.