Sunday, November 12, 2017

Peace in the peace park

Peace makers, peaceniks, give peace a chance...

A week ago, while heading off to catch a train, a group of peace activists were at the station surveying passers-by about various aspects of Japan's constitution, re-armament, nuclear power and the three non-nuclear principles. 

These are not particularly scientific surveys with respondents placing a sticker on a board for their answer. It is, nonetheless, a good way to engage in conversation and given that this activity was happening just two weeks after the election where Abe was returned, I thought the result would be interesting. As it happened, the group was hosting a festival in a neighbourhood park a week later, today in fact, where they would announce the results. 

That is where I spent much of the day, talking with participants, looking at a number of displays ranging from atrocities committed by Japanese soldiers in China, labour conditions, the trending to the nationalist right of school education as well as the announcement of the results of the survey. 
The responses

The results

The group received responses from 70 people over two days at perhaps the area's two busiest stations, Narimasu and Oyama. The results aren't all that surprising  given that people most likely to respond are those interested in and supportive of, generally, the issues. 

Well done to the committee for making a day of it in the park too. There was dancing, a couple instrumentalists, food and a flea market as well as the results. The event attracted a few hundred over the course of the four or five hours. It was the 29th time this particular festival had been held, and they are already planning number 30, next year. 

While the turnout at this little local festival and results might have been a bit disappointing on one level, I am interested in the way so many people are willing to engage in these activities across Tokyo and across Japan. 

The take-away from October's election was that the LDP (and the Komeito coalition partners) swept in on a constitution-changing platform or that the 53.68% voting participation rate shows Japanese voters are fairly apathetic when it comes to changing governments. These activities don't receive a lot of press attention and it is easy to assume that the Abe government has little resistance. More than half the population (well, the majority of people who respond to surveys through the media or elsewhere) remain opposed to constitutional revision. I'm interested in how these acts of resistance get written into the broader narrative, and demonstrate that the present government shouldn't think it has the broad mandate it thinks it has for dramatic changes to Japan's postwar peace. 

It is an interesting time to be here.