Tokyo Damage Report

Labor day / antiwar protest

That shit was TIGHT!

Ok, so once a year there is a national meeting of labor leaders in japan. Japanese unions are different from American ones : it doesn’t matter what job you are doing. Factory workers, janitors, carpenters, vacuum cleaner salesmen — they all belong to the same union. There were 3 hours of speeches by Japanese, Kurds, Americans, and Koreans. But the real show started when the fucking parade set out ? suddenly the crowd swelled to 10 times the former size and plunged into traffic. There were so many cops they ran out of equipment for them ? dudes was running around with half a baton and one glove. The police formed a human wall the length of the whole parade, keeping us from blocking traffic. And after about 10 minutes, the right-wing guys showed up and started picking fights with the lefties AND the cops, and things got awesome. I’ll put it like this: Meirei kei is the most rude form of Japanese grammar — it’s how you order someone around.And let me tell you, I heard more MEIREI KEI in this one day than I have heard in the 5 years I’ve lived here!!


The parade was kind of a general “labor is awesome” + “end the war” thing. it was not some martin luther king-style thing where “we will keep marching until you give in to this one specific demand.” There were some hothead college kids but mostly the workers were in their ‘50s. I don’t know why laborers in their 20s, 30s, and 40s didn’t attend. Also, there was no punks. Weird considering how important being working-class is to Tokyo punk Scene Cred (along with shooting speed and bragging about all the fights you got in back in the ‘80s).


Anyway, back to the parade. Besides using a lot of meirei, everyone was kind of immature. The cops had put pylons out in the street to limit protestors to one lane of traffic. This engendered no end of passive-aggressive pylon nudging, for one thing. On both sides. Sometimes the pylon nudging would even turn into outright pylon kicking. Plus left- and right-wingers all trying to play “college dorm stereo wars” with their PAs. I kept waiting for someone to put on techno and then someone else to be like, “dude, you suck!” and put on some Marley. At one point, the uyoku noise-truck was right next to the leftie noise truck and they were playing the highest-volume game of The Dozens I have ever heard.

The uyoku put on a great show, but it was just an act. They weren’t going to beat-down anyone and no one was going to beat-down upon them. But on the other hand, they were fucking fun to watch. Imagine if you suddenly told your 14-year-old daughter that she could not go to the junior prom (which is in 5 hours), and then imagine someone twice as mad as THAT, and you will have some idea. What is so amazing is how shocked they are that the police stopped them, they had NO IDEA WHY they are being picked on, this has NEVER HAPPENED BEFORE, why are they being singled out, they can’t believe their eyes, and so on. Like I say, it is a total sham, but a fun one.


At first I was happy they showed up, because it was like, ok, the party officially started. But then they let me down. I mean, there’s like 20 of them and 3,000 of us. And they stand there behind a protective wall of police and act like “If these cops weren’t here, we would totally stomp you fags.” Is that what a grown-up person does??? Getthefuckouttaheah. Not only that, but they weren’t even grateful to the cops for protecting them. In fact, they yelled at the police so hard they forgot all about the leftists. And this happens every time they go out of the house! Let’s look at this more closely. First, what is up with patriot right-wingers whose main goal is to fight the cops? I mean, that alone should qualify them to get a new hobby.


On top of that, the cops cut these guys so much slack. College students pass out political flyers ? just sheets of paper, may I have one, please, thank you- and get thrown in jail! It’s illegal to do that on campus. But these uyoku guys can parade with no permit, shove the police around, terrify passers-by with their loud music, and fakey-ram cops with their cars, and get let off with a warning. And yet, they still play the role of the victim. In the end, that is what really eats my cheese. That is the most cowardly and annoying thing about them. As soon as the cops let them off with a warning, they start right in doing the same shit all over again. What are you, fourteen? All stomping around and saying, “GODDD!! MY LIFE IS OVER!! HOW CAN YOU DO THIS TO ME I HATE YOU I HATE THIS FAMILY!!” and running upstairs, slamming the door to make sure everyone understands your point, and then cranking up your stereo playing WWII marching music. I mean, shit. . .if you just want to wild-out in public for a prank, like maybe some frat guys watched too much Animal House, it’s dumb but I at least understand. But if you do this kind of angry-teen stuff and seriously think, “I am the last bulwark of civilization! You will thank me later!” then you have problems in your little head.


The uyoku were so utterly pissed they were even interrupting each other. Some trucks had 2 microphones so 2 guys could both yell at the same time out of the same speaker: which is basically admitting that they don’t have a logical argument, they just want to annoy us. Pretty much the only thing I could make out is that “the lefties are not real Japanese and should seek residence elsewhere.” Which is a wild idea considering that 95% of the Japanese people there were NOT uyoku. So does that mean their ideal country is like totally empty except for the most angry, sweaty 5% of guys? They’d all live like 10 miles away from the nearest guy, and communicate by putting their loudspeaker trucks on top of a hill. “HEY-ey-ey DUDE-ude-ude, CAN-an-an I-i-i BORROW?w-w-w SOME-ome-ome SUGAR-r-r-??!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” “SURE?e-e-e! GIVE-e-e ME-e-e 2 HOURS-rs-rs-rs!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!, I’LL-l-l-l BE-e-e-e-RIGHT-t-t-t OVER-r-r-r-r!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” awesome.


The march went through the heart of Ginza, which I got to say was a brilliant choice: if there is one thing Ginza people hate more than poor folks, it’s having their shopping interrupted. Some of these ginza motherfuckers had to wait up to 30 minutes to cross the street and buy a Prada. Hella BMWs and a Bentley caught up in a traffic jam. Ironically, if the uyoku wanted to win the battle for public opinion, the best thing they could have done was to stay home!! The general public was all hating the lefties for interfering with the purchase of brand-name shinies. But when the righties showed up and acted 10 times more obnoxious than the lefties, I’m sure the onlookers hella shifted to being more liberal! It’s like, “Thanks for making us look good, guys!” dumb nuts.

above, ginza shoppers. below, a frikkin’ bentley trapped in the middle of a riot – notice how it is next to the uyoku truck. didn’t even get keyed.


At one point, frustrated shoppers started crossing the street in the middle of the parade while cops were occupied elsewhere, and for a second it looked like it was going to be a 4-way brawl; cops-lefties-uyoku-and irritated Chanel customers versus everyone. All handbag upside a cop’s head. All Vuitton perfume used as pepper spray. That would have been awesome. “What do we want? Small dogs inside of limited-edition purses! When do we want it? Before SHE gets one!”


The cops were totally mellow, which is not surprising considering that everyone was just playing a role and not really trying to tear shit up. I kept wondering if they like doing protest-duty because you get overtime pay, and you get to wear the special uniform, or if they hate it because it is dangerous for like 5 minutes and college guys hella stare at you mean? After the uyoku came, the police got all frazzled and tried to shift their formation to block both sides while also sheltering the innocent bystanders. Some bad decisions were made: about 20 cops wound up in a line INSIDE the parade, dividing the lefties from the other lefties by accident. They were all looking like, ok, we fucked up, but until they got orders to move they had to stand there totally losing face. DOOD YOU LOST FACE. I couldn’t see anything from inside the parade, so I busted through the line of distracted cops so I could snap better pictures. One guy saw me but he was chasing someone else at the time and then I was on the opposite sidewalk, mingling with shoppers.


The one group that I really look down on, the ones that honestly did not rock the party, were the Camera Uncles. All these dudes in their ‘50s who were clustered on the corner taking everyone’s picture and trying to write on little notepads like Dick Tracy. My favorites were the guys with masks on to hide their own identity. Oh, real mature! I guess these guys’ hobby is being an amateur FBI guy; they are looking for people they recognize in the photos, and then sending them a flamey email, or maybe snitching to their boss and trying to get them fired? It’s like ok, you so badly wanted to be a cop but failed cop school. I get it. They are not even wanna-be cops, they are wanna-be SNITCHES. How is that for having a low standard? I mean, can you top that somehow? Trying to lose the initial round of American idol? LARPing? in a costume that is a Sears shirt with your hit points taped to it? I mean, shit, I got nothing.


The cops were out being heroic, the lefties were all dancing and singing, even the uyoku were rampaging, but these sad-ass motherfuckers were sitting there with their tight faces jotting notes on the sidelines. I almost tripped on the vast slick of haterade that was oozing out from under these clowns. What is more, unlike the cops, uyoku OR sayoku, the Camera Uncles didn’t even have a sense of camaraderie with each other. I was checking them out before the protest started, nary a commie in sight, and they STILL had their masks on. They didn’t even want to show their faces to each OTHER. There was no, “Hey, I remember you from the great snitch-a-thon of ’06. Those were some wild times!” There was no, “Hey good snitching at the Toyota Strike! I learned a lot from studying your technique.’ I think that’s the most telling thing about these guys, is they can’t even stand each other.


But there is one thing, I have to admit, that I like about them. In fact, I look forward to seeing them again, I like it so much, but it is hard to describe. Ok, imagine the face you make when you eat a lemon chunk. Now imagine the face of a guy with really bad constipation. Now take the microscopic distance between those 2 facial expressions and divide that distance into 100 parts: these camera uncles had mastered every one of those 100 faces with the discipline of a shaolin monk. It was pretty amazing to watch them shift between #24 and #87 when they saw someone having a particularly large amount of fun.

what a cheerful bunch. this is what i mean when i talk about the 100 faces.


One guy in particular had this NYPD baseball cap and was just such a perfect specimen of the wanna-be-cop snitch I had to take his picture. As I reached for my camera, reflexively he reached for his, to take MY picture (for having the temerity, the outright gall, to photo HIM). So before I knew it, it was in a Camera Showdown all OK corral style. I just smiled at him because it was so absurd:

Interesting thing is, hella protestors were taking pictures of each other, too. In other words, they were taking the same exact pictures as the camera-uncles, and yet everyone felt that the picture proved THEIR OWN SIDE WAS RIGHT. The lefties were like, “check out this photo! Don’t we look awesome!” and the camera uncles were like, “Check out this photo! It totally proves they are guilty!” Think about it.


I talked to some Europeans and Mexicans, and they all expressed amazement at how tame it was. And you KNOW the Kurds were like, “Dude, nobody even has bombs. When does the protest start?” I could see their point ? the Japanese protest was very ritualized. Every side obeyed unwritten rules and nobody got hurt. But on the other hand, everyone was so pissed and really got up in each other’s face and weren’t acting about it. Eventually I decided that if one side actually treated it as the game it is, the other sides would totally push forward and take their space, and the next parade they would get totally punked too. So it is precisely by acting all crazy and confrontational that they can maintain the delicate balance and ensure order. Puzzling but strangely logical.


Totally go to one of these. It’s a whole other side of Japan.

the speeches.

college students:

korean contingent:

corean dancers:

kurdish contingent:

the american union speakers:

the older guys check out a scuffle with police, left, while the college kids in the background carry the huge red banner reading REVOLUTION.

The truck on the right is uyoku, flags are sayoku the cops are trying to keep both sides from fighting. you have to imagine the intense shouting. But check out the detective or whatever in the center. he’s so calm, he’s like, yeah, whatever, you’re not gonna do nothing.

mad max riot car!

this cop rushed at a moving van full of angry dudes who did not want to stop. badass!


riot police. Notice how non-pissed they look. Because there were like 300 of them!

the police held hands like this the entire length of the parade!

Cops escort an entusiastic man off the roof of an uyoku van. The uyoku guys are on the right , dressed pretty much like cops, while the real cops are in plainclothes!


below, instead of separating 2 sides from each other, the cops wound up inside the parade itself!

below, the camera uncles:

let’s zoom in:


hatin’ ass snitchin’ ass snitchin’ haters.



1 comment

1 Comment so far

  1. Clara May 13th, 2009 7:36 am

    I passed by an uyoku protest last august in Kyoto… There were dozens and dozens of black vans and hundreads of uyoku guys walking behind…
    They were protesting about education yelling “日本の裏切り者日本から出て行け!!”
    Pretty frightening

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