MAY DAY DEMONSTRATIONS:
May first was May Day, an international workers’ holiday. Myself, I’m a lazy bum whose hands are as un-callused as the pirenium of a newborn, but I went anyway. I didn’t really know where the May Day demo was scheduled, so I just looked for plainclothes police:
Once I spotted them (and thus the demo) it was kind of hard to miss. This demo was organized by Matsumoto (who ran for Mayor of Kouenji a few years ago). It was a strange demo – no chants, no banners or flags, no uyoku counter-protesters. My take on it was that – despite all the speeches about the lack of a safety net for part-timers and temps – this was more a battle for the future of Kouenji, a statement against chain stores, and a general declaration that Kouenji is still the kind of neighborhood where people can be freaks. That is to say, this was such a assemblage of Kouenji losers, burnouts, and space-cadets, I don’t think they could all chant at the same time even if they agreed on anything, which they didn’t. People were dressed as anime characters, hamsters, skeletons, ninjas. . . Basically, it was more like an OMIKOSHI おみこし(one of those neighborhood street festivals where the local shrine is carried on the backs of the ‘hood grandpas) then a protest march. The only difference was that at an OMIKOSHI there is not 100 cops: but even the cops looked disappointed, like “Overtime is all well and good, but this isn’t a proper protest! Tsk, tsk, it’s all wrong!”
There were even “secret agent” cops writing things in memo-pads, all Columbo-stylee. I can’t even imagine what they were writing: “Band is out of tune. Guitarist’s free-form jazz solo is getting boring around 4 minutes. Salaryman armed with glow-stick is having trouble opening 5th beer. Man dressed as extra from Swan Lake is using a spoon and coffee cup as drum! (possibly signal to snipers in high-rises?)”
One guy – dressed in drag, who spent most of the speech balanced on top of a soccer ball – lost control of his ball during the march. It bounced into the other side of the street. The police ran into the lane of opposing traffic to retrieve it. That was amazing. It made me think that being at a revolutionary protest is a little like being a talento or pop idol in Japan – the authorities surround you and provide every possible service; one-stop shopping from beginning to end, with the price being that you don’t get to actually deviate from the script or make any choices ever. After all, you’re being swaddled and having your every need taken into account, so what more could you possibly ask for?
Two days later, I went to another, bigger demo. This was billed as a May Day Anarchy event, but it was ALSO the anniversary of Japan’s post-war constitution (May 3d). The constitution is hella controversial because it was forced on Japan by MacArthur (of course, it’s nothing near as bad as the laws forced by Imperial Japan on the Asian countries THEY occupied during WWII, but for some reason this comparison is never made. After all, what’s past is past, right? (unless the Prime Minister needs to go to Yasukuni!)). Anyway both sides turn out for every Constitution Day （健保記念日）（kenpo kinen hi）,and every year they both say the same shit:
LEFTISTS: It’s because of militaristic, right-wing douchelords like you that we got conquered by America in the first place! You got us into a war where everyone fuckin’ died, and you ain’t even learned anything from it! You already had your shot, and everyone knows how that shit turned out.
Anyway, Japan being Japan, the left-wing demo was held in a tiny, out-of-the-way park with more pigeons than people. The right-wing demo was right in front of the (second) busiest train station in the planet: hachiko exit of Shibuya station, tourist central. This made for a rad sight, as the ‘patriots’ stood under a flag which read ‘expel the foreigners fighting squad’ and heckled all the tourists.
Below, the BEST MOMENT OF THE WHOLE DAY:
These 3 tourists (at left, hugging) asked the right-wing guy (right) to take their picture. twice. And he did it!
Those 3 foreigners are either the most genius gaijin ever, or the stupidest, or maybe both. I could never have pulled that shit off.
ABOVE: At one point, some thuggy grandpa type in a track-suit came by and was yelling back at the uyoku guy, but suddenly a dude in an Agent Smith-type suit came by and whisked grandpa away. Was he a cop? An undercover rightist? Who knows? Either way, that’s fucked up. The one guy gets a huge megaphone truck and talks for an hour, and the un-connected guy can’t even talk back for 5 seconds? Especially considering that when the left-wingers come by, the uyoku not only interrupt them, they try to beat ‘em up and scream for hours through their little tin horns. Talk about dish-it-out-but-can’t-take-it.
While we were listening to the uyoku guys do their thing (North Korea, Japanese police’s use of GPS, the constitution, and – improbably- a good 5 minute rant on the North Korean website’s URL), an old man came up to us and started talking an amazing amount of shit. It turns out, the guy is famous for accosting white guys in public: I got the Hideo Asano treatment. Asano is one of those dudes where you don’t ‘meet’ him so much as ‘experience’ him. Our conversation –I subsequently obtained the secret recordings from both the CIA and the Jewish Conspiracy – went exactly like this:
ASANO: You know what he’s saying? (points to the uyoku guy)
ME: I think I get the idea!
ASANO: He’s saying that Japan’s constitution was written by MacArthur. We’re a real country, so we deserve our own constitution!
ASANO: (still getting warmed up) Western culture needs to leave from Japan. Nothing good ever came from it. Western culture is harm! Harm!
ME: But you’re holding a book by Nietzche. In English!
ASANO: (without missing a beat) He’s a philosopher. Philosophy is universal! Also, he’s Polish. He’s not an anglo-saxon. Anglo-saxons are very arrogant. They spit on me when I went to their country. How would you like that if it happened to you?
ME: (Chico Marx accent) That’s-a no-good, boss!
ASANO: You westerners need to take your TV and movies and leave Japan.
ME: You mean, the “Three ‘S’s?”
NATE: (surprised to get souped on politics) What?
ME: The three ‘S’s! that America brought to corrupt Japan after the war.
ASANO: Sex, Sports, and Screen (movies).
ME: Now we’re talkin’!
ASANO: Also, you should stop dating our women!
ME: Oh no he di’int!
ASANO: Too many Japanese girl is dating foreigner – it’s upsetting our ecosystem. Japanese girl is our property! We need them to make the next generation.
ME: Don’t be shy, now!
ASANO: Western women never date western men in Japan – they know all about you guys! Japanese women doesn’t know. Don’t upset our ecosystem!
ME: So, Japan’s been having a lot of problems with temp workers getting laid off, and having no ‘social safety net’ for them. What is your solution?
ASANO: That is an internal matter, of no concern to you.
ME: Yeah, but you seem to be really into Japan politics, so -
ASANO: Do you know the Lincoln Memorial?
ME: Whiplash! Didn’t see that one coming.
ASANO: . . .
ME: Yes, yes I do know the Lincoln Memorial.
ASANO:I think that’s very bad. Very arrogant. A big white man sitting there. Gets a monument for freeing slaves. How can one man say to another, “You’re free! I free you!”??
ME: OK, now you’re making sense!
ASANO: Also, he was killed by the Five Jewish Brothers.
ME: . . .Or not!
ASANO: It’s true. The assassination had nothing to do with slavery. Lincoln wanted to abolish the banking system so he was shot. He didn’t want to pay interest on loans to Jewish banks used to finance the civil war.
ME: And this has to do with Japan’s constitution, how?
ASANO: Kennedy? Same thing!
ME: OK, I give up.
ASANO: Please, don’t date Japanese women! Take your violent western culture and go home. Also, please buy my book of haiku.
ME: Wha??? Huh???? Guh? How much?
ASANO: 200 yen.
ME: Oh hell yes!
ASANO: here you go.
ME: One last question: what do you think of Torihada Minoru?
My favorite thing about the whole episode was how he started off like a regular uyoku, someone who often went to these rallies, but then gradually by degrees got weirder and weirder. Eventually I concluded holmes was NOT a right-winger, but a dude who went to Europe back in the hippy days, took too much LSD, and had a bad trip about the whole thing. Also, his haiku? It’s in English!
Below: Karin Amamiya gives a speech to 5 people.
below: 3 layers! cops in front, sayoku in the middle, and on the far bridge, narcs!
above: a dummy skeleton of Prime Minister Aso!
Anyway, eventually we tore ourselves away from Mr. Asano’s demagogic kung-fu grip and hurtled over the the Left-wing demo – unlike the rightists, the lefties had a permit to march, so they circled downtown Shibuya a couple of times. Thanks to the million police (who didn’t even bother to put on riot gear – they had ties. Ties! That should give you some idea) there was nothing interesting about the demo. Actually one thing.
What was surprising to me was that the marchers DID NOT TRY AT ALL TO INTERACT WITH THE PEOPLE ON THE SIDEWALK. Usually marchers take one of two attitudes: they either try to convert non-marchers (think Gay Pride parade), or they try to disrupt the non-marchers (How can you pigs go to work while Children Are Dying???!?)But this bunch, they deliberately got a permit to march in one of the busiest parts of town, on a Sunday, and then ignored the crowd. Shit was pretty aloof, even by Japanese standards.
After awhile, the lefty parade finally reached the spot where the uyoku were parked, and (inevitably) some attention-starved patriots tried to run around the police and confront the lefties. The police just sighed and corralled those guys – it was like a game of touch football. I think if the cops actually let the righties run right into the lefties, they’d have no idea what to do. I don’t even think there would be violence. It would be awkward, though. Anyway, it turns out that the major demo was at Hibya. The lefties and the righties in Shibuya were kind of the leftover people who didn’t get invited to the grown-up party and had to sit at the kids’ table with sippy cups.
Tags: article 9
, may day