Yokoso, internationalistas! [How much do you know about Social Movements in Japan?]


Yokoso means Welcome! So we want to welcome you to join the protests in
Japan against the G8 meeting there.
In 2008, the meeting of the G8 will take place on the most northern
Island of Japan, Hokkaido. From the 7th to the 9th of June 2008 the G8
countries are meeting at the Windsor Hotel at Lake Toya to discuss
another year about how to save the Climate and how to develop Africa and
it it not hard to foresee that it will be another year of talking and
declaring without concrete promises and results.

G8 meetings in Japan – compared to Europe – are just taken place every 8
years, so it is hard to keep an continous mobilisation against the G8
meeting alive. The last one was on the most southern Island of Okinawa.
Because of one speciality of this Island, which is that 70 % of all
US-Military-Bases are located there, the protests in 2000 against the G8
were mainly organised and dominated by Anti-Military-Groups and with a
focus on Military-Base-Issues.

Bild: Poster

As Japan being part of the industrial highly developped countries, it is
interesting that the Japanese movement is very isolated from most of the
movements in other privileged countries. Activist ties inside the
western part of Europe seem to be very close and also the connection to
US, Canada and countries in Latin America is established since decades.
But the view towards and knowledge about Japanese social Movements is
kind of none existing.
An European Infotour with three japanese activists has been touring
Europe to change this. One of their aims is to explain about topics and
movements of political left people and groups in Japan and on the other
hand to concretely mobilise people to come to Japan this Summer to join
personally up with Japanese and Asian activists.

The hope of the Infotour is that it is not just informing about the
protests or mobilising people to actually join the protests in Japan,
but to also create more awareness for the political movements in Japan.
So if the Anti-G8 or other movements in japan have to face bad state and
police repression, as we e.g. did in front of the Italian Embassy to
show that we haven´t forgotten the brutality of the Italian police in 2001.

There is a big call out for Solidarity Actions in every part of the
world. This time it is especially necessary, cos it starts to be really
hard for people to enter Japan. A lot of the participants of the Counter
Summit where hold for interrogation up to 13 hours, some of them were
made sign a paper, that said, that they have to leave the country before
the summit.

There also have been solidarity actions for the G8 in Heiligendamm in
Tokyo. It was also reported from Seoul, South Korea that they had a bike
rally and a theater play in Seouls City Center and an Radical Art
Collective in Manila made poster to put on the German Embassy.
This acting together abroad is a good opportunity to tryout again how
movements can support and empower each other, even if they can not work
personally together. So the slogan for Day of Global Action during
the Anti-G8-Protests is “Strike everwhere”, calling to perform actions
whereever they are.

It costs too much for most of the people to come to Japan. Also
the situation in the Philippines is really to precare to come, and if
they would have money for it they would want to spent it on their local
projects, which is a quite understandable attitude. It is also very
ambigous from an environmental point of view to encourage
people to actually come to Japan and join the protests, but there is a
chance that lies in the personal meeting of people.

All of the Infotour members are part of the antiauthoritarian Group
called “NO G8! Action Japan”. This group was formed by people from
different groups such as Anarchists, Communists and members of Attac
Japan as they prepared together to join the protests against the G8 in
Heiligendamm as a delegation from Japan. Contacts to the protest
movement in Germany 2007 were made during the Infotour before.

One of the activists has also been at the protest side in Heiligendamm.
What astonished him most was the idea and the performance of the Camps.
To live together, make the plans of the actions and then just go
together to block the roads, was a very good and empowering experience,
he said.

“NO G8! Action Japan” has defined itself as antiauthoritarian and is
based on the principles of the People`s Global Action (PGA) Hallmarks,
meaning e.g. horizontally organised, no lobbying.
These guidelines are critizing the way how NGOs are doing politics and
try to develop a way besides hierarchial structures. These Hallmarks are
not used as dogmatic statutes, so there is also more or less loose
contact built-up to some Japanese NGOs.

These NGOs also formed a Network critizing the G8 meeting, but they
range from more conservative like Caritas and WWF Japan to left-liberal.
They are working in the fields of Peace and Human Rights, Environment
and Poverty and Development.

The biggest difference in the political styles are that they are
planning more on things like Alternative Summit, Earth Day or World
Youth Summit, which is actually connected to an official G8 meeting
called “Japan Youth G8 Project”.

“NO G8! Action Japan” advocate instead to do direct actions. But
that shouldn’t mean that there won´t be festivals and other cultural
things. Politic and Art is quite connected and so they are also
organising cultural events, but more on a D.I.Y. bases.

Besides our essential differences, we still find the idea of a broad
network against the G8 useful to spred the critique and powerfully work
against the G8 meeting.
In Germany it was somehow possible to act as a bigger movement, even
if there had been internal struggles.

Such a big network would be a really novelty in Japan, because of the
History of the Left Movement groups are extremly divided and normally
the different left groups do not work together. So to form a broad
coalition, which is one of the aims of “NO G8! Action Japan”, is a very
big task. But besides all differences, we should overcome the hostile
sentiments against each other and work on the real threats.

One of these threats, where a big coalition to work against it
is needed is the issue of precarity. In Japan we can see the
lack of social welfare very harshly. Compared to Europe, Japan never had
such a social system. Before the first economic breakdown in the 1970ies
the companies were kind of caring for everything: housing, kindergarten
place, health insurance, retirement money – everything. If people get
unemployed in Japan, they maybe can receive money from the state for 6
month maximum, but there are high bureaucratical stakes, so actually not
many people get it.

With this system is also strengthening the dependance on their husband.
Japanese women are as well educated as the man of the same age. They go
through and succeed equally at the same horrible time at the end of
their school career, which is called “examination hell”, which is held
after a preparation year. The Goal is to attend the best Universities,
because it is actually the name of the University that matters the most.
But still Japanese women are expected to quit their job, which is also
much less paid, when they have their first baby, from then on staying at
home and caring for the children and their education. Also a structural
trick with taxes. The non-main-earner of a family, which is mostly the
wife has to pay a higher percentage of taxes, if having income over a
certain level. That makes the women get even less money if they work a

The constant crisis of that high-developed Japanese Capitalism, has
driven more and more people out of the work sphere. A lot of mainly male
employees coming from the still even more patriarchical structured rural
areas to the bigger Japanese cities end up homeless, living in blue
self-made Tents on the street, trying to survive on daily labour jobs.
The mainstream make them feel ashame of their situation, they are made
feel that they have “lost their face” as they are seen of not being able
to earn an independent living. Because of this construction some people
even kind of dissapear, which means that at first they try to hide to
their families that they got unemployed and if that fails, they feel so
ashamed that they break contact completely.

Since some years also younger and well educated people are experiencing
the worse conditions of the Japanese Labour Market. The work they are
offered is often not more then a parttime Job, so they are also called
“freeters”, a combination of “free” and the german word “arbeit”, which
in Japan always stands as an equivalent for “partime-job” in contrast to

Especially with the freeters there is the connected phenomenon of the so
called “Internet Refugees”. An increasing number of mostly people in
their 30ies are actually living in Internet Cafes: sleeping there on
chairs, finding a new day job in the morning via Internet and returning
in the evening to the Internet Café Cubicle. These people are considered
“invisible Homeless” and because of their growing numbers, more Internet
Cafés now also provide shower or you can buy disposable underwear there.

The “Mayday Tokyo” (related to the idea of Euro-Mayday) is since 3 years
celebrated around the issue of precarity and was organised with the help
of Homeless and precarious working people. Involved are also political
groups such as Homeless Support Groups, Freeter Unions, but also groups
like “Anti-Capitalist Action” (ACA) or the “Amateur Riot Party”
(Shiroto no ran).

For this year the “Mayday Tokyo” is seen as the maybey beginning for the
protests against the G8 Meeting in Lake Toya. Offices were raided,
people were taken into prison for quite a long time. At least in Osaka
this was answered by the workers with 4 days of riots in Kamagasaki, the
labourer quarter of the town.

One group of extremely precarious workers are people from abroad. They
are – legally or illegally – on the base of the money and societal pyramid.
The fifth biggest migrant community in Japan is coming from Iran. Some
also had a “Blue Tento Mura” (Homeless Tent Village) in Yoyogi and Ueno
Park in Tokyo, but these communities and their infrastructure including
small shops has been evicted from parks by the authorities. There are
also groups who are supporting them and that are also loosely connected
to other Homeless Support Groups.
There is a bilateral Treaty between Japan and the Philippines called
JPEPA, which gives Japan the right to dump toxic waste in the
Philippines Island and in exchange more Philippines workers are getting
work permits for Japan. Mostly this is in the sector of health and
people can order “their” nurse with a click on a picture in the Internet.

Other so called minorities that are discriminated by the Mainstream
Japanese Society are the Indigenous People of Hokkaido, the Ainu. Also
people from Okinawa are not respected as equal to the “real” Japanese
citizens. The same with the Korean and Chinese Communities in some big
Japanese Cities such as Osaka.
Another – old traditional – minority are the Burakumin, which have been
some kind of lowest class, comparable to the Indian cast of the
“Untouchables”. Even today marrying someone with Burakumin Background is
still considered a bad relation.

In this sense also the WTO-Meeting in Hongkong in December 2005 can be
seen as a good starting point for the Movements in East and South East
Asia to come together. Some connections as the Interlocals.net are still
existing networks, but freshening up relations with real contact besides
writing mails to each other is very welcomed.

Actually there is a connection between Germany and Japan, which
lies in their common History. This includes being a fascist regime and
starting resp. widening up the Second World War.
The Japanese Society still tries to cover their Fascist History as an
attempt to free the Asian Countries from the taking over of the Western
Powers. The Asian countries which has been conquered by the Japanese
Imperialist Army tell a different story. For them it was a clear
imperialist colonalisation with all the negative and brutal impacts that
this always has on states and civilians. It is not unusual that some
japanese officials even go as far as denying the Massacre the Japanese
Imperial Army did in the Chinese Town “Nanjing” or the involvement of
the Japanese Government in the “Comfort Stations”.
In these Stations women, who were robbed from conquered areas as the
Philippines, Korea and Taiwan were forced to work as sex slaves for the
Japanese soldiers.
Japan has never really deeply apologized for what they did nor really
critically reviewed their History, nor have they paid really just
compensations to the victims.

Instead state officials along with survivor families, nationalistic
to ultra-extremist right-wing, worship the War Dead in the
Yasukuni-Jinja (Shrine) on every August 15th. In this Shinto-Shrine the
souls of 2.5 Million people are enshrined, starting in the late 19th
century, who died for their country going to war and now are treated
like Heroes. Among these souls are 14 high decorated militaries from the
Second World War, which were prosecuted as “Class A War Criminals” by
the Tokyo Trials and executed.

The official visits of Japanese Prime Ministers are always causing an
uproar from China, Korea, Taiwan and other countries who had badly
suffered under the japanese fascist regime. So their protests, sadly a
lot of them are more or less nationalistic, heaten up the Anti-Japanese
Sentiments and celebrating their own countries, which is
not the perspective of the left-radical demonstrations which are held by
Anti-Fascist and Anti-Emperor Groups against the Yasukuni-Shrine.
Also this Shrine is symbolizing the connection between the religion
Shinto, the Japanese godlike Emperor – the Tenno – and the Japanese
Nationalism, but can´t be explained in further detail here.

Another interesting group which are involved in this commemoration of
the Dead Soldiers are the Uyoku. Uyoku stands for the ultra-extremist
right wing groups and parties (Uyoku dantai), but means a big diversity
of styles and politics. Some Uyoku groups have their roots in the
criminal mafia-like structures of the Japanese Yakuza. Therefore being
not bothered to much by the Japanese Police. Some relate to (German)
National Socialism, some costume up as Kamikaze, most of them are still
admiring the Tenno as godlike and deny the Post-War Peace Constitution.

After the defeat of the Japanese Regime by the US Military most
right-wing groups were surprisingly much on pro-America and
pro-South-Korea, which can be better explained in the historical context
of them being Anti-Communists or Anti-Leftists.
The new right-wing changed that a lot, playing on the more ancient idea
of Japan being the initator and leader in Asia to bring all Asian
countries under the roof of Big Imperial Japan.
It is also said, that the ultra-conservative Ex-Prime Minister Junichiro
Koizumi, gave a big push to nationalist and also right-wing ideas, but
without this old traditional right-wing style, being himself hyped by
youth like a pop star. He was one of the first Prime Ministers making
election campaign with a promise to visit the Yasukuni-Shrine, if he
will be elected.

The Uyoku are often seen in public, driving black vans with the Japanese
Flag and the Emperor Sign (golden Chrysanthem flower) called
“Gaisensha”. They are also often called noise cars, meaning agitation or
propaganda cars equipped with immensely powerful loudspeakers through
which they are continously yelling slogans at the passersby about the
Glory of the Old Imperialist Japan, about paying respect to the Tenno
and against Russia, which beneath other bad things has stolen a certain
Chain of Islands in the Japanese Sea.
If confrontated with rude gestures, the Uyoku are not daring to threaten
the Anti-Fascist physically.

Other important movements in Japan are – as mentioned before – the
Anti-Military and Anti-US-Base-Movement. Partially this comes from the
problems which people have to experience, if there is an Military-Base
in their direct reach such as concentrated abuse of women in
prostitution. A lot of male-aggressive, patriarchial behaviour of
the Soldiers can be seen on the streets. They are often acting as if
there are no borders or laws for them, which is somehow true, cos a long
time the Japanese (also South Korean and Philippines) Courts were not
allowed to judge cases were US Soldiers have harrassed Japanese (Korean,
Filipina women).

Also the crash of a US-Military-Helicopter on a University Campus on
Okinawa was not the best promotion. But for sure, you always have to
have a close look on the single groups of these Movements, cos sometimes
they tend to be just against the US-Facilities and don´t have a wider
perspective of critiqueing Military in general as an subsystem of the
ruling system – just being even more filled with patriarchical
and hierarchical patterns and structures and with more direct violent
impact on enemies. Also during the Iraq-War-Protests some kind of
cooperation with the authorities and police against direct action groups
made it impossible to work with them.

So there is an official initiative next year to change “Peace”-Article 9
of the Constitution.
One Anti-Base-Movement in Okinawa is directly linked to environmental
issues. In Henoko Beach the US Military is planning a big off-shore
Airbase, which is affecting the coral reefs and the animal life there.
Protests on platforms on the sea and with the help of the local
fishermen are going on for month now and the companies building the
Facility on the Reefs are often behaving rude to the protestors.

Other environmental issues are anti-nuclear protests, cos Japan has a
some nuclear power plants and there are also some alternative
communities in the country side runnig their farm organically.
Another big and very militant struggle for an partially environmental
issue was fought by farmers and activists side a side against the
building-up of the Narita Airport – 2 hours away from Tokyo.
Eco-Activism aside from Greenpeace is more spread in the Philippines,
where groups like Food not Bombs are often linked to Earth First Groups
working on the question of food safety, which is a big and essential
issue there or on the rights of indigenous people. An issue that doesn´t
have to be really thought of in Europe, cos there are no old tribes left.

After the 1970ies the Student Movement like in most countries have not
been so active anymore in terms of long going actions, University
squattings and strikes. The forming of the United Red Army, a parallel
to the other former fascist countries Germany and Italy, brought a
desaster of internal struggle with it, which negative impact was the
torture and assasination of several members of the Red Army itself.
But still student fights had brought the Universities some autonomous
zones – mostly in the self-organised Dormitories. When the Waseda
University in Tokyo tried to take away that right of autonomy of the
student over their Dormitory, they had to call the Police, cos there was
quite a big uproar among the students and partially militant protests
against it.
Also a student movement, that is based on being non-sect, has been
started last year and will be involved in the Anti-G8-Protests.

The Gay Community in Japan is compared to the a lot of European towns
very small and not very visible in everyday life. A few Radical
activists – defining themselves as queer – also have problems with the
gay and lesbian communities being very occupied with parties and not
having a broader view on power relations or gender issues.
Since only some years transgender people are allowed to undergo
transition including sex change, but only if they do not already have
children or want to have children in the future.

Also some younger people kind of rebelling against the Japanese thight,
conservative Society Rules e.g. this means like joining Motorcycle Gangs
(bosozoku) in smaller towns, some younger people are not leaving their
houses anymore or commit suicide because they were bullied and harrassed
as unnormal by their classmates (Ijime).
But from this kind of “rebellion”, you can´t expect serious political
organisation against the precarious system, they can feel the
menace of the system, which is put upon them, but they don´t analyze or
try to sketch a vision for progressive changes in the society.

More information see:


Für mehr Informationen:
Kritik an der G8 Politik an verschiedenen Beispielen (in englisch)

Protestbewegung gegen G8 2008 in Japan

G8 Media Network

Homepage of NO G8! Action Japan

Media Network

Informationen aus asiatischen Ländern


official G8 2008 website:

[Anti-G8-Infotour 2008]