Tokyo: Day 976 at the Anti-Nuclear Occupy Tent
|Right in the heart of Tokyo's Government buildings|
Before my trip to Japan I had heard about the Tokyo Anti-Nuclear Occupy Tent, established in response to the Fukushima nuclear disaster of March 2011. I knew its aim was to remind officialdom that just like the nuclear disaster itself, whose effects won't go away, neither will the protestors. I was keen to visit for its own sake, because I too oppose nuclear power, but also because of our own present struggles against the East-West Link, a local environmental disaster in the making. I felt sure I would learn lots, especially about hanging in there, from the Japanese protestors, who have now been encamped for years.
|As of today, make that 976 days|
Although I hoped to visit the tent, I was very unconfident we would ever find it. With a population of 38 million (Tokyo is the world's most populous city) and a bewildering labyrinth of downtown streets, I just couldn't see it happening. So I was thrilled on our very last morning to round a corner and spot it.
|Some of the Tent's neighbours|
In true Japanese fashion the Occupy tent is no eyesore. Well-dressed, soft-spoken people sit on chairs in neat rows outside, and the tent itself looks orderly, even festive. But this apparent respectability is deceptive; the sentiments of the tent's occupants couldn't be more opposed to current government policies. I was very lucky because one of the day's protestors, Kimiko, speaks English and so was able to answer some of my questions.
Kimiko explained how the tent is occupied 24/7, with the men opting to sleep over. The authorities have made attempts to move protestors on. But the group has resisted, even though they are now facing 'the courts', which I think means that they have been charged. I imagine this would be with obstruction or trespass, though my ineptitude with Japanese made it impossible for me to clarify this with Kimiko. I also think she said that the Japanese government, ignoring the lessons of Fukishima, a proven 'man-made disaster', is currently in the process of extending the nuclear program. The Japanese government's actions inevitably reminded me of our own government's crazy destructive policies in the face of all the evidence.
While I was there, I took the opportunity to read the posters in English adorning the tent. One, which included a letter from a Fukushima mother, was particularly moving:
|The voice of Mothers in Fukushima|
The writer was shocked at the Government's insensitivity in using the plight of the children of her town as leverage in their (successful) bid for the 2020 Olympics. Sadly, I wasn't surprised, as there are numerous examples of our own government being similarly shameless - their insensitivity to the terrible situation of the families of Morwell springs to mind.
The Tokyo protestors and I did lots of smiling and pantomiming. I just wished I spoke Japanese so that I could have talked to more of them and in greater depth, but of course their continuing presence speaks volumes.
As I headed off to the airport, Kimiko presented me with pamphlets and badges and an anti-nuclear fan. I was left with a feeling of solidarity and enormous admiration for the determination of this group in the face of their government's power. Obviously, just like us opponents to the East-West Link here in Victoria, they too are prepared to do whatever it takes.