The blog of Tokyo based photographer and photojournalist, Damon Coulter

Heart of the matter


I only found about it at the last minute but yesterday I went to an anti-Valentine`s day demo. Yes I know, and it is every bit as strange as it sounds but more understandable than you`d imagine. Read on.

Anyway as soon as I found out it was happening from my good friend Gianni Giosue I rushed over to Shibuya getting there just in time to squeeze off a few frames of the small group of protesters marching the shadowed streets as dusk headed in.

As I walked along with them they shouted out slogans against McDonald’s and Starbucks and one man carried an anarchist`s flag. But these were not the usual anti-capitalist anarchic crowd, they all looked so polite for a start and their banners were pieces of cardboard (recycled for sure) and 100 Yen Shop masks and flags. They smiled too, they talked and they waved to the crowds that smiled, talked, waved and sometimes laughed or clapped back at them.

At the Park where the demo ended I talked to them as they took the ubiquitous group memorial photos, and spoke to the organizer who told me that they were Himote and the singular girl with them was a Mo-jo and though they were not a political movement, they liked politics and though they were not nationalists they didn`t like foreign festivals designed to make Japanese people spend money.

What they didn`t like more than anything though (I won`t use the word hate because they were more annoyed than lividly angry) was the culture of romance tied to consumer businesses. None of them had a regular girlfriend and disliked that Japanese society judged them on their worth only in terms of their attached status. It would be hard to get away from that loneliness in any culture or country but in Japan sex is everywhere and is a commodity that sells, is sold and sold to a lot. Not only does Japan have Valentines`s Day, where unlike the West women are expected to give men chocolate , a month later it also has White Day, an invention of the Japanese confectionery industry which dictates that men should return the earlier sweetness with more sweets for the women in their life.

They also disliked that Japanese women over the age of 25 are obsessed with marriage. The more vocal of the group saying that marriage itself should disappear as a concept. When they asked me why I was in Japan just after that it was harder to answer, as I usually do, that my wife is Japanese.

And yet while they opined and targeted those aspects of the world they felt were unfair to men and single men especially as well as Japanese men and everyone that at some point had been aggrieved by someone, somewhere, they all went out of their way to help me understand the annoyance they felt at modern Japanese society. Again not hate, never hate. Indeed they laughed and joked a lot and bowed deeply in thanks to the bored policemen that had managed the route of this most surreal of demos. And when I left they even gave me a small bag of Valentine`s chocolates as a souvineer of the march. Now most of what they did was very tongue in cheek but I`m still not exactly sure if this act was an ironic gesture not, Japan doesn`t do irony so much and even the most energetic of anti-capitalists would probably buy into some fad or ritual if it created the right, revolutionary kudos. 

Nicest bunch of Anarchists I`ve ever met.

Today I found this on The Times blogs which explains it all much better than I have the energy for tonight. Been a hard, busy week but hope to write more soon.



2 responses

  1. Nice story. You seem to have a lot of demonstrations in Tokyo (-0-)v
    Stay safe and keep snappin.

    February 20, 2009 at 11:24 am

  2. I wander if there is an annual demo against celebrating Xmas in Japan. I mean, if that’s not the biggest commercial scam ever …

    February 23, 2009 at 3:16 am

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