Last night over 10,000 people, young and old, protested outside Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s residence is a last ditch effort to halt the government’s reinterpretation of Article 9 of the constitution. Article Nine is the heart of Japan’s “Peace Constitution” and forever removes the right to wage war from the nation. The law does, of course, allow for military action as self-defence and having failed to get support to remove the article itself Abe is now attempting a legal redefinition that will allow Japanese military forces to take part in Collective Self Defence. What this means basically is that Japan can join its allies in their wars even if the Japanese islands are not themselves in danger,
For many people in Japan, who are very proud of this pacifist law, this reinterpretation will mean that Japanese soldiers can once again be sent to fight wars and Article 9 effectively no longer exists.
Over half the country actively do not support this reinterpretation and around 76% believe the change has been rushed through the democratic processes (it is expected to be passed on July 1st) and more debate is needed.
Passions are running high on this subject. On Sunday, the day before the protests, a man set fire to himself on a bridge in Shinjuku after haranguing passing shoppers and tourists for an hour about his opposition to Abe’s plans.
The protests on Monday started at about 6pm and were meant to run until 8pm. As the finish time approached however the crowd of protesters were angrily pushing at the police barriers and challenging them They never quite got to the point of occupying the road in front the Prime Minister’s house though and dutifully allowed themselves to be pushed out of the way to allow cars and taxis in and out of the government buildings that line the road.
After the self-immolation in Shinjuku I had expected slightly more anger and urgency, a degree more intractableness, something in fact that would suggest they really wanted to cause Abe some discomfort and demand he change his mind and engage in the democratic process. But rather like the anti-nuclear protests there seemed to be a feeling that they had already lost. The younger people were angrier and carried on the protests late into the night but by 11pm most of the older people, that had swollen the ranks of protesters earlier, had already gone home.
We will see what happens today.
I am writing this on the hop between jobs so will try and edit in more details later.