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    Doth They Protest Too Much?

    Thursday, January 13, 2011

    Since moving to Japan, our entire family has been exposed to a multitude of cultural delights. Food, fashion, music-the outermost layer to the Japanese onion-constantly surprises us.

    Sometimes they even shock! Just ask my Husband about the time his co-workers asked him to try spicy fish bowels. You don't need to re-read that last sentence. You read it correctly the first time. I did say spicy fish bowels. Thankfully there are food lines that even my Husband isn't willing to cross.

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    Hey there Kota and Tsuda-san!

    The city of Tokyo is a world unto itself and each day I walk with my son-or both children or even my entire family-I discover something new to love.

    Another layer to the onion is slowly peeled back.

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    One of my favorite layers happens to be a running joke between we expats: the weekend protesters. The joke used to be that if it were a weekend, the protesters would be out in full force. You could set your watch by them-they were so organized!

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    Typically we'd hear them as lunchtime approached. They'd make a loop around the streets for a few hours, and though initially annoying, it would become background noise. If we were heading in the direction of the Russian Embassy, we'd sometimes pass in front of them.

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    It wasn't anything to be concerned about as everything was done very peacefully (if not on some sort of unspoken schedule). The protesters arrived in enough time to allow the guards around the area of the Embassy to block off the streets. In return, they'd shut their loud music down and quell their cries in certain places due to some sort of law.

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    When they finally reached their destination, they'd be occasionally asked to step from the vehicle then politely told to move on once they're done. They would do this and continue the cycle for a few hours.

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    It's completely civil, and though taken very seriously, also a beautiful show of co-operation between people and government.

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    Of course, being the nosey Nelly that I am, I had to dig a bit deeper into the group that always seems to be protesting and just why they seem to hit the Russian Embassy so often.

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    I discovered a new layer to these protests. Understanding the groups and the reasons for their protests added a bit more shine to our weekend protest watches.

    This particular group?

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    We were able to find them online by identifying their flags. They proudly fly with every protest, and it was a big clue. The name of these right-wing groups of Nationalists are called Uyoku dantai. Translated it literally means "right-wing group".

    They've been around since the mid-1800's in the Tenno period, and though there are many types of Uyoku dantai, they all maintain the same fundemental principal of retaining Japan's character. That, and they try, to an extent, to defend their position in WW II.

    As within any right-wing organization there are extremists, and as the Uyoku dantai's freedom of ideology is protected by Japan's Constitution, it makes it easy for said extremists to act as fronts for the Yakuza syndicates.

    You know, the Japanese mob.

    But these are the exceptions, and aren't the ones we've had protesting down the street from our high-rise. I wouldn't put myself or the children in front of these people if that were the case.

    One week in particular held a spectacular show of force between the Uyoku dantai and the guards from the Embassy.

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    Marking the anniversary from World War II where Russia took four islands from the Japanese rich in energy sources, it was a sight to behold.

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    Police, journailsts, protesters, and even small portions of the army were present.

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    There was a gravity to this day that seemed less evident than the other weekends. I'm not sure if it was due to the numbers present or the fiercer cries and displays put on by the protesters, but regardless, I was a little hesitant to whip out the camera.

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    I got over it, though, and captured moments that the Eldest and I still talk about.

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    She thought it was very cool!

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    Since our return to Tokyo, things have been quiet. I don't know if the Uyoku dantai have a season or if the cold is keeping them at bay, but it's been oddly silent on the weekends.

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    A little part of me misses the lunchtime disruptions, but it's okay. They'll be back soon enough and the jokes about their predictability-and the flags-will start flying again.

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    4 Responses to “
    Doth They Protest Too Much?

    Kerri said...

    Holy smokes - defend their position in WWII - as in the early 1940s? I am always amazed at extremist groups who are still "wound up" about things that happened very very long ago. It must be crippling to live in such a mindset.
    Very interesting!

    Ruth said...

    Thanks for the insight into a part of Japan.

    Preppy Pink Crocodile said...

    Fascinating! At least its all very peaceful.

    Bella Michelle said...

    Spicey fish bowels...wow...there are now words! LOL I love getting a peek into your world right now and I think it feeds my wander lust just a bit. It makes me long for an opportunity to take an overseas assignment (or rather my dear husband to do that) for a while. I think it would be such an adventure!!!! Happy New Year, Dear Southern Girl!