Not-So-Playful Protest For Serious Cause: Anti-China Rally In Downtown Osaka On November 20

November 28, 2010

Though the current Asian crisis grabbing headlines comes from Korea, I hope you haven’t forgotten the old dispute that was all the rage, like, two weeks ago. Just read this if you missed out on the whole thing. The incident sparked a lot of chest-thumping from China and Japan…protests in the former getting the majority of the media attention (at least over here). Yet the Senkaku Island ordeal also lit something in (at least some) Japanese folk’s minds.

I talked with an older Japanese friend about this a few weeks ago. He first noted something I’d picked up on long ago…when it comes to politics, the Japanese, save for a few extremist branches unafraid of barking from the roofs of black vans, tended to be pretty detached. It isn’t like America, where being “liberal” or “conservative” can almost define you entirely to a stranger…the Japanese keep politics to themselves for the most part. Similarly, displays of patriotism…or nationalism, the definition can get slippery…seldom crop up.

My friend, though, told me this China-boat incident has managed to make many young Japanese people more patriotic, more ready to speak out. There is a lot of background as to just why this event would cause such a reaction…Japan and China’s EXTREMELY rocky history, the whole “China has replaced Japan as the Asian power” deal, the fact the Chinese stole a Japanese song from 1997 as the theme for this year’s Shanghai Expo…but the main point strikes pretty simply: some Japanese folks have been riled to patriotism.

I saw it firsthand a few weekends ago in downtown Osaka.

A peaceful afternoon of record shopping got uppercutted by group chanting led by bullhorn-amplified voices. Marching down the major street in Namba, a couple hundred people waving Japanese flags and hoisting signs into the sign while folks on the sidewalk stopped and stared. A few minutes of intent listening…soon confirmed by reading the sings, some written in pretty good English…revealed this to be an anti-China rally.

“Stop Chinese Invasion!” “Unite against communism!” Various posters decrying “imperialism” right next to people waving the Japanese Imperial flag. The whole demonstration at times reminded me of how the immigration issue in America gets framed by certain parties…people clamoring about an “invasion” when it isn’t remotely like that, though this whole Senkaku Island dispute differs in a lot of different ways.

Imperial flag yo

Imperial flag yo

The marchers moved down the street, stopping dutifully for red lights and whenever the police escort walking in front of them instructed them to. Passerbys on the street either turned their heads momentarily before whizzing onward or stopped completely to take it all in. Oh, and I pretended to be a journalist by running around taking photos with my iPhone, even getting a few protesters to turn their English-covered signs towards me. Something like this is so out of the ordinary, people will pay attention.

(Japanese Fun Fact #88: I have no idea if anyone is trying to peddle these in America, but 3-D TVs are getting a big push in Japan at the moment. They seem super goofy to me but hey what do I know. Anyway, I write this because I just read an article on Slate about nations making bids on the 2022 World Cup. Japan would be one such nation, and there big gimmick would be organizing “watching parties” around 3-D televisions. So…Japan really believes in this stuff. Also, bonus lol if ya read the South Korea entry which…just terrible timing.)

50 points to anyone who gets the title reference

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