Another Wednesday Night in Japan

Wednesday afternoon around 5:00 I was sitting in my apartment attempting to get some writing in before needing to go pick up my children from daycare.

The only problem was the noise coming from outside. What felt like every few minutes a new blast of loudspeakers playing that style of almost classical music that any who live in Japan learns to associate with the nationalist hate groups that love love to drive around.

While this behavior is a not uncommon nuisance, there was something different that day. The volume was much higher than normal. And on top of that was a man screeching loud enough to blare out the speakers making the words almost indecipherable. But hate is somehow easy to understand.

After many passes convinced me that I wasn’t going to be able to concentrate on writing m, I decided to go see what other commotion was going on.

I followed the noise a long block away from apartment and was surprised by the scene.

A large road was completely barricaded. A large amount of cops, manned the barricades. Another group was pulling over two of the noise trucks. Another truck was left to roam free blasting its hate.

I watched, curious if anything was going to happen.

A short, squat bald man wearing glasses got out of the truck and started walking around. The way the police regarded him is seemed as if he was one of the organizers.

I tried to watch without seeming to stare or understand, especially when they started walking toward the same corner I was at. I felt secure that it was a coincidence and that no one was walking towards me, or even really taking notice of me.

I tried to be as much of a fly on the wall as I could, listening to snippets of conversation through the occasional screech of music and hate speech that would send the cops barking around but actually doing nothing to stop it.

I overheard the squat organizer and his cronies mocking the cops. I listened as someone wearing the lapel pin of a politician or high level bureaucrat tries to smooth the hate group leader.

It disgusted me to here someone who is supposed to be a leader of the community openly sympathize with the extreme its views of hate. “We’re both Japanese and I understand your feelings. Look, we both have shaved heads so you know what I mean. But being so loud isn’t good for the local businesses. So can you have your trucks turn the speakers down?”

The squat man giggled with the obsequious official and did nothing.

Maybe some are reading this and are already trying to excuse the bureaucrat’s words. What else was he supposed to do? He had a goal he was trying to achieve, so what is wrong with that?

For that moment he condoned the hate. He allowed it. He played with it, and he took it as his own mantle. And it accomplished nothing.

The bureaucrat left. The squat man got a lackey to bring him a pack of cigarettes, and on streets clearly labeled no smoking, in front of a platoon of cops he began smoking.

The cops, as if wanting to further establish just how useless they were, continued to do absolutely nothing.

It was time for me to leave. I came to see what was going on and had seen many things I can’t claim to understand.

I still don’t understand what went on. It hasn’t helped that I have been unable to find any news reports of anything going on. I searched key words is two languages and have found nothing official. Even turning to Twitter I’ve only found two Japanese posts of others asking what is going on.

I can understand that when there are no injuries and no arrests that it isn’t perhaps front page news. But to have so many police, and to construct a barricade, and have this go on for what must have been hours make no news does trouble me. How often do these kind of demonstrations go on where there is also no reporting?

My mind wonders. Is it because the main target of the hate were foreigners living in Japan?

I think about how a video of singing and crowd surfing Europeans dominated the internet for a while as example of bad foreigners and rule breakers ruining Japan. And yet, here is an even greater example of noise. Rather than a joyous revelry disrupting one train car, here was an act of hate disrupting an entire neighborhood. But, it seems that since these were Japanese people yelling about foreigners, it doesn’t deserve any mention.

Here is where I want to mention three very important things.

The first is that it is entirely possible there has been media attention of this, and that I managed to miss and it, even with my searches. If anyone does know of links, please send them my way. (I hope you understand why I am being a little vague about where this happened.)

The second is that while I do believe there are those within Japan that have let their hearts be infected with hate towards foreigners (this also includes members of the foreign born community within Japan as well), and that on a systemic level Japan does have issues of discrimination, I do not believe this hate exists within the average member of Japanese society. I have been blessed to know many who reject that kind of thinking, and I feel that a majority of the people here hold no hate within them.

The last is a bit of a coda to this story. I was leaving my children’s daycare, tots in tow. We were not close to the center of the ruckus, but the loud speakers could still be heard.

An older man left the store that was in front of us. He crossed the street, and once he was on that other side he took some trash and blatantly threw it on the ground while staring at us. When he was sure we were looking he spoke to us on broken English, that if I clean up could be understood as “Say a word and I’ll get the police come get you.”

I kept waking away, passing the man on the other side of the street. My four-year-old son asked what the man meant.

I didn’t know what to tell him.

Maybe it is a coincidence that this happened on the same night. But, I also know that my annoyance grew at the placating, sympathetic official who ‘as a Japanese understood what the group wants’.

The more you excuse and allow hate, the easier it is to grow.

One small pocket of the police present that night.

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