Tokyo rising

IssueJune - Aug 2003
Feature by Paul Arenson

After introducing the TokyoProgressive website at the International Green Forum (Japan) that was held over two years ago, I was asked by a member of the German IndyMedia collective why Japan had no IndyMedia of its own.

In fact, I could only suggest that she speak with representatives of some of the Internet service providers here which actually host good progressive websites,of which there are actually many. In fact, one such provider is a member of the internationally known Association for Progressive Communications. Happily,they were interested, and they later joined the organising team for the recently established Japan Indymedia collective.

As it turns out, the language barrier is one of the reasons why there is so little independent media here. It is hard to find people who are able to monitor the worldwide explosion of such sites and to make activists outside Japan aware of what is being done by people working for social, political and economic justice. Japan, like most countries, actually has many people working to counter such viruses as militarism, economic exploitation, sexism and racism.

While there are many single-issue sites, there are few that attempt to put things in perspective, and almost none that attempt to counter the deadly silence of both public, semi official media like NHK TV and radio, or the many commercial stations with their familiar sound-byte approach to news/entertainment.

Perhaps another reason why it has been hard to find much alternative media is one that will be familiar to activists anywhere: we tend to be better at talking among ourselves than reaching out to new people. Japan also happens to be plagued by a particularly nasty form of factionalism which makes it hard for people to co-operate, despite the fact that many of the groups and individuals involved in progressive web activities and social change tend to have more in common than they think.

My own site was a more modest attempt to fill the void in Japan, primarily for my English language students. In addition, unlike IndyMedia, TokyoProgressive was less an open publishing experiment than it was a compilation of various news and opinion published else-where on the net. While I have published my own articles from time to time, there is simply no time left in the day to do all I would like to do.

Fortunately, I was able to help kick start Japan IndyMedia by reaching out to others. I was surprised to find that people had actually been talking about it for awhile, and soon I became involved in the project to get Japan IndyMedia started. Now more than two months old, it is well on the way to becoming an important voice for the voiceless, though there is still a long way to go.

Many of the articles that appear are not translated into either Japanese or English,but that should pick up as more people become involved in the collective. Unlike my own website, over which I exercise full control, Japan Indymedia relies on collective decision making, and it has sometimes been a challenge to get people to agree. But we are making progress there too. It is very much a learning process. That is why we do not yet have the layout and look we want, though it may very well be there by the time this article is published.

Conversely, TokyoProgressive has become much more IndyMedia-like, as it evolves, borrowing heavily from the Indy-Media model of self-publishing. At the same time, it continues to serve primarily as a vehicle for my own students, though I am happy to help form a bridge between activists inside and outside Japan, and to help my students find ways that they can actively work for social justice.

Both IndyMedia Japan and TokyoProgressive are always looking to make contact with people around the world who wish to collaborate on issues that affect all of us. TokyoProgressive also offers free space to activists and individuals, primarily in Japan, but also in Asia and even in other places.

posted 8 February 2003
Peace group puts ad in Washington Post
WASHINGTON - A Japanese citizens' group and a former US servicemen's group placed an advertisement opposing a war on Iraq in the Washington Post's Thursday editions, asking, “Is America addicted to war?” “Please bring your soldiers home. Iraq is contaminated with radiation from depleted uranium used by the US, causing suffering of Iraqi children and Persian Gulf War veterans and their children,” the Global Peace Campaign said in the ad addressed to US President George W Bush from “concerned citizens of Japan”.


The ad, co-sponsored by the Veterans for Peace, also said, “We know the effects of radiation from experience. Peace for Iraq, the US and all of the world.”

Global Peace Campaign was launched by freelance journalist Yumi Kikuchi, of Kamogawa, Chiba Prefecture, shortly after 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States.

The group has placed similar antiwar ads in newspapers in the United States since then. (Kyodo News.)

posted 18 February 2003
Rally & demonstration in downtown Nagoya

  • Terumi Terao

    16 February 1:30pm: Rally “Stop the War! 2-16 Gathering” at Hisaya-Square Number of attendant: 200 2:30pm: Peace Demonstration started Number of demonstrators: 400


    Organised by Peace Action against the Contingency Legislation, the rally attracted about 200 citizens mostly from Aichi Prefecture and from Gifu and Mie Prefectures including several permanently-residing Koreans. Fifteen people from Canada, Indonesia, Iran, Ireland, Kazakhstan, Tunisia and the United States also attended the rally.

    Headed by drums and a sanshin (a traditional three-string-lute of Okinawa) performance, 200 attendants of the rally started off livily on the peace march, crying out “NO War, Love Peace” and other anti-war phrases, sometimes in English. An Iranian man and many Japanese pedestrians joined the march.

posted 13 March 2003
40,000 at World Peace Now 3.8

  • akira & naoko

    “World Peace Now 3.8”, an anti-war demo against attacking Iraq was held at Hibiya in Tokyo, and 40,000 people(according to the official organisers) lifted their voices for peace. It was the largest among all actions against attacking Iraq in Japan.


    The organisers consisted of NGOs, religious groups and labour unions, etc. Families with children and young people were noticeable in the crowd, sending their message in their own way by holding signs calling for the boycott of US products, or by dressing in clothes saying “No War”.

    The demo made a huge wave through Ginza, and never ending “No War” voices continued after dark.


posted 17 April 2003
Activism in Japan: Where to now?
Since IndyMedia Japan started up a few months ago, Japan-based activists have used it as a way to publicise a number of actions and activities, such as uncovering the truth about the war in Afghanistan, or organising against the war in Iraq


One of the important functions of any Indymedia group is to help put people in touch with other people, to provide an alternative source of information, and to encourage like-minded efforts so that people have increasing access to information that helps transform the societies in which we live.

Yet another possibility for IndyMedia Japan and its contributors (you) is to help make connections between global and local issues, such as the ties between Japan's government and industries and the US war machine or companies like Boeing, which make bombs and build 747s.

An area for activism in Japan would be to take a look at war-related companies and carry out protests and boycotts, as people are doing outside Japan.

A lot of research is needed into exactly what a company is doing what and what kind of actions would help raise awareness and raise the costs involved for the company in order to force a halt to its activities. One limiting factor is that in Japan civil disobedience is more difficult due to the practice of holding arrestees for at least one and sometimes two three-week periods without charges, a policy that says as much as about intentional restriction of civil liberties and unfair police practices as it does about the difficulty of engaging in direct action. Still there are legal options, such as picketing and leafleting of target companies and their customers. See Amnesty International report (Section: Torture/Ill Treatment for some background, also Kabutoyama Case, Greenpeace, Japan Civil Liberties Union, Nichibenren, and Japanese Police Corruption).

If you have suggestions, comments on the possibilities for further action, or information on which companies are involved in activities which support war, rape of the third world, environmental destruction and the like, please feel free to comment below, or write your own article.

Meanwhile, here is another important activity to support. Please add your name to the Stand for Peace and Justice/I Work for Peace and Justice campaign...




Topics: Activism, Media