By Joseph Essertier, November 6, 2017.
Tokyo — Two fairly large protests were held here yesterday (Sunday, November 5)—one a rally organized by labor unions that started in Hibiya Park and ended at Tokyo Station, the other a citizens’ peace march in the vicinity of Shinjuku Station. There was also a small protest of 100 American residents, many of them supporters of the U.S. Democratic Party, at Shibuya Station. These protests were held in the context of U.S. President Trump’s visit to Japan, the first stop on a tour in Asia during which he will meet heads of state and surely discuss military issues. Other countries he will visit include South Korea, China, and the Philippines.
For the Hibiya Park rally and march, my “eyeball-it” estimate of the number of protestors would be around 1,000. The day began with a rally at an amphitheater in Hibiya Park. Blessed with clear skies and relatively warm weather for November, the rally began around noon. There were speeches, singing, dancing, and plays on the wide outdoor stage. Most of the speeches addressed serious issues, such as grave abuses of workers in Japan, South Korea, and other countries, or the militarism and xenophobia spawned by the present administration of Prime Minister Abe, but these speeches were balanced by lighthearted and entertaining, yet enlightening plays and short skits.
After the entertainment and inspiration, we marched for about an hour with feelings of hope and comradery in our hearts. It was a long walk, perhaps 3 kilometers, from Hibiya Park to Ginza, and then from Ginza to Tokyo Station “to stop war, privatization, and the dismantling of labor law.”
A delegation from the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) of South Korea was in attendance. KCTU has a reputation as a powerful force for democracy in South Korea. They contributed to the organizing work that produced the “Candlelight Revolution” against President Park Geun-hye. That movement was a major cause of her impeachment.
The labor themes of the gathering at the Hibiya Park amphitheater were to “revitalize fighting labor unions” and “victory to national railway struggle.” Leading Japanese unions that hosted the event included the Solidarity Union of Japan Construction and Transport Workers’ Kansai Area Branch, the National Movement of National Railway Struggle, and Doro-Chiba (i.e., the National Railway Chiba Motive Power Union). There were also labor unions from the U.S., Germany, and other countries. A message of solidarity dated 1 November 2017 came from the Central Sindical e Popular (Conlutas), a Brazilian labor federation. Besides their message of solidarity to workers in Japan, their message included the words, “Down with imperialist wars! Dismantle all U.S. military bases in Japan and Korea.”
At least a few hundred people participated in the Shinjuku march. It started fairly late in the day, at 5 P.M. That demo seems to have received more attention from the mass media. It was covered on the public broadcaster NHK’s evening television news as well as in Japanese newspapers. The demo theme title was “opposed to war talks between Abe and Trump—a demo in Shinjuku on November 5th.” At both demos, a frequent chant of protesters, a message to Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and to U.S. President Trump was “do not provoke a war in Korea.” Both demos also expressed their solidarity with Koreans with chants such as, “stop discrimination against Koreans.”
Many foreign people, including Americans, could be seen at both demos. I myself saw about 50 people from foreign countries, including about 10 Koreans from the KCTU delegation, at the Hibiya Park rally; and about 10 people who appeared to be from foreign countries at the Shinjuku demo. The Hibiya rally seemed to have a larger percentage of young people, but I saw some youth at the Shinjuku demo as well. There were many users of wheelchairs and walking canes at the Hibiya rally and march. The three demos together demonstrate solid opposition to Trump and Abe’s militarism and xenophobia coming from people of various walks of life.
 Photos and information in Japanese are available at the Doro-Chiba website: http://doro-chiba.org