Last week, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling right-wing-conservative coalition won a majority of seats in Japan’s upper house election last Sunday. Depressing? Yes. Bad for Japan (and the world)? Yes. But elections are not just black-and-white, winner-takes-it-all events. We can give in to feelings of defeat, or we can shift our attention to all the good that came out of this election.
The candidates of the opposition camp who campaigned with passion and zest; everybody who voted, regardless of whom they voted for; the many volunteers who tirelessly supported their candidates or otherwise were active in election awareness activities; the rise of a politically conscious student movement; high-school students leading protest; opposition parties supporting each other’s candidates.
In particular, his energetic campaign to create a movement of political participation in Japan. Backed by Taro Yamamoto, the independent candidate and reggae musician, who ran on a platform of social values, drew huge crowds with his election fiesta performances. He did not win, but he did inspire hundreds of thousands of people to get involved.
“His first message is: go vote, even if you are not going to vote for me. I certainly realise what he is trying to do in changing people’s mind not to be indifferent. And he knows it cannot be done in just one or two elections.” says Natsuko who is in her early thirties.
Mizuho Fukushima’s re-election
“She is a member of the Social Democratic Party, which has basically been wiped out over the last several elections, so we all knew it was going to be a very tough fight. She has been an unfailing supporter of LGBT rights and women. With her humanity, she understands what equality really means and how vitally important it is to all of us and society as a whole. She has also been very actively involved in the no nukes movement, using all her parliamentary privileges to allow the voices of no nukes groups to be heard. It is such a relief that she will be there for another six years. Not just with us on the streets, but also in the halls of power, doing the strategic work that is necessary to actually defeat or at least provide some sort of counter to the regressive forces that would take Japan back to a feudal militaristic age.”, says long-term Japan resident Caitlin.
The win of Yoichi Iha (Okinawa)
A longtime critic of the U.S. military presence in Okinawa, he campaigned on a platform of closing the US bases and saving Henoko’s coral reef & dugong ecosystem, Okinawa’s most important natural cultural heritage site. Not only did he win, he also defeated the LDP incumbent, State Minister of Okinawa Affairs and a member of Abe’s cabinet.
“This upset by Iha symbolizes the disconnect and misrepresentation by institutional political parties like the LDP, with the political upset by an independent with labor background like Iha. At the same time, political cycles come and go, so we must also remember the consistency of Okinawan opposition to vast military occupation that has persisted for literally decades, is about principles of human rights, self-determination and justice- not political cycles.”, says Pete Doctor from the Hawai’i-Okinawa Alliance.
Photos by Teppei Sato. To see in big size please click on the pictures.
Photos by Isao Kimura. To see in big size please click on the pictures.