Tokyo riots (sometimes)

Several Japanese have asked me this week to explain the series of riots across England.  I can`t.  Linking the police-killing of a man in Tottenham, the hit and run killing of 3 Asians in Birmingham and thefts from a Bargain Booze store in Salford is beyond my brain in English, let alone Japanese.

Police line up for drive-by abuse by right-wing nationalists.

In comparison,  Tokyo can seem an oasis of blissful calm and order.  It often is.  Respect for authority over here is too great for the manic street scenes seen in the UK.  So, I thought anyway. 

Sadly, Tokyo is not all cream and honey.  The history books are full of Tokyo riots;  they hit the capital like earthquakes:  their timing and size is unpredictable and devastating.

Past Tokyo riots were related to anger at an unfair peace treaty with Russia (1905), high rice prices (1918), and anger at peace treaties with America (1952 and 1960).  Each time, blood was shed and lives were lost.  

More recent demonstrations against the war in Iraq, nuclear energy and US military bases in Okinawa have put thousands of angry protestors marching on the streets.

Ready for a riot? Tokyo police prepare for rally.

The far right`s insults of the police were clearly audible on the footbridge where I took this photo.

Of course, the reasons for the riots in England are very different to those in Tokyo.  But the same feelings of intense anger and frustration exist in both countries.  Nice and nasty live closeby.

I was reminded of this today.  In 35 degree heat, I was walking around Ochanomizu, lost as usual.  Down a backstreet,  3 police riot vans were parked up.  A far right-wing rally was taking place. 

Black and white Toyota Land Cruisers, plastered with nationalist slogans, were blocking the traffic.  I counted over 35.  The drivers blatant abuse of on looking peace officers was the worst I have ever heard. 

Insults you rarely hear, such as temae and konoyaro, peppered every sentence.  It was compelling, and terrifying – at least initially.  Japanese shouldn`t behave like this, not according to my Bluffer`s guidebook anyway.

One female police officer, trying to direct traffic, was called a zainichi (foreign resident), hannnichi (anti-Japanese), then finally busu (an ugly cow).  The screamed insults, broadcast from rooftop speakers, were clearly audible over 100 metres away.  Surrounding police officers did nothing.  It seems authority is only respected sometimes.  

So in conclusion, I can`t tell you anything about the riots in England, and the Japanese are still a mystery.  Next week,  I`ll guide you through the recession.

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