Being here not there

The Imperial Palace, the inaccessible heart of central Tokyo, takes up a lot of space.  I walked along the front of its distant, imposing walls late this afternoon, on the way to visit the anti-nuclear protest site nearby.  Workmen on ladders were pruning pine trees, Nike-clad joggers swerving around foreign tourists and the frail old Emperor tucking into tea and scones.


The two white protest tents were in the same place as yesterday, outside the METI building, the same as for the last 137 days.  Before I could reach the tents, a heavily wrapped up man called Toku approached me.  He recognised me from my brief appearance yesterday.

Having a white face and round eyes in Japan makes you conspicuous – sometimes a good, sometimes a bad thing.  From Toku`s viewpoint, distinctive appearances can be useful.  He helps out with the communications for the anti-nuclear movement.  He is very keen as many people as possible, foreigners included, turn up to protest the pending eviction of the two tents of tentohiroba.

Toku has been involved in protest movements since leaving his job as a market researcher two years ago.  He spoke with clarity and patience, something I value in other people yet often fail to do myself.  Toku said the government will take big notice of how many people attend tomorrow`s 4pm protest; they want to see how much kanshin (interest) people still have in the anti-nuclear movement, particularly foreigners as the foreign media has more freedom than in Japan.   

Just being here with the two tent protest has meaning, Toku told me.  The two tents have become a hub, he used the English word,  for protestors all around the country.  Backing up Toku`s point, I later met a lady who had come on a day trip from distant Shizuoka just to show her support, her home is 30km from the vulnerable Hamaoka reactor.          

I liked his comment about the importance of being here, where you are at the moment – a cold exposed spot for all the protestors.  Being here is surprisingly hard, I am always pining for there, or even way over there on the other side of the map.  

The Tozai subway line took me home, a carriage of around 60 people half standing half sitting, an empty silence, perhaps all were thinking about anywhere other than here.

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