Not a day goes by without Shintaro Ishihara saying something offensive, whether it be against immigrants, members of the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) community or, well, everyone. It’s notable that one of the few times he retracted any of his controversial statements is when he blamed Japan for the tsunami that left thousands dead.
He’s a disgusting, pathetic man. And he just got re-elected governor of Tokyo.
I’d heard about the LGBT rights rally against him via Time Out Japan, but I hadn’t seen a thing about it anywhere else. I was somewhat intimidated by the idea of just turning up and finding out I was one of just a handful of people, but I figured I’d give it a go as defeating this kind of discrimination is close to my heart. While I rarely mention it on this blog (unless relevant, as when I ended up with an inadvertently purchased man-dress), I’m trans and as long as I want to work in Japan I have no option but to hide who I am. I can’t even work under my chosen name.
When I arrived at the designated starting point, it looked much like I’d thought. There were a few people milling around wearing rainbow hats and badges, but that was it. I stood and waited at the side, then took an over-sized rainbow flag when it was offered. There was one foreign press photographer covering the proceedings and I guess that by standing near the front, I ruined most of his pictures. Poor guy really was trying his hardest to avoid getting me in the frame. Sorry dude.
People started to arrive. By the time the march was ready to go, there were around four hundred people. While that doesn’t sound like much, that’s huge for LGBT rights in Japan. People are rather slow to protest here, but it’s been said that Japan is responding to the ‘demo boom’ across the world. Mostly though, this new level of participation is being seen in response to the nuclear reactors in Fukushima.
There were police waiting for us at the edge of the park, but that was to provide an escort though the streets of Shinjuku. I’d had no idea! I thought this was a small-scale protest, but entire streets around the station had been sectioned off. As we walked onto the streets, a white ‘election-style’ loudspeaker van with an anti-Ishihara slogan on it pulled out in front to lead the way. Thousands of people crowded along the streets to watch, some waving and some pulling out their cameras. It seemed unreal.
As we the demonstration reached the Tokyo Government Office, the chants changed. Instead of “Ishihara, apologise! We’re against discrimination!” it became “Ishihara, get out here now!”
However, the experience was positive. People were listening and, more importantly, now understand that their private feelings about Ishihara are not unique to them. If you want to read more on the people behind the protest, People United, they have a website in English here.