Dear reader, where are you from? To what era do you belong? I was born in 1971 in Japan and grew up here, too, but I've never — in all my years visiting hotels, restaurants, shops or government offices — seen workers wearing vests, armbands, badges, ribbons or bandanas with political messages. I've never seen a waiter with an armband reading "We demand wage hikes."

This country was quite different in the 1950s, '60s and '70s. Workers from all walks of life, many of whom were unionized, often wore their messages of solidarity and demands for better conditions quite literally on their sleeves. I wonder how many Japan Times readers have seen such workers here in Japan or in other countries.

The courts had quite a lot to say about the legality of such actions. The Labor Relations Commission's basic position was that it amounted to "legitimate union activity" as long as it did not interfere with the fulfilment of one's work duties. The courts usually admitted the legitimacy of wearing union vests and other protest paraphernalia during a labor dispute, even during work hours — again, as long as there was no specific obstruction to work or the operation of the company.