National

Thousands gather outside Diet in heavy rain for last chance to protest security bills

by Shusuke Murai and Yuka Koshino

Staff Writers

Thursday’s heavy rain failed to douse the rage of thousands of demonstrators who gathered in front of the Diet building in Tokyo to protest the controversial security legislation that is expected to pass by week’s end.

They sang, drummed and yelled in the rain as the Diet edged closer to enacting the bills, which would allow the Self-Defence Forces to come to the aid of an ally, even if Japan itself is not under attack.

“I thought now is the last chance to raise my voice for the future of Japan, otherwise I would regret it for years to come,” said a woman in her 40s from Tokyo’s Itabashi Ward, who was protesting for the second consecutive day.

Worried about the future of her two children — aged 10 and 9 — her concerns came as scheduled discussion on the bills at an Upper House special committee turned chaotic.

“Everything has proceeded without clear explanation given (by the Abe administration) to the public, while many experts claim how dangerous the bills are,” she said. “Our presence here may not change anything at the Diet. . . . But I couldn’t stop myself from coming as a (Japanese) citizen.”

Female third-year high school student Natsumi Mori, who was in a school uniform, said she came to the protest for the first time to experience what it was like to take part in politics, knowing the passage of the bills was inching closer.

“We are the generation that should come to learn from the demonstrations,” Mori said, adding that young people of her age should be more interested in political issues in light of the Upper House election next summer. She said she will cast a ballot for the first time after the voting age was lowered to 18.

“What is happening now at the Diet is just another travesty. It’s our demonstration that prevented the (Upper House) committee from going as scheduled,” said Nagatomo Hirokawa, a fourth-year student at Waseda University and a member of the long-established National Federation of Students’ Self-government (Zengakuren), a long-established nationwide student activist group.

Hirokawa has been protesting since April, when the deliberation of the bills began, and said his group would continue to seek ways to pressure the government by uniting with other protest groups.

He said a series of rallies by citizens against the security legislation has had a significant impact on the government and ruling bloc. “I’m afraid these bills are likely to pass. However, I think the largest issue is how we can continue fighting against the government,” Hirokawa said, adding that he will find ways to work together with other groups to form a united front.