Japanese voice frustration, resignation over security shake-up

by Magdalena Osumi, Daisuke Kikuchi and Kanako Takahara

Staff Writers

Members of the public interviewed in and around Tokyo on Saturday expressed disappointment and resignation following the Diet’s enactment of the security bills in the early hours.

Many said the government of conservative Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had failed in its job to explain the legislation to the public. The laws, which drastically expand the scope of overseas missions by the Self-Defense Forces through the Cabinet’s reinterpretation of the Constitution, are largely unpopular among citizens.

“I have an impression (the ruling camp) forced these bills through the Diet,” said a 58-year-old office worker, who asked to be identified only by his last name, Fujita, in Yokohama. “They weren’t clearly explained.”

Fujita added that the last-minute struggle in the Upper House, which saw fistfights among lawmakers, turned people off.

“The decision should have been made in a more level-headed manner, as (scuffling over the issue) will not help the lawmakers gain the public’s understanding,” Fujita said.

Ryota Kai, 19, a college student from Yokohama, also lamented that the people’s views were not taken into account, saying if the government had listened to the opinions of ordinary individuals the result could have been different.

“I don’t think this country is heading in the right direction. It’s made me believe that it lacks a sense of unity. I had the same feeling following the nuclear disaster” in 2011, Kai said. “The government doesn’t seem to listen to what common people have to say. And maybe that’s why so many people started to protest.”

In Tokyo’s Shibuya district, 36-year-old photographer Arisu Iwasawa said the passage of the bills had long been anticipated.

“I wasn’t expecting anything positive from the beginning, but knowing the result, I’m very disappointed,” Iwasawa said. “No matter how many people protest against it, and even though it’s considered unconstitutional, I always knew the Abe administration’s security bills would pass.”

Also in Shibuya, Sakio Aihara, a 26-year-old programmer, said the government needs to inform the people better.

“I’m personally against the security laws, but I understand there are positive aspects to them,” Aihara said. “If Abe could show his willingness to make our lives better, I think it’s possible for his administration to gain understanding little by little.”

Konoe Kitahara, a 31-year-old working mother in Tokyo’s Edogawa Ward, admitted to mixed feelings.

“I had thought that Japan was a safe and peaceful country, but (the bills debate) made me realize that I had been complacent, relying on a Constitution created decades ago,” she said. “I don’t want to give away the safety we enjoy today, but it may be risky for Japan not to change when the world is constantly evolving.”

As the mother of a 5-year-old boy, her thoughts extended to the feelings of the families of the SDF members.

“Family members must be really worried” about the prospect of their loved ones being sent on risky missions overseas, she said. “I hope from the bottom of my heart that not a life will be lost” due to the passage of the legislation.

  • Minxy Minamoto

    There doesn’t seem to be much democracy here today.

    • Testerty

      You are wrong. It is democracy at work. The Japanese voted in a right wing nationalist power and they change the laws. That is democracy….. In fact, Abe said he will change the law before the election, and Japanese still voted him into power. Can’t blame anybody if Japan goes to war soon. The day will come when Japanese travelling around the world will tell people they are Chinese or Koreans just to avoid getting whacked.

      • Minxy Minamoto

        I’m sorry, the point I was alluding to was a little more complex than my one sentence let on.

        With a low voter engagement and consequently low voter turnout, the elections here are not a true reflection of what the citizenry want. Mandatory voting might be a good option to fix that, although onerous to implement. The LDP probably wouldn’t go for it as it would result in them losing the next election.

        The student protests are indeed part of the democratic process but clearly not the trunk of the tree, if you will. As many of the protesters pointed out and JT detailed often over the past week, the majority of Japanese voters are opposed to changing the constitution. Abe and the ruling party chose to ignore those polls for their own ends – that was the lack of democracy I was talking about. The voters might well go on to punish them at the next election, especially the younger voters that have now been granted the right to vote.

        If they vote the LDP out we’ll see some spectacular democracy at work then!

  • Paul Martin

    Now everyone and everything Japanese will be a potential target!

  • sola makise

    The popular wil reflect it in election. It is not a demonstration.
    Prime Minister Abe emphasizes right to collective self-defense from a beginning. Nevertheless the people voted for the Liberal Democratic Party.
    The bill establishment is the Japanese popular will.
    People making noise in front of the Diet are minority opinions.

  • fromjapan

    present state of Japan is similar to prewar situation.

    increase of cabinet council decision,

    increase of Racism like prewar,

    increase of Chauvinist that hate even existence of opposition or objection,

    increase of major media who don’t criticize Govt,

    increase of nationalistic politicians who disregard “Freedom of expression” or “The sovereignty of the people” and “Fundamental Human Rights”,

    increase of Oppressive law and policy that endanger human rights and human life,

    increase of textbook that have adored “sacrifice for the State” like prewar,


    current Japan Govt and ruling party who have worshiped prewar have escalated Military Policy on the pretext of international situation,

    current Japan is like prewar rather than postwar

  • Hideomi Kuze

    Japanese who rejoice new war law are handful nationalist and racist only.

    Majority Japanese and over 13000 scholars including Nobelist oppose new war law.

  • Hideomi Kuze

    Japan’s Nationalist media “Sankei” and “Yomiuri” repeat biased coverage as if the Japanese who criticize Govt is minority.