National

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.