Between the round of golf, the much-mocked koi carp fish feeding session, and the meeting with the families of Japanese abductees, President Donald Trump’s presence in Tokyo during his first official state visit also resulted in heightened security measures that affected the general public, anxiety over his audience with the emperor, and anger from certain sections of society that manifested as several protests.
These were not coordinated and, as such, no single event stood out or managed to mobilise impressive numbers, as might have been the case had the JCP or the anti-war umbrella group Sōgakari planned something. (In fact, Sōgakari held a large protest attended by some 40,000 people around the National Diet on November 3rd, demonstrating against the re-election of Shinzō Abe’s LDP and the prime minister’s pledge to revise the Constitution.) The discontent against Trump’s visit seemed spread out over a handful of smaller street marches and rallies in Tokyo. I have summarised below the main examples in the city that I followed, though was unable to attend any in person.
On the day prior to Trump’s arrival, a march in Shinjuku by Zainichi Koreans (ethnic Koreans permanently resident in Japan) objected to his visit to Japan and South Korea as tensions with Pyongyang continue to escalate.
On the day of the president’s arrival, the Vote Out the Scandal rally was held at the very visible location of Hachiko in Shibuya by members of a local chapter of Democrats Abroad. It was attended by a modest but boisterous group of non-Japanese residents, particularly US citizens.
来日に合わせて今日渋谷ハチ公前で行われた、日本に住むアメリカ人たちによる反トランプデモ。駆けつけた人も老若男女で、本当にデモが当たり前のことなんだなって改めて。終始英語によるコールが続くなか、「戦争反対！NO WAR！」って日本語も混ぜてくれた時には、気づいたらじぶんも叫んでた。 pic.twitter.com/AKwFvdJuwk
— さく (@Sacklaver) November 5, 2017
Meanwhile, the far-left labour union Dōrō-Chiba held its annual international workers solidarity rally in Hibiya, followed by a march through central Tokyo during the afternoon. This is usually attended by several thousand people, bringing together a range of different activists and labour groups. Naturally this year the event took on an anti-Trump tone and the rally included performers dressed up as Abe and Trump, who were subsequently “arrested” on the stage. Somewhat provocatively, the marchers also carried effigies of the two leaders (see a video at PressTV.com). Police presence at the rally venue and along the march is always very high.
In the evening of the Sunday, a colourful march in Shinjuku was organised by several established left-wing and anti-war groups, including Kyūen Renraku Sentā (Relief Liaison Centre, or Kyuen Renraku Centre) and Tachikawa Self-Defence Forces Monitoring Tent Village.
— Nobutaka Watanabhe (@fuantei_workers) November 5, 2017
On Trump’s final full day in the capital, a lone protestor was spotted with a placard at Yotsuya. However, as this was a Monday, there was an understandable lack of notable street actions.
The response to Trump’s sojourn was not only one-sided. These protests by liberal and left-wing groups were also met by small pro-Trump and pro-Anpo counter-protests, who held up Japanese and American flags as well as pro-Trump banners (see examples here and here). Trump’s rhetoric against North Korea and decision to meet the families of abductees as well as his perceived tougher stance towards China has made him popular with Japanese ultra-nationalists, who generally view the US-Japanese alliance as preferrable to improved relations with Japan’s neighbours.
On November 7th, Trump departed Japan for South Korea without incident, almost certainly unaware of the protests during his stay. In all, the most serious disturbance was the series of bomb threats received at locations outside Tokyo and also at Waseda University, which closed the campus for much of November 7th. No bombs were found, however, and the threats were most likely the handiwork of merely opportunistic pranksters.
Although there was a striking increase in the numbers of officers on duty at stations around Tokyo, the police crackdown was relatively restrained. That being said, on November 2nd police raided sites linked to a far-left group that it suspects of carrying out previous attacks against United States military facilities.