Mass Protest Against Japan Military Plans

Mass Protest Against Japan Military PlansMass Protest Against Japan Military Plans

Tens of thousands of protesters gathered near Japan's Parliament building on Sunday to oppose legislation allowing the military to fight overseas, the latest sign of public mistrust in Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's security policy.  

In one of Japan's biggest protests in years, organizers put the crowd at 120,000, people of all ages braved occasional rain to join the rally, chanting and holding up placards with slogans such as "No War" and "Abe, quit," Reuters reported.

Under its Constitution, Japan is barred from using force to resolve conflicts except in cases of self-defense. But a reinterpretation of the law will now allow "collective self-defense," using force to defend allies under attack.

Demonstrators swarmed into the street before parliament's main gate after the crowd size made it impossible for police, out in heavy numbers, to keep them to the sidewalks. A second nearby park area also filled with protesters.

The rally was one of more than 300 this weekend in Japan protesting Abe's move to loosen the post-war, pacifist constitution's constraints on the military.   

"Sitting in front of TV and just complaining wouldn't do," said Naoko Hiramatsu, a 44-year-old associate professor in French and one of the Tokyo protesters.

"If I don't take action and try to put a stop on this, I will not be able to explain myself to my child in the future."

Biggest Protests Since Fukushima Disaster 

Abe in July pushed through parliament's lower house a group of bills that let Japan's armed forces defend an ally under attack, a drastic shift in Japan's post-war security policy.

The bills are now before the upper chamber, which is also controlled by Abe's ruling bloc and aims to pass the legislation before parliament's session ends on September 27.      

If approved, the new law would allow Japan to mobilize military troops overseas when three conditions are met; when Japan is attacked, or when a close ally is attacked, and the result threatens Japan's survival and poses a clear danger to people, when there is no other appropriate means available to repel the attack and ensure Japan's survival and protect its people, and when use of force is restricted to a necessary minimum.

"We need to make the Abe government realize the public is having a sense of crisis and angry. Let's work together to have the bills scrapped," Katsuya Okada, head of Japan's largest opposition party, the Democratic Party of Japan, told the Tokyo rally.

The demonstration was the biggest in Tokyo since the mass protests against nuclear power in the summer of 2012, after the March 2011 Fukushima atomic disaster.

Dip in Popularity

Abe's ratings have taken a hit from opposition to the security bills, but polls show many Japanese oppose them. Media surveys showing those who oppose his government outnumber backers and more than half are against the security bills.

He says the changes are necessary to protect Japan. But the plan was criticized at a recent memorial ceremony commemorating the dropping of a US atomic bomb in August 1945 on the city of Nagasaki, which killed 70,000 people.

One survivor of the attack, 86-year-old Sumiteru Taniguchi, said he could not accept Abe's new legislation.

"In order to make the world a better place, where the life of even a single child is taken away, we must take action now or Japan will make a turn for the worse. That's why I came today," said Mami Tanaka, 35, who joined the rally with her husband and their three children.