Following the town meeting, we headed to the offices of the local municipality and the defence ministry. There we had two meeting to submit letters of grievances about the Kyogamisaki base to local officials. Both the local officials and the defence department officers emerged from the same building. They declined any affiliation with the Japanese military, and presented themselves as civil servants working under orders from the Japanese government. Stating security, rather than military as their main job description. As they stood outside an abandoned Junior High School with its track and field record times still on the wall, I felt a sharp dissonance between civilian and military life. The two ought to be irreconcilable, but here the officials were operating out of the same facility.
The dismal answers given by these two officials were unsurprising. They were following instructions and had been appointed by the government. Their agnostic view towards a US presence on Japanese soil indicated a larger force at play. These officials were chosen because of their deference to authority. As puppets for the increasingly militarized Abe administration, they are civilian casualties in a larger arms race between Japan and its surrounding countries. Reviving a Japan’s war capabilities is a key component to establishing a threatening presence in the Asia Pacific, and doing so in partnership with the United States.
However, the Japanese public, like the Ukawa village people are becoming increasingly aware of the Abe administration’s war mongering tactics. In a series of rallies and protests outside the Diet. They are calling for an end to the nuclear weapons and using war as a means of handling international threats. Perhaps the most prominent vestiges of public outcry since the 1960 rallies that booted Nobusuke Kishi, then prime minister, these rallies capture mass civilian mobilization to retain Japan’s vow to never again use military force to handle foreign policy.
Abe was a young boy when his grandfather, Kishi, was forced to resign. However, despite the generational gap, the similarities between the Kishi and Abe are striking. Both administrations have used congressional aggression to implement pro-US military measures within the Japanese legislature. One month prior to his resignation, Kishi had forced the Diet to revise a Japan-US security pact. As the decision was rushed through congress, 300,000 protesters stood outside the Diet. By the end of June 1960, Kishi announced his resignation.
Current protests are far from the 300,000 figure. However, the anti-war movement is gaining traction, particularly among the youth. They have formed the Students Emergency Action for Liberal Democracy (SEALDs). Weekly protests are held outside the Diet, and the organizers continue to rally more youth.