Anti-Abe and anti-war protesters in Tokyo

Due to the nepotistic, old boy network that masquerades as democracy in Japan, it’s not hard to understand why voter turnout is low, and apathy reigns supreme. A passing down of the positions of power that arguably makes the current, old Etonian filled cabinet of Britain, seem positively revolutionary.

But thankfully there are signs that changes are afoot, with anti-government, and particularly anti-Abe protests becoming commonplace. A movement that has been galvanised further by the Prime Minister’s recent reinterpretation of Japan’s pacifist constitution — this hugely controversial move coming only months after the same government rammed through a similarly contentious secrecy bill. The latter law making a mockery out of any kind of press freedom, while at the same time giving those in power all the freedom they need to block stories or restrict information.

Tokyo anti-Abe protesters

A massive shift to the right, and a worrying nod to the past, that tie in precisely with Abe’s hawkish, backward looking agenda. Policies that are being successfully rushed into being, while his much-touted, and politically motivated Abenomics, continues to falter.

But as mentioned, opposition and public unrest is growing. Many people aren’t happy. Not by any stretch of the imagination. And the target of their anger is Abe.

Tokyo anti-Abe protesters

Of that there is no mistake.

Tokyo anti-Abe protesters

The shocking number of Japan’s empty, and in this case collapsing, homes

Due to Japan’s ageing population and the continuing migration to the country’s large cities, it’s not really surprising that an increasing amount of houses are now left empty, or in many cases, completely abandoned. Yet the actual number of homes in such a state perhaps is. In 2008 — the last time such statistics were calculated — the figure stood at 7.57 million dwellings, or 13% of the total number of houses. A tally that is now estimated at somewhere in the region of 18%, and is expected to rise to a staggering 24% by 2028.

But such places aren’t merely restricted to less populated areas. Far from it. A combination of land/property tax incentives, plus a change in building regulations after the post-war period when many ageing wooden homes were constructed, means it’s financially beneficial to leave a property standing, regardless of its condition. Something that probably explains the number of crumbling, ramshackle houses one can regularly see in Tokyo — particularly in the city’s older neighbourhoods. None of the many I’ve seen, however, come close to the shocking state of this semi-collapsed monstrosity. A truly awful eyesore for the neighbours, not to mention a structural concern, as it’s clearly only the modern building that is keeping the old one (sort of) upright.

‘falling

A Tokyo ‘no nukes’, anti-government, protestor

Japan’s current regime may be against her. The same also goes for the likely winner of Sunday’s Tokyo gubernatorial election. Plus, with the country’s supposedly impartial public broadcaster, NHK, now unapologetically backing the government, there’s scant hope of her getting any coverage, too.

But still she fights for what she believes in: battling away against the powers that be. And with Japan shifting ever more worryingly to the right, this woman, and thankfully many more like her — whether they be anti-nuclear or pro-democracy protestors — will become increasingly important.

Japanese anti-nuclear protestor

Or at least that’s what one hopes.

Secrecy, Santa and Abe

Japan’s Prime Minister has seen his name attain worldwide recognition due to his trend-bucking Abenomics. Yet regardless of whether his policies prove in any way successful or not, his legacy almost certainly won’t be in the arena of economics, but in the clamping down of freedom, investigative reporting and whistleblowing.

With his government’s hugely controversial secrecy bill rammed through parliament this month, citizens will now cease to know — indefinitely if desired — what those in charge deem unnecessary, dangerous, or simply damaging. So anything that did and may happen at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant will doubtless be put through the censorship filter, as will any unflattering scandals, human rights issues and regional squabbles. The latter of which the increasingly hawkish Abe is preparing for with a hefty increase in Japan’s already substantial military spending. The move couched in a very unsettling form of doublespeak — proactive pacifism.

But as worrying as the situation is, reassuringly people are still out there protesting. Both in large groups, or like this artist, alone.

‘Japanese

The question is though, for how long?

‘Japanese

Yoshiro Nakamatsu (Dr. NakaMats) on the campaign trail in Tokyo

Japan’s upper house election on July 21st means more noise pollution, and more repetition of potential candidates names. Now and again maybe even the odd nod towards policy too.

Plus it also means Yoshiro Nakamatsu (Dr. NakaMats). Serial inventor. Some would say serial liar. And something that’s not disputable, serial political candidate — this time for the Happiness Realization Party. A wish that certainly won’t be realised, but if the faces of those watching him were anything to go by, it will at least bring about a bit of happiness.

Yoshiro Nakamatsu (Dr. NakaMats)

Japanese voters turning their backs on politicians?

Just like Japan’s other attempts at democracy, last weekend’s Tokyo assembly election saw the capital hit by the usual campaign tactics; namely, the familiar sound of vested interests echoing round train stations and local neighbourhoods, as prospective candidates repeatedly bellow their names and not much else through ear-splitting sound systems.

However, with a voter turnout of only 43.5% — 11% down from 2009 and the second lowest figure on record — there’s a suggestion that after years of economic stagnation, bureaucratic waste and the ongoing problems of Fukushima, some people are finally turning their backs on politicians who did the same to the electorate a long time ago.

Japanese politician speech