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Japanese Youths Crying out for Democracy and Peace: SEALDs

2015.08.01 Sat

Cries of fury are reverberating in front of the National Diet Building in Tokyo, as protesters demonstrate against Prime Minister Abe’s security bills that would allow the Japanese self-defense force to fight overseas for the first time since WWII. Leading the protest every Friday evening is a youth group called Students Emergency Action for Liberal Democracy (SEALDs), whose presence has drawn much attention from the media:

“Students protest planned security legislation in front of Diet,” Asahi Shimbun.

“Youth Rising Against the Security Bills,” Pressenza.

“Campaign group SEALDs hooking Japan’s youth with jazzy placards, fliers,” Japan Times.

“A political turning point for Japan’s youth,” Japan Times.

“SEALDs student group reinvigorates Japan’s anti-war protest movement,” Japan Times.

Image from SEALDs’ website
Here are a few examples of how some of the young, hip protesters are expressing themselves at demonstrations.

Beniko, a twenty-four-year-old shop clerk and a member of SEALDs, spoke to 1,000 protesters on June 12, 2015:

“Last year, I never thought I would take part in such demonstrations; nor had I ever imagined myself making a public speech like this. Along the way, I’ve had bitter experiences; some of my friends left me. Some people said I had changed, and some thought I was annoying. But I have always been like this, speaking out when I feel something is wrong. Sounding off when it doesn’t feel right. That should be a standard way of engaging in the politics.

“Today, before I came here, I bought a bikini and I’m still contemplating when to put on my new fake lashes for summer. It should be normal that people like me, fussing over swimsuits and makeup, stand up and be counted in the politics. That should be regarded as a standard. Till the day comes, I will continue to stand up and make myself heard.”

On July 15, 2015 in Osaka, Tomoka made a speech at the SEALDs KANSAI demonstration that touched many across the nation:

“I cannot bring back the lives that are lost in battles. I cannot rebuild the cities that are destroyed by air raids. I cannot take responsibility for the future of the children who are injured by the arms produced by Japanese companies. I cannot heal even a slightest bit of the sorrow caused by the loss of families. I cannot gloss over what I cannot account for, like Prime Minister Abe does when he uses terms such as “absolutely” and “I promise.” Mr. Abe, our Constitution prohibits the use of arms and does not allow your dictatorship. If you continue to neglect the principles of the people’s sovereignty, a fundamental human right, and pacifism, you are no longer our prime minister.

“As long as our democracy exists, we have the right to drag you down from the seat of authority. We have the power. You will resign this summer, and next year, for the seventy-first time, we will celebrate another year of peace.”

The following week in Tokyo, Mana Shibata, a college junior, echoed her voice in front of 70,000 protesters:

“Prime Minister Abe, can you possibly erase my worries? Can you provide a future free from health concerns for children in Fukushima? Can you give back base-free lands to grandmas and grandpas in Okinawa? Can you possibly turn this country into a place where people hope to bring up their children? We can no longer trust our future in you.

“As I speak, the view from here makes me full of hope. Mr. Abe, come and join me. The faces lining up here are much more determined and hopeful than those that you are used to seeing.”

Photos and videos of demonstrations are available at: (in Japanese) and (in English).

Text by Aya Kitamura

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