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Foreigners join weekly protest against nuclear energy: who they are and why they went

20 Comments
By Dreux Richard

Twenty-two foreigners attended the Sept 14 protest against nuclear energy.

American expatriate Peter Q and his wife, Naoko, were disappointed: the sidewalk leading to the prime minister’s residence had been bisected by traffic cones; protesters on one side, the other a travel lane for commuters and passersby. On their side, demonstrators stood no more than four abreast. The line they formed snaked for several blocks, and enthusiasm varied by location: distance from the Kantei, from the nearest loudspeaker.

“Please report that we’re upset to be boxed in, and told – over and over again by megaphone – not to bother the pedestrians,” said Naoko. “This isn’t a protest. Think of the ‘60s. Here, tonight, this is just a game we’re playing.”

Peter, the first visible Westerner to arrive at the protest, has lived in Japan since 1982. He works as a salaryman. He believes the severity of the earthquake has been exaggerated (from roughly 7 to 9 on the Richter Scale) to soft-pedal the avoidability of the Fukushima disaster. He would like to start an English-language talk group to discuss this and other revelations from alternative news sources; he has discovered that Japanese environmentalists are often preoccupied with beer and beef.

As he held Naoko’s hand behind the traffic cones, he was concerned that he would be photographed by police and deported. “I dressed as much like a tourist as I could.” (Slacks, blue dress shirt, ball cap). He wore large, dark sunglasses over his corrective lenses. He brought a surgical mask to cover his thick, white beard. He ducked away from my camera when I turned it toward the crowd. Minutes later, he was gone. Before he left, he professed no surprise at the sudden burst of Japanese civic engagement. “Creators and defenders of good have their limit,” he said.

Justin Berti, a yoga teacher and New York native, shared Naoko’s opinion of the protest. “If I were in control of nuclear power and I saw these protesters, I would laugh at them,” said Berti. On his list of complaints: the protest’s serpentine layout, the crowd’s polite weekly dispersal at 8 p.m., the predictability of protester behavior. “Does somebody have to throw a bottle? It’s sad to say, but every great protest movement – Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King – someone has to die.”

Berti calls himself The Yoga Terminator. He teaches at Kike Yamakawa’s FAB academy, a dance and entertainment space in Azabudai where, according to Berti, “everything is a production.” His web presence features the slogan “We don’t meditate, we terminate!” Above it he poses, his bare muscles glistening, in pink spandex compression sleeves and fitness shorts, holding water pistols. He is a graduate of Columbia University. He speaks Japanese well, and wants people to know it.

Berti, along with friends Dean Newcombe and Jessica H, was a popular target for Japanese media photographers. Jessica posed holding a sign declaring solidarity with the unfolding protests in Kudankulam, where thousands of Indian women from the nearby village of Idinthakarai have gathered at a nuclear generating station to prevent the loading of fuel.

Jessica works in human resources for a machinery corporation’s conveyance subsidiary. She has lived in Tokyo for 24 years. Asked if she feels it’s important for foreigners to make themselves visible at the protests, she replied, “I don’t consider myself not Japanese.” Part time, she’s a life coach. Her self-developed coaching philosophy proclaims the primacy of life’s "transition" moments. She is working to self-publish a book, "In Transit." It will teach readers how to monitor their progress along a "transition timeline." She isn’t certain she wants her real name used – visa anxiety. An essay she authored alludes to past nervous breakdowns, subsequent sojourns, a decision to live “on the soul track.”

Dean Newcombe is a British model and actor. He is the founder of Intrepid Model Adventures, which he describes as a “global movement.” He says he has raised 41 million yen for 3/11 relief efforts. The organization’s web materials include a blog of Dean’s volunteer work in Tohoku, a case study of his campaign to help his mother lose weight, a promotional video for a Sanyo handicam that finds Dean wandering a low-budget digital landscape, his playlist (Coldplay, Black Eyed Peas, The Internationale). Also: The Meaning of Life. On this night, he attended the protests for the fifth time. “We’re not against anything,” he said. “We’re about what we want. That’s better for our spiritual energy.” About the role expatriates should play in the protests: “We’ll keep coming. I’ll keep posting pictures.”

Twelve visible Westerners attended as members of the press. Foreign news agencies skewed European: representatives of the Swedish, German, Dutch and French media.

Damon Coulter is a freelance photographer. “Tonight is just for fun,” he said. When the Friday protests began, he was able to sell photos of them. They don’t sell anymore. He nonetheless attends and photographs weekly. The organizers recognize him, are glad for his reliable presence, diligence. An hour after the protest ended, his phone rang; an agency had heard there was a demonstration. Could he cover? It’s already over, he told them – I was there. By then he was having drinks with other expatriate photographers and journalists in Shibuya. He talked about taking the family he has started in Japan back to England.

Here, he can’t afford the kind of education he’d like his children to have, and is apprehensive about submitting them to a high school system he calls “salaryma training.” He recalled how, on a visit to Yokohoma International School, he discovered that every flat surface in the classrooms had been thoughtfully adorned. The Kanagawa public schools his children would have to attend are bare-walled and septic. But he also wondered aloud how much of the public health care and decent schooling Britain offers will vanish before his children reach adulthood. Everywhere seems on the brink.

British photojournalist Tony McNicol’s current project brings him to the protests regularly: black and white portraits of protesters. Tony works in color, but wanted the simplest pictures possible; fill flash disembodies his subjects from the unfolding demonstration. Over the years, many spent freelance, Tony’s primary patrons have been in-flight magazines. He now earns the lion’s share of his income working in communications for Nissan. He feels fortunate to have accomplished what many would like: a career spent writing and photographing in Japan.

He said as much on the following Monday, from a corner table in the FCCJ’s 20th floor lounge. It afforded a view of the world’s largest city, if not the energy that coursed through it, nor the reactors whose names are audible each Friday in Nagatacho.

© Japan Today

©2024 GPlusMedia Inc.


20 Comments
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Wow, that there's some, er, interesting people.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

“Does somebody have to throw a bottle? It’s sad to say, but every great protest movement – Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King – someone has to die.”

Then why don't you take one for the team, Yoga Terminator?

11 ( +10 / -0 )

As he held Naoko's hand behind the traffic cones, he was concerned that he would be photographed by police and deported. "I dressed as much like a tourist as I could."

If I thought that I could be deported for being present at a peaceful demonstration, that would be an issue that would concern me more about the country I live in, rather than how its energy is produced.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

Tony McNicol's (good, important) portraits can be found here: http://www.facebook.com/JapanProtestPower

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

I've never attended Any of the protests for the reasons listed above.

It all seems too well-organized and even apologetic in its approach.

This is typically Japanese, and anyone who's been to any large gathering usually sees how, at the end, everyone is usherd and guided home.

I wish people would take the initiative here.

They gather, but I really believe that their voices are no longer heard.

And, what is the guy on to think the quake Was exaggerated? Ridiculous.

The Brit is right about schools/colleges being "salaryman training". Good point.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Here, he can’t afford the kind of education he’d like his children to have, and is apprehensive about submitting them to a high school system he calls “salaryma training.” He recalled how, on a visit to Yokohoma International School, he discovered that every flat surface in the classrooms had been thoughtfully adorned. The Kanagawa public schools his children would have to attend are bare-walled and septic. But he also wondered aloud how much of the public health care and decent schooling Britain offers will vanish before his children reach adulthood. Everywhere seems on the brink.

What does this bit have to do with the protests, or nuclear power for that matter???

He believes the severity of the earthquake has been exaggerated (from roughly 7 to 9 on the Richter Scale) to soft-pedal the avoidability of the Fukushima disaster.

Yeah. Of course. I bet as he said that, his tinfoil hat was shining away! Yeah, it was really a 7 pointer, but the Japanese government paid off the USGS and every other earthquake monitoring station in the world to say it was M9...

3 ( +4 / -1 )

"He believes the severity of the earthquake has been exaggerated (from roughly 7 to 9 on the Richter Scale) to soft-pedal the avoidability of the Fukushima disaster."

If that is an accurate statement of Peter Q's beliefs, his opinion is not worth the time I spent reading it. Thankfully I stopped there and didn't read the whole article.

His wife, who thinks her opinion should disrupt my ability to walk to work, pisses me off, too!

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Asked if she feels it’s important for foreigners to make themselves visible at the protests, she replied, “I don’t consider myself not Japanese.”

Been in Japan 24 years and still hasnt learned that you arent Japanese if you dont LOOK Japanese?

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Peter, the first visible Westerner to arrive at the protest, has lived in Japan since 1982. He works as a salaryman. He believes the severity of the earthquake has been exaggerated (from roughly 7 to 9 on the Richter Scale) to soft-pedal the avoidability of the Fukushima disaster.

What? He thinks the March earthquake was only a 7? It was stated as being a 9 before everyone realised how serious the Fukushima accident was.

All of the ex-pats mentioned in the report seem to be a bit... weird:

4 ( +4 / -0 )

idiots

1 ( +3 / -2 )

When I started reading this there was a topic, when I finished I thought WTF did I just go through LOL! Theatre of the bizarre, so I have no idea what to rant about because I cant remember what started this weird blurb!

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Good for you guys! You pay tax to Japanese government and your voice should be heard.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

@GW, exactly... what did I just read???

2 ( +2 / -0 )

He would like to start an English-language talk group to discuss this and other revelations from alternative news sources; he has discovered that Japanese environmentalists are often preoccupied with beer and beef.

Can anyone say "conspiracy theorist"?

I do believe that it's gwaijin like this that make the rest of us look bad. Or at least down-right goofy!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

No! The Japanese must do this themselves. Any 'gaijin' in the mix will undoubtedly by blamed for anything bad that happens. Demonstration gets slightly out of hand? Gaijin blamed for 'riot' in central Tokyo with photos of gaijin.

This comes at an odd time. Protests over a very serious issue are ushered and controlled in one part of the world; protests over a silly movie descend into murderous riots in another.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

This is a classic case of "Don't do as I say! "Don't do as I do." Well unless it is we Japanese doing it!! This is why neither my husband or I attend any protest of any kind. Any foreigner involved in a protest like this is going to be blamed for it. Even if their intentions were good, it doesn't matter.

She has lived in Tokyo for 24 years. Asked if she feels it's important for foreigners to make themselves visible at the protests, she replied, I don't consider myself not Japanese.

Face plant!! She has lived here for 24 years and this is all she has learned, what a waste!! Of coarse she is going to be asked that question. Just as every foreigner long term or not is ask that question. Just as my husband is asked if he can use chop sticks or use the bathroom. I admit I am at fault for this as well and have to catch myself when doing it. Although he takes it in stride and says.

Please show me again. I keep forgetting the proper technique lol.

Such a Japanese thing to say haha. Don't take it personally as this is just what we Japanese do. Letting her ignorance and pride get in the road is only making her look like another clueless Gaijin. I appreciate people are wanting to show their support. Although in Japan let us handle our own fights. If you want to show support do so by contributing in other ways which aren't going to put in the line of fire. :)

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Peter ... believes the severity of the earthquake has been exaggerated

"Peter" sounds like a prize doofus. I suppose he also questions the weight shown by his bathroom scales? "I don't really weigh 100 kg", he says, "I only weigh 60 kg".

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Like the rest of the protesters - They are just wishful thinking dreamers! I wonder how many know and /or protest if their power bill doubles and Japans economy goes down the toilet caused by high electricity costs... And therefore be un-employed!

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

I notice there were no nuclear physicists or nuclear power engineers among the protesters mentioned. How is it that only the people with no qualifications whatsoever in nuclear energy have figured out how "dangerous" it is? Gosh, this must be yet another government conspiracy!

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

I was also at this protest and interviewed by this person. No mention of the serious issues I raised, or the serious reasons for being present. This is pure sensationalism. If you choose to report on a serious topic that affects the entire country, and in fact the entire planet, then do it properly. Or don't do it at all.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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