COVID-19 INFORMATION What you need to know about the coronavirus if you are living in Japan or planning a visit.
In this April 6 photo, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe takes off his face mask as he arrives to speak to the media in Tokyo. Photo: REUTERS file
politics

Rare online outrage in Japan forces Abe to delay controversial bill

39 Comments
By Sakura Murakami and Eimi Yamamitsu

Outbursts of political anger are rare in Japan. Street protests tend to be tame and some are led by the elderly. Government supporters have swamped online debate at times, and the Shinzo Abe administration has rarely listened to voices of dissent.

But now, the coronanvirus is reshaping how the Japanese talk about politics.

In an unusual outburst of political anger, millions of tweets by hundreds of thousands of netizens have helped force the government to delay a bill extending the retirement age for prosecutors, which critics say threatens judicial independence.

Opposition party lawmakers and others have also said the legislation was aimed at giving a retroactive legal basis to a decision to keep Tokyo prosecutor Hiromu Kurokawa, who is seen as close to Abe, in his post after he reached retirement age.

Kurokawa tendered his resignation Thursday over a mahjong gambling scandal.

In a rare about-face, Abe delayed deliberations on the bill on Monday citing the "lack of public understanding", and while there were other sources of opposition to the bill, experts say the unusual online anger was a major factor.

"I felt we had the power to raise our voices and it made me wonder why we hadn't done any of this before," Fuemi, an advertising specialist credited with setting off the campaign against the bill, told Reuters by phone.

Fuemi, a feminist who has more than 13,000 followers, was accused online of being a "spy" and "traitor" after the campaign. She declined to give her name for fear of harassment.

Fuemi said she was not interested in politics, but the coronavirus lockdown prompted her to listen to parliamentary proceedings more closely. She thought the debates on the bill"didn't make sense" and kicked off the hashtag.

Fujio Toriumi, an associate professor of computational social science at the University of Tokyo, said the hashtag associated with the movement was tweeted 4.7 million times within three days by more than 500,000 Twitter accounts.

The campaign against the retirement age of prosecutors has been the strongest of online protests against a number of bills. Experts say these protests have allowed people to vent their frustration against the government as economic uncertainty mounts and the coronavirus epidemic drags on.

"It's not just a protest against the bill, but against the forceful tactics Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sometimes employs," said Masaaki Ito, media studies professor at Seikei Gakuen university in Tokyo.

Public support for Abe has slipped over what critics say is his clumsy handling of the coronavirus outbreak, which has tipped the world's third-largest economy into recession.

According to a poll taken last week by the daily Asahi Shimbun, Abe's approval ratings dropped eight points to 33 percent. Close to two-thirds of respondents opposed the retirement age bill.

But Abe has not conceded defeat and his justice minister has said the bill would be debated without any changes later.

"I think the government might try to get the law adopted again, but I don't think I have the power to do another online protest like this," Fuemi said. "I'm just a worker, after all."

© Thomson Reuters 2020.

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

39 Comments
Login to comment

Abe. A scoundrel. Abe with his fevered dreams of a Japanese Empire. Abe a right-wing nutcase. Corrupt and craven. Sent packing once. And should be shunted aside and kicked to the curb.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I have never liked Abe and or his wife and it is my guess she is ruling the country the way she acts in public.

Anyone who did not get the Abe mask you are not missing out, unless, you have a small face because they are small. The mask you see Abe wearing that barely covers his nose and mouth is what you are going to get in the mail, and so, no effect at all unless you are a child and or a have a small head and face.

I hope Koike will become the next PM would love to see how she would do in that position.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@oldman

Absolutely untrue despite those on here who will passionately agree. There are multiple resources online that totally destroy the myth that Japanese are apolitical and afraid to speak out on things like politics, lest they stand out against the grain.

Thanks for those links. They were very interesting. I think the main point was not the fact that Japanese people don't protest (or take political action), but that they don't do it as much or to such as degree as other nations.

I couldn't find any in-depth studies about the state of Japanese protests, but I did find this opinion piece, which you're welcome to read, in full, via the source link below:

~ "Public protest in Japan is often not as visible as it is in, say, South Korea, Hong Kong, Thailand, the Middle East, Europe or the United States...For today’s Japan, however, it’s the 1960 anpodemonstrations against the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty that are most remembered — fondly, it seems — by older Japanese involved in citizens’ movements, and with anger and sometimes fear by those on the right. In addition, protests in the 1960s over Minamata Disease led to a national awareness about the environment...Still, at the end of the day, the kind of public protests the media loves to cover aren’t really the way Japan works.

> ...“There’s a quiet underground movement that takes many invisible forms and it eventually leads to de facto change. That, in turn, eventually leads to policy change. It’s not necessarily a noneffective way of protesting.”

> ...The police keep tabs on different kinds of protest movements in a yearly report on public safety issues...In the 2014 report... ...Between January and October, the report says, 1,240 right-wing groups involving 3,320 people publicly protested against China’s claims to the Senkaku/Daioyu Islands. What’s more, around 3,600 people in about 1,500 groups protested over the issue of “comfort women,” denying that any coercion by the military had taken place and calling on Japan to sever diplomatic ties with South Korea. The anti-Korean group Zaitokukai was mentioned for the first time ever in the 2014 report...

> Other public protests cited were those directed against nuclear power restarts, the U.S. bases in Okinawa and Japan, the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, the collective self-defense agreement and the state secrets law..."

(Source: - https://www.japantimes.co.jp/life/2014/12/20/general/public-protest-japan-power-people/ )

0 ( +0 / -0 )

GW:

Yes, wishful thinking.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

What I would like to see is some outrage come election time & toss the LDP to the curb!

.

.

.

.

BUT this will NOT likely happen sadly!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

some 5 millions are affected some 3 millions are killed by covid 19, it shows you can have no vaccine, but just distancing technique only can help u to face likewise is the power of people is the greatest power..

0 ( +0 / -0 )

professor is right in her think. politicians anywhere cannot override people.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

i wonder what other malfeasance the electorate will find unappealing staying home watching over their leaders? This is direct democracy in action and Abe'a 30% is basically a fringe candidate . It would be wonderful to see this happen over and over until the old guard either wake up from their snooze or are replaced with better representation. Can't read too much into it though as that's wishful thinking, but it's certainly a great article to read, that it finally happened. People are watching now

2 ( +2 / -0 )

what a.....man/i hope thats polite enough?/

0 ( +0 / -0 )

...the last thing Japan needs is a woman PM.

Why is that?

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Online outrage, proof that Japanese people can be passionate and vocal about political issues if hiding in the anonymity of the internet.

Agreed Abe needs to be canned, but then Koike is likely to replace him, the last thing Japan needs is a woman PM.

-5 ( +0 / -5 )

Press freedom in Japan is better than N. Korea, Singapore or China, but is at the same level as Mongolia, technically a communist country. https://rsf.org/en/ranking

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Abe is trying to turn Japan into an Oligarchy. Good to see the Japanese people challenging it for their own good.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

He really is an arrogant little man.

His failure to get his own way isn’t because he was wrong, because his idea was a bad idea; but because the people ‘don’t understand’. In other words, the people are wrong and in time they will come to see the error of their ways. That’s why his Let Me Help Myself And My Pals bill has merely been put back, not dropped.

Abe needs to be dropped.

11 ( +11 / -0 )

GW

If you read what I wrote you would have seen that there was no spike in deaths from the same period last year and this year. I explained how we know as numbers are released monthly and due to the Japanese family registration system they are publicly available and all Japanese outlets have reported this. No spike in deaths not higher death rate to be exact few died between January 2020 and the end of April 2020 than died in the same period in 2019 and this has been attributed to few people out/traveling and a lower number if deaths due to accidents. Do you know what the numbers (blue & red) posted on every koban are? They are the number of car accidents and injury/deaths collected daily. That is the difference between the west and Japan things like this are part of a centralized system, not haphazard reporting via different systems based on what each state or province feels like doing.

-5 ( +1 / -6 )

Still haven't gotten my Abenomasks. Gonna nail them on an LDP poster.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

look at Abe! ~ A pathetic excuse of a PM and a man...

Can't wait to see the back of him & his tiny dirty lil masks!

5 ( +5 / -0 )

GW

Because with the Japanese kosekitohon and jyumiho systems the governments know monthly who and how many have died. The numbers were publish as they always are the first week of May. The Japanese government cannot alter the number of dead or the population count. We often complain about koseki system and jyuminho but unlike the USA, Canada and others the central gov doesn't need to rely on slow reporting from local govs regional departments, etc..

-6 ( +0 / -6 )

But despite the low testing and obviously inaccurate numbers of cases one thing stands out that has not been reported as widely as the lack of testing. That is that the number or deaths (from all causes) during the first 4 months of this year have not gone up despite all predictions from all the so-called expert especially those from the west.

How on earth can you come to that conclusion.... your own post you say, correctly, that little testing has been DONE.

So there is no way to know if deaths are happening to the virus or not! The only way we can get an idea is to compare deaths in 2020 to those prior to 2020, even then if there are spikes in 2020 I wonder if the govt will allow that to be known, sorry I cannot possibly trust the govt here sadly, TIJ.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Rather than give these old prosecutors a few more easy years at the trough why not PROSECUTE them for all their forced confessions, evidence tampering & suppression, abuse of power.

Most of these guys are actually criminals immune to ……… prosecution......

6 ( +6 / -0 )

While taking of his mask, his fingers are right over the front of the mask.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Glad people are speaking out, and even gladder still they're being listened to. I bet Abe sneaks it through anyway in the near future, all the same. He's already said he can do it "without the public's understanding" (a nice way of saying "Who gives a rat's butt about you?"). In any case, look at the pic. See him pinching the front of his mask, where the moisture would have accumulated? THAT is why masks are often more dangerous than no masks at all -- he's going to then proceed to touch things with the hand that is touching the front of his tiny cloth mask.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Look at his face in the picture above.....he is wearing his mask the wrong way. The Oni of Japanese politics.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

In a rare about-face, Abe delayed deliberations on the bill on Monday citing the "lack of public understanding",

No no abe. The public understands your intentions just fine. It's not that there's a lack of understanding, it's that there's a lack of interest and support. The fact that you blame this on a lack of understanding truly shows how much of an out-of-touch arrogant elitist you are.

10 ( +10 / -0 )

Abe said that we have a ... lack of public understanding.

Well, Abe san is the Prime Minister. So he must be telling the truth about us. OK! I need an increased understanding. Thank you Prime Minister Abe san. I will study harder today!

9 ( +9 / -0 )

"I felt we had the power to raise our voices and it made me wonder why we hadn't done any of this before," Fuemi, an advertising specialist credited with setting off the campaign against the bill, told Reuters by phone.

Basically, people didn't really care about many issues or other's concerns because it didn't affect them directly. The pandemic affected everyone and with time on their hands, people became more vocally critical of the government. The Japanese bullying and victim culture being used for good for once.

I also think by comparison, Koike's handling of this situation after her PR mistake with the Olympics has made Abe look weak, too.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

As far as I understand it, prosecutors who currently work past retirement age (60) must take a reduced (~70%) salary. The proposed law would allow them to work at full salary until 65. This doesn't actually seem so radical, but I guess it was a tone deaf move under current economic conditions.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

In an unusual outburst of political anger, millions of tweets by hundreds of thousands of netizens 

not a fan of twitter

2ch and yahoo news comments is better

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

This isn't just about Abe. It's about the population demanding appropriate and correct action from their government leaders. And like many other countries, this COVID19 situation has laid bare many issues that have been ignored and must be addressed. And they need to be addressed long after Abe is gone as well.

9 ( +10 / -1 )

drlucifer

Many experts both in Japan and out have pointed to the low testing rates for the virus here, many articles by multiple Japanese media outlets have also pointed this out.

But despite the low testing and obviously inaccurate numbers of cases one thing stands out that has not been reported as widely as the lack of testing. That is that the number or deaths (from all causes) during the first 4 months of this year have not gone up despite all predictions from all the so-called expert especially those from the west. To be exact they are down slightly. So it is clear the virus has not had the disastrous results as it has had in out developed countries despite Japan's high elderly population. A major difference is the general good health of the population and other cultural habits, but health is the main factor 3 UK studies have shown that 73% of all those that got seriously ill from covid were obese/overweight. The UK like most western countries has over 70% of its population overweight 30% obese and all the problems that go with it the average North American over 45 is on 4 to 5 daily meds, now compare that to less than 5% obesity in Japan and lack of all the associated problems. Testing everyone would have changed little except send the population into the same panic as western countries but for no reason here as the population is not the same overweight unhealthy population as the west.

-6 ( +2 / -8 )

I didn"t know prosecutors as a class evoke such feelings of sympathy from Japanese

7 ( +7 / -0 )

So many stories or corporate and political collusion and corruption, millions struggling and forced to wait for a meager and tardy government response, roads to nowhere being built by political cronies with regressive taxes and raising the retirement age for prosecutors is what gets people outraged?! I usually do not say this, but "Oh Japan..."

10 ( +11 / -1 )

Yes, I agree Yubaru. Now get back to work.

11 ( +11 / -0 )

This is what happens when people are either "tele-working" or not working at all. They have more time to respond, and dont have to worry about their "boss" checking up on them. They have more freedom to state their opinions, and because it's online, they can express them anonymously !

(Another reason Abe wants to get people back to work)

17 ( +19 / -2 )

Finally people understood Abe true colors

13 ( +14 / -1 )

Absolutely untrue despite those on here who will passionately agree. There are multiple resources online that totally destroy the myth that Japanese are apolitical and afraid to speak out on things like politics, lest they stand out against the grain.

Look at what is happening with the reporting of the virus here by experts, here on mainstream media, none is brave to point out that the numbers are heavily skewed due to the exceptionally low number of pcr test as that will make the expert standout as being unpatriotic and probably an end to appearing on the mainstream media.

15 ( +19 / -4 )

Outbursts of political anger are rare in Japan. Street protests tend to be tame and some are led by the elderly. Government supporters have swamped online debate at times, and the Shinzo Abe administration has rarely listened to voices of dissent.

Absolutely untrue despite those on here who will passionately agree. There are multiple resources online that totally destroy the myth that Japanese are apolitical and afraid to speak out on things like politics, lest they stand out against the grain.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/video/2015/aug/31/scores-of-thousands-of-peace-protesters-take-to-streets-of-japan-video

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7mpQK4aFxpw

-9 ( +7 / -16 )

Not just a worker, a voter. You have as much right to protest as they have to pass bills. It only takes one good person to stop evil. It's time people took an interest in what theses people do, might just force them to actually improve people's lives rather than crush them.

22 ( +22 / -0 )

It's like the Japanese people has FINALLY had enough of Abe! Thank heaven for this revelation.

22 ( +24 / -2 )

Login to leave a comment

Facebook users

Use your Facebook account to login or register with JapanToday. By doing so, you will also receive an email inviting you to receive our news alerts.

Facebook Connect

Login with your JapanToday account

User registration

Articles, Offers & Useful Resources

A mix of what's trending on our other sites