Japan’s 2008 Riots: Rendered invisible?

An Italian news crew, at times offering the kind of principled and socially engaged commentary I applauded earlier, produced a unique document of riots in Osaka, Japan, and they noted that no other journalists were present. The context was the G-8 meeting held there in June, and while we were made barely aware on this side of the world about little more than a few protests, we were not told of rioting by the mainstream media, and no wonder, since they were absent. Nor was there any mention of Osaka’s tent towns, in the shadow of a transnational capitalist summit.

Given the Olympian flame of revolt and rioting ignited in Athens, that continues to burn there, and that has spread to over two dozen nations, and several dozen cities worldwide (including at least a dozen within the U.S.), and, given the power of social media to connect and coordinate protests worldwide (the way this very blog has done its little bit to help in that effort), then perhaps it should not be surprising if the authorities tried to suffocate reporting of any riots in any one place.

Recently, following the dearth of any mainstream news about the Japanese riots, Al Jazeera began to broadcast a documentary by Lisa Cazzato, featured on Al Jazeera‘s “People & Power” program (4 December 2008):

The violence between the police and homeless rioters garnered little local or international media attention because the Japanese government was anxious not to disrupt the climate of the G8 summit, which was hosted by Japan in July.

The Japanese authorities keep this community of homeless persons behind a wall, so as not to disturb the veneer of order and stability, and to keep them out of view for foreign visitors.


Thanks to toled for this message from his blog, from 22 Dec. 2008, where I also saw the video (in Italian):

My dear friends and enemies of the world,

I cried for those who died, and I’ve been crying as hard as I can for what many of you have been doing about it. Be assured: we are aware of what’s happening in Greece, Spain, France, Italy, and possibly the United States, and on behalf of all the residents of my country, Japan, I express unequivocal solidarity with you.

On the other hand, I’m troubled by the length of the list. The same thing is happening all over the world, and it can’t be contained in Europe. This is a world revolution, my comrades, and I urge you to expand the list.

For example, this is what happened in Japan in 2008 (see the video at the end).

You probably failed to notice this, due to the specific nature of the mainstream media in this country. But I’m telling you, and now you know it. I hear similar events (in a variety of ways) have been taking place in Korea and China.

The rest of the world? Well, my knowledge is restricted, but my imagination makes it possible to believe that this is a global phenomenon: I hear the screams and gunshots from everywhere, and I’m crying in advance for those of you I don’t yet know about.

So my friends, I have a proposal. Let’s revise the list: why don’t we include every single country and area on the earth? Actually, I have an even better and much more economical solution: radically shorten the list so it includes only one phrase: the world.

What about the Red Planet? Ok, then probably “the universe” is a better alternative, although it might trigger a string of questions about the definition of the word “list,” and ways of thinking about a part and the whole.

Yujiro Tsuneno,

Tokyo, Japan

Cosmopolitan anarchism meets liberal democratic silencing. Let’s hope that 2008 saw the start of our bringing down our own many Berlin Walls, starting with the mental ones first.

Towards the end, the journalist translates an elderly man he interviewed as saying that, “in Japan, power looks down on us, and the media are part of power.” The journalist adds that no foreign press was present at the revolt, nor local media, who would not show up even after the revolt. In the meantime, at the G8 summit, some official is quoted as muttering something about a “bread revolt” — the commentator notes that rice is instead the staple. “Even in Japan,” the journalist adds, “we await the popular revolt.”

One thought on “Japan’s 2008 Riots: Rendered invisible?

  1. You might take a look at my 2004 book, Sustainability, Human Ecology and the Collapse of Complex Societies published by Ewin Mellen Press (2nd edition with new title as War, Religion and Taxation: An Anthropological Perspective on Sustainable Complex Societies, 2009) where I have a study of Japan’s unique adaptation to capitalism. Your analysis of this event is interesting but one would like to know more, background of those involved, etc. Many of my colleagues in Japan have written on riots of farmers, workers, etc. in the past 3 decades can you put this recent event into a economic analysis?

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