Hundreds in Tokyo rally against China
Hundreds of Japanese marched through downtown Tokyo on Saturday in a loud, but tightly controlled protest against China’s claim to disputed islands in the East China Sea.
The protest, organised by the nationalist group “Ganbare Nippon” or “Go for It, Japan" followed scores of sometimes violent anti-Japanese demonstrations in China in recent weeks.
Though hundreds of Japanese protesters gathered in a downtown park and then marched through the glitzy Roppongi district, authorities only allowed small groups of five people each to visit the sidewalk opposite the Chinese Embassy.
“Come on out of there!” some of the protesters screamed at the well-guarded embassy building, which was closed. Dozens of police kept order, moving the groups away from the embassy after only a few minutes.
In the past few days, Chinese authorities appear to have reined in angry anti-Japanese demonstrations that they had been allowing in recent weeks.
After Japan’s government purchased some of the islands, claimed by both sides but controlled by Tokyo, from their private Japanese owners last week, the protests intensified and Beijing sent surveillance ships into waters near the islands.
The disputed islands, known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, have long been a lightning rod for simmering Chinese resentment toward Japan for its brutal invasion and occupation of parts of China in the first half of the 20th century.
Organisers of Saturday's march said more than 1,400 people participated. That figure appeared high, but a rough count found at least 800 protesters.
Trucks festooned with anti-China banners used megaphones to blare slogans such as “We will not forgive China!” and “We have the power to protect our nation!”
Many protesters carried large Japanese flags or placards reading “Sink the Chinese boats in our waters” and “Do not give in to the Beijing terrorists.”
“The Chinese claims over the islands are recent and this is plain stupidity,” said Masanori Ono, 69, who was marching in the protest.
Leaders of the demonstration appeared to be making the best of the limits imposed by police
“Unlike the violent Chinese, we Japanese are holding a calm, peaceful protest,” one organiser said over a loudspeaker. “This is our Japanese way.”
Though the anti-Japanese demonstrations in China, which included attacks on Japanese businesses, appear to have wound down, the rhetoric on both sides has remained uncompromising and there are no signs of progress in resolving the territorial dispute.
Saturday’s demonstration was the first large-scale protest over the issue in Japan, though right-wing protesters in black trucks routinely blast epithets at the Chinese Embassy.