Signs & posters can give you directions, tell you the name of the place, and even show you a glimpse of what is going on. Signs are like an abstract about a society.
We took the JR train to Shibuya station due to a friend told us Shibuya is the best place to shop. Immediately exiting the station we saw lots of people holding Japanese flags, using loud speakers, and wearing signs on themselves. From our usual, easy going, casual spirit of traveling, we started looking around with full attention to see what this is about.
Apparently they were protesting about the “invasion” of foreign media and people in Japan. The Japanese public television channel “NHK”(like our PBS/BBC) has been widely broadcasting Korean and Chinese TV Drama (with Japanese subtitles). Some days of the week there are only a few Japanese programs playing on NHK channel. That, did not sit well with the conservatives of the country, hence the protest on the streets and newspapers began.
Other issues raised at the protest are about influences in the government. The conservatives are suspecting some government workers accepting funds from other Asian countries, and may be more lenient to pass policies favoring immigrants and certain international trade deals. Slogan like “stop the invasion” and “give Japan back to Japanese people” started spreading in the protest. (Another huge dispute was over the legal right of a tiny little island, which Taiwan and China also claims to own)
I remembered JL told me an incident where he talked to a girl at his university in the past year. She looked concerned and very, very scared when she told him she is half Japanese and half Korean. It would have been nothing to us in America as we have many friends from different countries, nationality, and ethnicity. However, in Japan, because the most of the older population are more conservative, and in the past people with mixed blood lines are considered inferior to the society, many people who are “half/hafu” or “hapa” (Slang for people with mixed blood) tend to try to hide their ethnic bloodlines to avoid discrimination.
To explain the animosity some people has against other countries, we have to look back to the history. Japan has been in long battles with other Asian countries from ancient times. Sino-Japanese War and Korean War are just a few examples of clashes between Japan and its surrounding countries. The conservatives in Japan are mostly people who remembered the clashes from the old times, believe in firm nationalism ideals, along with ties to traditional values and how things would and should have been done as it was before. Even to this day, Japan and other countries are still having intense disputes about legal rights over the islands in the neighborhood.
Things have been changing though as the generation X and Y of Japanese are rising up. Korean music bands like “Girls Generation” are able to squeeze to the top 10 music charts in Japan. We know some Japanese university students with foreign music band posters in their rooms. Furthermore, most of the Japanese students are very nice to us and still make friends with us though we do have Chinese/Taiwanese and other mixed blood in us. We start to see Japan walking towards an international open market, and may be able to make a new connection with the rest of Asia for the better. (Take what you can and evolve them for the better in your own style. Right?)
Discrimination, protests, political unrest happens in all countries at some point. As a travel blogger we want to uncover each country and understand them from all perspectives. Posters, slogans, commercials, and other forms of media are clues for us to get an idea what is going on in the society.