Watashi wa IWW no Abe Greenhouse desu. Tomorrow will mark the end of my third week in Japan, and yet this is the first time I have had the opportunity to spend any significant amount of time sitting and writing. Please accept my apologies for the lack of updates on my part or that of FW Sabu Kohso; we have both been incredibly busy with local organizing. I hope that the details I will add over the course of the next week or so will illuminate some additional aspects of our trip and of the state of labor movements in Japan.
On my first full day in the country, I attended the annual General Assembly of the All Freeters Union in Tokyo. With the help of a friend, I wrote a very brief introduction for myself in Japanese, which I read at the beginning of the meeting. Unfortunately, there was no one available to provide any significant amount of translation for me during the gathering, and so I simply sat quietly through approximately three hours of reportbacks and voting. Although I could occassionally pick out a word like "rodosha" [workers] or "shihon shuigi" [capitalism], most of the content flew directly over my head.
Before the meeting, I stopped by a community center in the San-Ya area of Tokyo, home to the city's large day laborer community. The center provides regular meals for workers, who face significant amounts of police repression, and earn only about 6,000 yen per day when they are fortunate enough to find work. Although I was only able to visit briefly, I met some of the activists who work at the center, and lent a quick hand as they prepared to serve a meal.
A parallel day laborers' movement exists in Osaka, in the central part of the Japanese mainland. Only one day before I arrived, the city was gripped by riots stemming from police repression of day laborers there. Unlike the police we dealt with later on Hokkaido, during the G8 summit, Osaka's police are well-versed in riot control tactics, heavily armed, and extremely brutal. A brief documentary was made about the rioting (the most recent episode in a decades-long series of small uprisings), and screened at one of the protest camps in Hokkaido. I wll be contacting the filmmaker in an effort to obtain an English-language version that can be screened in the US and elsewhere.
I've been continuing to learn more about the day laborers' struggles, the parallels between the movements in Osaka and Tokyo, and the connections between the police repression, organized crime, and the political right in Japan. It's fascinating stuff, and I hope to write more about it over the next week or so as I wind up my trip and return to the US.