The war against racism rages on in Japan. On July 14, 2013, I hopped on a bullet train in Tokyo and headed west towards Osaka -- Japan's Second City, the home of big hearts -- to march in the Osaka Against Racism parade. I'd spent last four months screaming at racists when they marched in Tokyo's Korean neighborhood, but that Sunday was different -- it was a chance for the anti-racists to do the marching. And what a parade it turned out to be.
All kinds of people were there. Young people, old people, children, Koreans in ceremonial dress, members of the LGBT community (the two women to the left in the above photo walked the whole parade without once letting each other go), musicians, Twitterers, activists, media people, people on brightly decorated bicycles, etc., etc. One woman was carrying a flag that showed a crown of thorns, the symbol of burakumin activism. This was a parade for anyone and everyone who wanted to stop hate in any form.
We marched south down Midosuji, which is Osaka's main street, the great city's main artery. I never dreamed I 'd find myself marching past Osaka's city hall, its big banks and department stores on a bright Sunday afternoon with the rainbow flag flying above me. I'd always thought the rainbow flag was the flag of the LGBT community, but on that day it felt like a flag for everyone, which was what it was probably meant to be. The sound truck that led the parade played Otis Redding's "A Change Is Gonna Come," a majestic and dignified song that set the parade's tone of equality, humility and friendship. The parade's young MC kept the messages upbeat and never self-important. When racists showed up on the sidewalks, we chanted "Nakayoku-shiyoh-zeh (Let's be friends)," instead of showering them with insults, which is what we counter-demonstrators usually do during the Zaitokukai's hate marches. This was a march for inclusion.
There was so much optimism and friendliness that day. People were handing out roses to strangers (I gave one of mine to a little girl who was marching with her father). We waved to shoppers on the sidewalks and they answered with peace signs. People really did gather from all over Japan for the march and organizers said that 600 kindred spirits marched together that day -- twice the anticipated number, supplanted by many who joined in on the fly. The march lasted only an hour but I wish it'd gone on forever. While it may be true that a march or two isn't going to do much against racism -- there's plenty of it on these isles, and it's engrained -- but who ever said racism had to be here permanently?
There's already talk of another parade in Osaka the same time, next year. Meanwhile, plans are underway for an anti-racism march in Tokyo on Sunday, September 22, 2013 to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. I know I'm going!
THE MARCH ON TOKYO FOR FREEDOM!
Sunday, September 22, 2013, starting at 1PM. Marchers be at Shinjuku Chuo Koen at 12:30PM. https://twitter.com/pfarjp