Friday, September 25, 2015

The Real Will of the Japanese Public at the Friendship Festival in Yokota Air Base


So many people at the US-Japanese Friendship Festival


The US-Japanese Friendship Festival was held on September 19 and 20 at Yokota Air Base of the USFJ (US Forces in Japan) and the JASDF (Japan Air Self Defense Force). The Friendship Festival this year needs more attention than ever. That is because the security bill had passed in the House of Councilors through excessively emotional partisan battle, early on September 19, just before the festival. How this event is taken among the public is a critical test to know the real will of the Japanese that has not revealed in media reports and academic researches. The bottom line is that the media attitude was wrong to over-evaluate opponent voices. That is because innumerable number of visitors and vibrant atmosphere of the Friendship Festival show strong support for the US-Japanese alliance and the defense law among the Japanese public eloquently, whatever they say.


The Osprey draws so many visitors.


This security bill caused huge street demonstrations in front of the National Diet by left wing and liberal opponents such as SEALDs (Students Emergency Action for Liberal Democracy-s), and the media paid great attention to them as the return of the conflict over the US-Japanese security treaty in 1960. The demonstrations were so big that Katsuya Okada, Leader of the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), branded the bill as a neglect of people’s voices. Certainly, so many people occupied Nagatacho, and shouted loudly against the security bill. But do they really represent Japanese public opinion, both in terms of logic and emotion? We must bear in mind that left wing groups are adept in mobilizing people to such street rallies. According to the introductory theory of political science, a strongly united and firmly directed organization can exert more influence than the majority of people. It is quite doubtful how much Nagatacho occupiers represent Japanese public opinion.


Incredibly many people are waiting to get on board AWACS.



On the other hand, citizens visited the US-Japanese Friendship Festival in Yokota AirBasewere not mobilized by any organization, and they came there voluntarily. Usually, it takes about 15 minutes from Ushihama Station on the JR Ome Line to the base on foot, but it took more than one hour when I visited there. The police arranged the cue of visitors to to go by a roundabout route, so that the huge crowd would not obstruct the traffic of people in the neighborhood. Even before entering the base, such an immense crowd showed high support to the USFJ and the SDF, and their popularity, and it was hardly imaginable that base visitors were Japanese citizens as Natagacho occupiers were. On our way to the base, we found about 20 activists of the Democratic Youth League of Japan were demonstrating against the security bill, but visitors to the US-Japanese Friendship estival are the least likely to listen to what they say. Their rally was simply scorned and scoffed.


GIs and a Japanese girl



In the end, I managed to enter the base, but I had to wait very long at every pavilion and exhibition. Also, numerous visitors took photos with American soldiers. Seeing scenes like these, you will realize immediately, which group do Japanese people trust, the USFJ and the SDF, or SEALDs and Professor Emeritus Setsu Kobayashi of Keio University. Nagatacho occupiers ignored silent voices among the public, and behaved as if “L’opinion publique, c’est nous (We are the public opinion)”. That attitude is quite like that of Louis le Grand, and thus, they are not eligible to call themselves civic activists at all. Politicians who misunderstand public opinion like DPJ leader Okada, should pay attention to people who welcome the US Forces simply and frankly. Such innocent support for the US Forces and the Self Defense Forces is widespread not only among visitors came to the base from somewhere far away by train. People living around the base enjoyed the festival in the neighborhood, and entered the facility to see the firework at night. Unlike Okinawa where left wingers come from the mainland, US Forces in Yokota are on good terms with the local community.


Pax Americana? People rest peacefully on the ground.



In view of these, I would question biased coverage by the media that takes up voices of opponents to the security bill, which has emboldened them more than necessary. They are supposed to listen to silent voices among the public. In addition, opponent parties shouted impatiently, “People do not understand”. However, innumerable number of people showed empathy and understanding to the USFJ and the SDF. The US-Japanese Friendship Festival at Yokota Air Base says it for itself. This implies that acceptance to the security bill that promotes further US-Japanese defense cooperation is spreading quietly among the public. Understanding of this defense law is dependent on the will much more than the brain. It will end up in vain to tell the transition of international affairs and its Hobbesian nature to doctrinaire unilateral pacifists like Nagatacho occupiers. Those who do not want to understand shall never understand whatever they hear. The real grassroots are visitors to Yokota Air Base. Therefore, when the government execute the bill after the vote, they should consider which groups’ voices need to be most seriously taken into account.