Monday, August 08, 2005

Loud Japanese Streets

My office is right next to the US Embassy in Tokyo, which makes for an interesting, if unnerving work environment. The place is always swarming with cops manning every corner. Today when I was walking to buy a bento the cops suddenly rushed into action and I stopped to see what would take place. One of the occasional political activist vehicles with speakers blaring a speech was crawling by. The cops blocked off the street with a small metal fence, and then with a huge armored police-bus, forcing the activists to drive on away from the embassy.

Unlike in the U.S., there doesn't seem to be any ordinance on noise pollution here. The recorded songs of the hot potato vendors, the broken appliance pick-up men, and the political trucks is ample testimony to that. Thus the best the cops can do is redirect the truck away, perhaps cite it for disrupting traffic for driving too slowly.

From within my office I can hear their vehicles pass by, from time to time, but even when I'm on the street, I can never understand what they are saying. Unfortunately I didn't have my camera at the time or I would post some pics.

Later in the week, the cops were deployed in force in riot gear. That was the first time I had seen that in three months of working here. The next day they were back to normal. I can't decide if their presence makes me feel safer or not.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

What's up with all the cops around the embassy? Are relations at a low point, or is this just the usual protection for the American occupiers?


2:50 PM  
Blogger jarsyl said...

You could say that the US has sunk to a low point in the world's estimation. My roommate Craig says that a lot, although his beef against the US has nothing to do with the "occupation" of Japan.

Apparently though, a common demand of the protestors at the US embassy is for the US to close the military bases that take up much of the small islands of Okinawa. To answer your specific question, the police presence has been heavy throughout my three months working in the vicinity. The number of cops in major train stations has also increased here since 9/11.

12:30 AM  
Anonymous marcpat said...

very interesting blog, jarsyl. I'd be real interested in investigating what caused the current swelling of police too.

10:37 AM  
Blogger jarsyl said...

Hey Marc! Thanks for visiting and contributing.

I should note that there are also many police manning the streets leading to the Diet building and the residences of the ministers.

On occasions I'll see the politicians' motorcades of sleek black chauffeured cars near my workplace. One time I even came upon a crowd of cameramen stationed outside a otherwise unobtrusive traditional restaurant, waiting for someone famous to emerge. I would've stuck around too, but I had to be somewhere else that evening, unfortunately.

10:54 PM  

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