Consumers Union of Japan again participated in a large demonstration against the changes in Japan’s constitution. The event was held on November 19, 2015 outside the Parliament in Tokyo, and some 9000 people participated. We were joined by our new group, Consumers and Citizens for Article 9, and the photo shows our two flags at the evening protest as we wish to collect 20 million signatures until April, 2016 to abolish the changes made to the popular “Peace Clause” of the post-war constitution.
(This is a translation based on a Facebook post over at our new Japanese Facebook page, do have a look and please Like & Follow!)
Posted November 24th, 2015 in Civil Rights
The famous fish market in Tsukiji, Tokyo will move to a new location. Doubts remain about the safety of the Toyosu site, which formerly hosted a large coal plant for making city gas.
It has been found to be contaminated with a high level of chemicals, including benzene (which was 43,000 times above environmental safety standards) and cyanogens (860 times above environmental safety standards). Other toxins that were detected on the site include arsenic, mercury and cadmium. The Japan Times notes:
Naturally, existing operators in the market have expressed concern over the move. Makoto Nakazawa, secretary-general of the Tokyo Central Market labor union, is one of them. Nakazawa has worked inside Tsukiji fish market for about 30 years as a turret truck driver for an intermediate wholesaler. He claims there are a number of unresolved problems regarding Toyosu and believes the government should abandon its plan. (…)
Nakazawa has been organizing demonstrations with such organizations as the Consumers Union of Japan, opposing the relocation and calling on the municipal government to focus on renovating Tsukiji fish market instead.
As time ticks away, however, Nakazawa admits that most of the people openly opposing the relocation aren’t directly involved in the running of the market.
In February this year, Nakazawa surveyed 650 intermediate wholesalers regarding their views on the relocation. Out of the 254 respondents, 70 percent, or 179 shops, said construction for the new facility should be suspended until the area is completely toxin-free.
A further 55 percent said that the Tokyo Municipal Government gave little or no explanation on the details of the relocation to Toyosu. Their main concerns centered on the running costs of the new facility — the details of which, including the monthly expenses, have not been disclosed — and the contamination of the area.
“In truth, most people don’t want to move,” Nakazawa says. “I can, however, understand why many have given up. They may be experts on fish but fighting against the government is tough.”
Read the entire article: Tsukiji Countdown (E)
Related: Moving Tokyo’s Fish Market: Tsukiji In Trouble (E)
Food labelling in Japan is handled by the Consumer Affairs Agency, but since the enforcement of the Food Labeling Act in April 2015, the agency has been busy with the functional foods labelling issue while the revision of the food labelling system that is high on the priority list for consumers has not moved forward at all.
In discussions with consumers organizations on August 27, 2015, the secretary general of the Consumer Affairs Agency, Kumiko Bando, stated, “We are scheduled to deliberate on the genetically modified (GM) food labelling issue along with Internet food labelling, processed food ingredient country of origin labelling, and food additive labelling and intend to set up a deliberative body by the end of the year.” But at the same time she also said, “Consumer groups have various views, and while listening to the views of the industry organizations I would like to take all of these views as materials for judging how difficult it will be to realize the views of consumers.”
While the movement demanding labelling in the US is picking up steam and stricter labelling is being mooted in Asia, the vast majority of foods such as edible oils and soy sauce are still exempt from labelling in Japan. Demanding the GM food labelling system revision, which is only moving forward at a snail’s pace, Consumers Union of Japan and the NO! GMO Campaign have jointly initiated the One Million Signature Movement for the Strict Labelling of GM Food.
Keisuke Amagasa, author and chairperson of the No! GMO Campaign since 1996, explains: “Currently, only a few foods must be labelled if they contain genetically modified organisms (GMO). These include tofu, natto and miso, for which the GM food labelling has been mandatory since 2001. However, what consumers in Japan really want is for all foods that contain GMOs to be labelled properly. We are concerned that due to the Trans Pacific Partnership, it will become more difficult to get stricter rules for food labelling, because the new trade pact will make it easier for the US government and transnational corporations to challenge others for imposing what they call trade barriers. We have now initiated a campaign to collect signatures to pressure the Japanese government to improve the GMO labelling law. We think this is the last chance. We really want this campaign to be a success!”
To sign the petition for GM food labels, click here (J)
Posted October 21st, 2015 in Food
Protest Action against Japan’s new Acquisition, Technology & Logistics Agency (ATLA) under the Department of Defense on October 1, 2015
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his administration has done everything in his power to change Japan’s peace constitution, defying the peaceful wishes of a majority of the people. His government abolished the nation’s Three Principles banning exports of weapons in April, 2014. The plan is to make Japan a major weapons producer and arms exporter. Abe has even gone so far as to order the purchase of 17 Ospreys from Bell Helicopter in the United States for $3 billion, wasting an extravagant amount of tax revenue.
“Making a profit selling weapons is a most contemptible act, but the Abe government is now attempting to engage in this vile behavior as a state enterprise,” comments Koa Tasaka, co-chairman of Consumers Union of Japan. It is estimated that a third of Japan’s entire defense budget is being allocated for the new agency to handle the sales and purchases of weapons under the Department of Defense.
It rained on October 1, 2015, the day the new Acquisition, Technology & Logistics Agency (ATLA) under Japan’s Department of Defense was established in central Tokyo. A protest demonstration was held by peace organizations and NGOs outside the gates. Koa Tasaka further notes: ”I would like to step up the activities to bring down Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration in the next election as he is persevering in his immoral support for the weapons industry.”
Koa Tasaka explains: “Production and exports of arms should be stopped. Exporting weapons and weapon systems evokes war and prolongs suffering. More and more people have become aware of the importance of peace, especially considering the horrible impact war has on children around the world. In spite of this, Shinzo Abe’s government and Japan’s Federation of Economic Organizations (Keidanren) are behind the immoral promotion of this, giving priority to money over the lives of human beings.”
Consumers Union of Japan strongly opposes the TPP agreement as a whole, which we regard as a threat to our rights, and calls for a movement to prevent Japan from participating in the TPP
October 5, 2015
Consumers Union of Japan
On October 5, 2015, the Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations were concluded at a ministerial round in the US city of Atlanta. Thus the TPP has reached a new stage. These complex negotiations still have contradictions and need further legal adjustments before countries can ratify the agreement and enact it into national legislation. The debates and deliberations will now also begin in earnest in the parliaments of each member country.
“From the standpoint of consumers and producers, it is clear that Japan’s automobile industry and auto part makers won a big victory over other interests, especially the nation’s farmers and agricultural lobby. The stark-naked truth is that farmers will face a TPP agreement that completely fails to live up to the many promises made to them. Instead, the interests of large corporation and big capital took top priority, while ordinary people and their living conditions are under threat,” says Ono Kazuoki, co-chair of Consumers Union of Japan.
Back in 2012, when the Liberal Democratic Party was in opposition, its position was against TPP. LDP made promises to oppose participation in the negotiations as long as they were premised on tariff abolition without sanctuary, especially for agriculture. Other conditions included the rejection of numerical targets for cars and the investor–state dispute settlement (ISDS) clause, as well as protection of food safety standards and Japan’s universal healthcare system. LDP even printed election posters that the party “does not lie” and that they opposed TPP, which they put up all over Japan. CUJ’s Ono Kazuaki notes: “For example, in April, 2013, both Houses of Japan’s parliament agreed that tariffs on rice, pork and beef, wheat, barley and sugarcane should not be affected by TPP. These promises and parliamentary resolutions have now largely been broken by the outcomes of the TPP negotiations.”
There is strong opposition and a movement of people against TPP not only in Japan but in many countries, including the US, Australia and New Zealand. This is truly a growing international movement. More and more people realize that their right to safe food is being disregarded, while their access to medicines will be more restricted by higher costs and patent rules. For family farmers and small-scale agriculture, the onslaught of imported goods will make their survival impossible. “Consumers Union of Japan will now step up its campaign against TPP both domestically and internationally. We will cooperate with the civic movement and protest against the TPP from the point of view of consumers and citizens,” says Ono Kazuoki.
We strongly urge the Japanese government to exit the TPP agreement unless the following conditions are met: admit that it violates the pledges made to the Japanese people, and start new negotiations between the participating countries with a clean slate.
Consumers Union of Japan
Address: Nishi Waseda 1-9-19-207 Shinjuku-Ku, Tokyo, Japan (169-0051)