Protesters hold Black Lives Matter demonstration in Tokyo, say Japan must confront its race problems

Thousands of protesters marched through Tokyo Sunday in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement in the U.S. and to call out Japan’s own problems with race.

Organizers said the demonstration was attended by at least 3,500 people, Reuters reported.

The protesters marched through Tokyo’s Shibuya and Harajuku districts chanting and holding up signs spelling out slogans such as “Racism Is A Pandemic” and “No Justice No Peace”.

People march to protest during a solidarity rally for the death of George Floyd in Tokyo Sunday, June 14, 2020. Floyd died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers on May 25. 

People march to protest during a solidarity rally for the death of George Floyd in Tokyo Sunday, June 14, 2020. Floyd died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers on May 25.  (AP)

The protests were one of hundreds held around the world in recent weeks inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement in the U.S. and the death of George Floyd while in the custody of a white police officer late last month.

“It is not enough to just send our prayers,” university graduate Shu Fukui said. “We need to change society, not only for George Floyd, but also for those who died in the past.”

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Many of the protesters at Sunday's march said Japan needed to confront its own problems with racism.

Naho Ida told Reuters Japan has many “far-right people who discriminate against other races,” particularly Koreans and Chinese.

Koreans and Chinese in Japan are exposed to a lot of hate speech,” said Naho. “These things must not be allowed, and we need to oppose this.”

Mitsuaki Shidara, standing in the crowd at Yoyogi Park, where the march began, said Japan has plenty of discrimination problems, but they're overlooked.

"We are all human first, but we are divided by nationality, gender, religion, skin color," he said, wearing a pendant with the Japanese character for "love," which he said was his favorite word.

"What's happening in the U.S. shows racism is going on, even after 400 years," said Shidara, who works for a food maker.

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Last week, a rally with similar themes in Tokyo drew several hundred people, and one in Osaka, in central Japan, drew about 2,000. More Black Lives Matter gatherings are planned for next week, in the southwestern city of Fukuoka and the central city of Nagoya.

Although Japan is not known for police brutality, people have come forward recently, complaining that police have treated foreigners, especially black people, unfairly, stopping them for no reason, or have handled people with unneeded force.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.