Japan: Nagano red for Olympic torch relay

Update: Video footage added below.

The Japanese leg of the Olympic torch relay came to an end on Saturday without serious incident, but many Japanese bloggers who attended the event were left with lasting — and often bitter — impressions. The story of a Tibetan exile living in Taiwan, who jumped at the runner and was taken down by police, sparked hundreds of posts on 2channel, as did the choice of police to block protesters holding Tibetan flags from entering the area around the finish line.

Clash of flags at the Olympic torch relay in Nagano. (from Mousan's Flickr page)

Many bloggers pointed out how Nagano, for one day, seemed to transform into China. Blogger shuyan writes:


My impression was that: “For this one day only, Nagano has transformed completely into China.”
The images confirmed on television and in pictures were at any rate that of a cavalcade of red national flags.
I suppose a lot of people, seeing the overbearing security, must have wondered: “Is this really Japan?”
This strange atmosphere had a feeling that was worlds apart from a peace festival.

In a post entitled “Nagano was red”, blogger Vasi (ヴァスィ) writes:


Roads steeped in a deep red.
Clashing Tibet supporters and Chinese people.
The running torchbearer, surrounded by many layers [of security].
The Nagano prefectural police, admitting only Chinese people to the finish line.
The weak and biased mass media. (This is nothing out of the ordinary…)

Olympic torch relay in Nagano. (from Mousan's Flickr page)

Many bloggers expressed frustration at the police presence. Blogger ae0800 writes about their own experience:


I passed the starting line around 6am, about two hours before the start of the relay, and at that time I was told by the police to put the message board I was holding into my bag. The pretext was that: “It is to protect you guys from trouble. If you can't follow [these rules], you can't continue past here.” Even though there were already many Chinese flags fluttering in the area around the starting line, and regardless of the fact that it was not “packed [with people]” at all and there was lots of space, Tibet supporters were not allowed to wave national flags or to carry boards, or to “remain there”. Some people who were walking with us raised their voices in protest, but they were met with very oppressive treatment and told that: “That is not something we should talk about here. No explanation or questions will be accepted.”

Olympic torch relay in Nagano. (from Mousan's Flickr page)

An article at OhmyNews cast suspicions, however, on the motivations of some of the pro-Tibet protesters. As writer Fujikura Yoshiro explains:


On the 26th, in the skirmish of “Tibet supporters” that happened before the start of the torch relay in Nagano City, I was covering the event at the site, and I felt a certain unnaturalness. The words and attitude of the “Tibet supporters” at the event were clearly different from the demonstration marches and speeches of Tibetan people that have been reported on in OhmyNews in the past.

The article goes on to explain that these “Tibet supporters” were actually Japanese “fake Tibet supporters” deliberately trying to cause problems:


The Tibet supporters who were at the starting line of the torch relay faced the Chinese people and yelled words of criticism in the strongest terms, things like “Go home!” and “End the bloodshed!”. The expression “Go home!” was the cause that triggered the skirmish at the event. However, at Tibetan demonstrations that have been covered in the past for OhmyNews, I never felt this level of aggressiveness. I never once had the impression at the other demonstrations that the protesters were just calling out “Free Tibet” to cause problems, or that they were motivated in their activity by criticism of China or by resentment.

The article concludes with these thoughts:


Even assuming their claims are different from those of the Tibetan groups, they are waving a Tibetan flag and chanting “Free Tibet”, so I guess that their intention is to support the Tibetan people. However, I really doubt that them being at this event is of any benefit to the Tibetans.


Instead, don't their actions and attitude just make it seem to the media and society that the trouble of “Fake Tibetans vs. Chinese” is the trouble of “Tibetans vs. Chinese”, in doing so dragging down the Tibetan people?


In the disturbance at the torch relay, it surprised me that the mobilization and leadership of Chinese people was so great that it made Nagano city look like Beijing, and I felt sympathy for the diligent and heartbreaking appeal of Tibetan groups. However at the same time, it also seemed to me that this was an event which displayed the ugliness of the “Fake Tibet”.

Meanwhile, a 40-year-old truck driver, blogging at Kurukichi no hitorigoto, was fed up with both sides:


Honestly, the only thing I saw was a gathering of Chinese students in Japan and Tibet supporters messing around and making a disturbance.
Even though both the Chinese students and the Tibet supporters knew what kind of thing would happen if they came, they go to the spot anyway and quarrel with each other, so if anybody is injured, they don't deserve any help.


It seems that before the start of the relay, there were some Chinese students who quarreled with right-wingers. Even if these right-wingers were wrong though, I think the students knew what they were getting into going to this kind of place and creating a disturbance.
Also, these Tibet supporters throwing things and trespassing, all I see here is people trying to create trouble.


Even if they had various things to say, I just don't feel that what either party did was a good thing.
Honestly, more so than the relay itself, the Buddhist memorial service at Zenkoji mourning victims of the Tibet uprising seemed to have a feeling of calm.

Finally, blogger OTO tried to move beyond the dispute and hoped for a resolution of the conflict:


Seems like there were a few problems at the Beijing Olympic torch relay. But it was in Japan, so it was okay. I wish that the problems of China and Tibet could be solved by the two countries. I wish that the torch relay could be for all people.

Video footage of Nagano torch relay from Channel Sakura. (via i-morley.com [ja])


  • e-mu (I am Japanese)

    The Japanese at prewar days completely believed information on the government
    They was thought that we were the justices.

    China today is in the same situation.

    Please doubt information you believe.
    Please recall Tiananmen Square prodemocracy protests.

    Wake up! chinese!

  • Brad

    Both sides really need to show more restraint in my opinion, especially when they’re outside of their country. I expect with the sensitive relationship between China and Japan, thousands of Chinese demonstrators screaming nationalist rhetoric and waving Chinese flags isn’t going to win over the hearts and minds of the Japanese much more than Tibetan protestors attacking Chinese paralympians in wheel chairs would.

    I was actually of the opinion that when you come to a country as a foreign student, you’re not allowed to take part in political protests?

    I mean, on the one hand, I do understand the Chinese students reactions. This whole torch relay has just been a mess and their perspective has gotten little media coverage. However, some of the things I’ve read and seen were clearly very provocational on both sides, I just expected more restraint from students in a foreign country. As a foreigner living in Japan, I would never consider, for example, throwing rocks and bottles at local people (as was done in Korea), irregardless of what kind of emotional investment I had in the issue.

    What’s a bit ironic about all of this is nationalism from both sides seems to fuel nationalism on the opposing side. From the video I saw, I’m willing to bet that the Chinese student knocked unconcious from a kick, was in fact attacked by one of the 右翼 militants over here. There were articles confirming that was the case otherwise.

    But I digress. Sad scenes to watch. Now let the biased, angry people on both sides tear my opinion apart.

  • peacefuldream

    This is not made-in-China torch relay, but it shows us how the relay should be. As the slogan of Beijing Olympic Games tells us, One World Watches One Dream. “Free Tibet.” We are all the witness of the victims.
    I really hope in some day all the people who live in China can speak of their own religion and history freely. Free from the fear of Han Government.

  • Jankovich

    Isn’t it hillarious when people want to talk about human attrocities , especially those that happens decades ago. Japanese killed millions of chinese. Why no peep from the western media?

    Also to the 1st posters. Do you speak on behalf of chinese? ’cause Tianmen square survivors has seen the changes that the chinese government now are currently undergoing. And if you think that americans are pro democratic country , think again. They don’t think singapore is a democratic country.

    In conclusion, there is no way of satisfying the standard of the left wing liberals.

    Maybe if america will stop “torture” and improve the standard living of the native indians and expose their hidden prison cells than maybe there is something to follow on democracy. So far raping Iraq resources under the name of democracy while using Iraq blood oil is rather confusing

  • David Chan

    The Olympic torch should not have been carried to Japan, simply because the descendants of murderers and ethnic cleansers do not deserve the honour of hosting such an event. Burn the Yasukuni shrine to the ground before you talk about human rights.

  • Matt Y.

    Oh, the Japanese people are OKay. I’m Chinese, and to be honest, if the torch relay has to become some sort of chaos where I can’t take my girlfriend and just have a peaceful day, I would think “don’t bother!” as well.

    I guess some people have got a point – don’t look for trouble so desperately.

    If more communication can be done like this on GV, things will get better in the future. By the way, Ms. Fukuhara Ai has quite a number of fans in China, too:)

  • David Chan:

    Shame on you for your big lie. Japanese killed Chinese, so did Chinese killed 1.2 million Tibetans out of 6 millions.

    Mao killed more Chinese than all combined foreign invasion of China since the dawn of 5000 years of Chinese history. So don’t forget to mention 70 million Chinese killed since 1949.

  • Knee-cap

    David Chan>>>

    Absolutely. And on that note, keep it out of China, America and virtually every other country in the world.

    I might also advise you to research the Yasakuni Shrine. What should be done is that the 13 or 14 Class A War Criminals be removed. The other two million Japanese, Korean, and Chinese and Taiwanese should remain and continue to be honoured.

  • Oneworld


    Thanks for the advice. The Internet has been great for democracy, we do have a critical mind, we live in the West for a period of 10 – 20 years and have exprerienced the pre- IRAQ war period of media irresponsible reporting and now again.

    We are not saying Chinese government is great. The very present of all the anti-China centiment globally by an extremely small group of people shows how naive the Chinese government has been.

    here is a post from ireport.com and we would like people like you in Japan and the West to understand our point of view also:

    When We were called Sick man of Asia, We were called The Peril.
    When We are billed to be the next Superpower, We are called The

    When We were closed our doors, You smuggled Drugs to Open Markets.
    When We Embrace Freed Trade, You blame us for Taking away your jobs.

    When We were falling apart, You marched in your troops and wanted
    your “fair share”.
    When We were putting the broken peices together again, “Free Tibet”
    you screamed, “it was an invasion!”
    ( When Woodrow Wilson Couldn’t give back Birth Place of Confucius
    back to Us, But He did bought a ticket for the Famine Relief Ball for

    So, We Tried Communism, You hated us for being Communists
    When We embrace Capitalism, You hate us for being Capitalist.

    When We have a Billion People, you said we were destroying the
    When We are tried limited our numbers, you said It was human rights

    When We were Poor, You think we are dogs.
    When We Loan you cash, You blame us for your debts.

    When We build our industries, You called us Polluters.
    When we sell you goods, You blame us for global warming.

    When We buy oil, You called that exploitation and Genocide.
    When You fight for oil, You called that Liberation.

    When We were lost in Chaos and rampage, You wanted Rules of Law for
    When We uphold law and order against Violence, You called that
    Violating Human Rights.

    When We were silent, You said you want us to have Free Speech.
    When We were silent no more, You say we were Brainwashed- Xenophoics.

    Why do you hate us so much? We asked.
    “No,” You Answered, “We don’t hate You.”

    We don’t Hate You either,
    But Do you understand us?

    “Of course We do,” You said,
    “We have AFP, CNN and BBCs…”

    What do you really want from us?
    Think Hard first, then Answer…

    Because you only get so many chances,
    Enough is Enough, Enough Hypocrisy for this one world.

    We want One World, One Dream, And Peace On Earth.

    This Big Blue Earth is Big Enough for all of Us.

  • Knights

    This is not the Japanese fight! When Asia was trapped in financial crisis? Who lifted these countries out????? CHINA!!!! Why would Japan want to be a poodle of the U.S.A after being the only nation in the world to receive a bomb from America????? Japan is doing the right thing! Let people protest and let people support the Olympics!!!! Japan is smart for not acting like France, Brittain, U.S.

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