Dozens of riot police officers clad in helmets, shields and protective gear supported plainclothes detectives as they searched a Kyoto University dormitory for evidence on November 13 after three students allegedly obstructed officers during a protest in Tokyo.
The three had been arrested earlier in the month and were accused of using violence against riot police on the sidelines of a labor rally in Tokyo on November 2. The raid on the Kyoto University dormitory presumably was intended to gather evidence against them.
— Thoton News Headline (@Thoton) November 13, 2014
The police look just like the stormtroopers from Star Wars. It's disgusting that we're living in a police state like this. @Darkpbs77: @uminohana @tart_k From here on in we're no longer a constitutional democracy, but like you have said, we're going to be seeing more raids and so on conducted by these thugs.
The raid on the Kyoto dormitory received coverage in the Japanese media, including on this popular morning current affairs program (the clip also includes some historical background on student radicals in Japan, including violent demonstrations against the development of Narita Airport in the mid-80's). The segment is titled “Breaking news: police search Kyoto University's Kumaya Dormitory”:
Riot police are often brought in to provide crowd control during demonstrations in Japan. However, generally speaking Japan's universities have largely been free from radical politics for at least 30 years, so the raid on the Kyoto dormitory is unusual.
The raid is part of an ongoing conflict between far-left Marxist group Kakukyōdō (usually known as Chūkaku-ha) and police. This far-left radical student group rose to prominence in Japan in the late 1960s, 70s and 80s, when student protesters clashed with Japanese police, torching universities and disrupting major construction projects.
Twenty years of a faltering economy plus the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011 and the ascendancy of Japan's hawkish right wing in recent years have breathed new life into Japan's protest movement. For example, take a look at this tweet from June 14, 2014:
— えりこ☆No war 愛ある世界へ。 (@yoriyori3) June 14, 2014
Two of the students arrested were Kyoto University students, and the third has a possible connection to unofficial student group Bunka Renmei, which has clashed with Hosei University for six years. Hosei authorities and a group of students are locked in a poisonous struggle that has turned that campus into something resembling a low-security prison.
The police search of the dormitory occurred nine days after students caught a plainclothes officer entering a Kyoto University dormitory without permission in order to monitor a rally held at the university in protest against the arrests.
Kyoto University is one of Japan's leading universities, and is home to elite researchers, scientists, and a long line of Nobel Prize winners. Faculty and students at the national university located in the heart of Kyoto do have a reputation for feistiness and independence.
As well, student dormitories and student life at Japanese universities can often be chaotic and anarchic.
Another Kyoto University dormitory that was first built in 1913 still houses student squatters for the ultra low price of ¥2,500 (about US$21) a month.
While the raid has generated a lot of interest in traditional and social media, at the end of the day the students at Kyoto University are finding a way to cope:
— Nippon.com (@nippon_en) November 14, 2014