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Lefties Just Wanna Have Fun
JT Brown

Flowers for Palestine

I could hear the megaphoned voice before I could see it as I approached. Seeking out the gathering crowd of protesters I was told would assemble at 6:30pm outside this centrally located Tokyo train station, I honed in on the amplified denunciations and soon found the man with the megaphone. While sizing up the situation on the sidewalk outside Ichigaya Station, I spied Mr. "Mkimpo" privily snapping pictures of the scene on this recent Friday in May.

With corresponding subtlety (less due to a perceived need for stealth than to a perceived impending foolishness), I saddled on up to him an said in a low voice, "Would you happen to be Mkimpo (san)?" He affirmed that he was and I immediately informed him of who I was as well. Mkimpo –and no, he’s not Zimbabwean, or anything like that; he’s Japanese, Mkimpo is a pseudonym, and more on that in a moment- Mkimpo was the gentleman who invited me to this demonstration. We met over the internet and now here I was, observer to a protest rally and ensuing march on the Israeli embassy in Japan.

The name of this movement is "Flowers for Palestine", and Mkimpo is unofficial chronicler of its activities. Mostly, Flowers for Palestine exists for its participants to assemble once a month and do what they were now doing: taking turns at the microphone in front of the station to express their sympathy for Palestinians under Israeli occupation. The harried Japanese work-a-day masses bustling by on their way home from work, by the way, seemed completely oblivious. After about twenty minutes of rather mild homilies, they then pack up and move on to the Israeli Embassy in Japan, with someone hoisting the flag of Palestine aloft as the contingent makes its way. From across the street of the Embassy -and this is a very small side street with virtually no automobile or pedestrian traffic- more amplified homilies. Actually, the same homilies repeated, eg. "stop killing", "obey United Nations resolutions", and even the catchy "there’s no pride in the occupation", this last one delivered in English for special emphasis. Finally, the dramatic moment everybody waits for. A solemn procession ensues with each protester in attendance walking up to the gate of the embassy compound and placing a flower at the foot of the gate -or barricade, rather; Japanese side street or not, this is the Israeli Embassy. After a moment of silence, they then retrieve their flowers and retire from the scene. Most certainly, a quaking Israeli diplomatic staff is left in dread of the next time these intrepid flower bearers come calling.

On this night, 1: Mkimpo, together with 2: the founding members of "Flowers", 3: the rest of the core membership, 4: a young man who came along to publicize and pass out flyers for an upcoming seminar on "sexual minority" issues. He seemed earnest enough, but I don’t think he signed up a single soul to attend his seminar on this night, and finally, 5: yours truly representing the mass media. All added up to a grand turnout of ten people. I later found out from Mkimpo that this was the best turnout for Flowers so far in all of 2003.

Before disbanding for the night, these men of purpose (and alas, they were all men. Not one free-love practicing hippie girl among them) ventured over to a nearby Japanese drinking establishment in order to collectively decompress from a hard evening of protesting. The crowded establishment we walked into was already alive with ebullient office workers enjoying their Friday night. When our group sat down together at one long table, the man sitting across from me, a 50-ish skinny little chap by the name of Takashi Komatsu, did not hide his contempt for the booboisie surrounding us. Komatsu told me he ran his own publishing imprint and gave me his card. But he also then told me that ‘that’-being a publisher- was just a joke. (I suppose that if my investigative journalist’s instincts had been a bit sharper, I would have gotten to the bottom of whether or Komatsu really was a smalltime publisher or not). Komatsu would then go on to inform me of this little gem: "America is the most repugnant country in the world. And Japan is the sleaziest. Because Japan follows America."

Well now. I can think of entire American industries and legions of workers frustrated to wit’s end by decades of Japanese self-serving trade practices and recalitrance. But I will give you this, Mr. Komatsu, your quote was indeed quotable.

I got to know several of the other members of Flowers as well, that night.
The old hands, so to speak, are really leftover supporters of the Red Army Faction, a Japanese militant left-wing outfit that engaged in both domestic and international terror some thirty years ago. Their more daring comrades did things like highjack planes, hold people for ransom, and go to Lebanon where they teamed up with some Palestinian terrorists and massacred a bunch of people at Tel Aviv’s Lod (now, Ben Gurion) Airport in 1972.*1
Now these guys are in their 50’s and 60’s and they use flower bestowing occasions like this to just get together and reminisce about the good old days. Nobody in Japan ever wanted their revolution and I don’t think they do anymore either.

One not so cooperative fellow was our original friend, Mkimpo, however. In a follow up interview, he would at least tell me that he is forty-four years of age and that he only recently came into the world of ‘demonstrating’. "I used to be apolitical", he told me, "and would ridicule those who would get involved in such demonstrations. I thought they were ‘dorks’."
But erstwhile apolitical, now neo-dork Mkimpo cut off all contact from your humble reporter when the former subsequently learned that the latter does not share all the same political beliefs that he has come to embrace. Even before this devastating falling out, however, he refused tell me what he does for a living or even what his name really is. He alludes to "risks" that are out there. He in fact seemed stunned and offended that I would even ask him his name. Mkimpo has the others in Flowers refer to him as ‘Mkimpo’ as well. As I mentioned though, everyone else I met went by their ordinary names, and also gave me their phone numbers or email addresses, or both. Risks be damned. Mkimpo has a variation on his alias too: on his website and emails, he goes by ‘Mkimpo Kid’.

I asked some very basic questions to several of the other members of Flowers. I was interested in what they hoped to achieve by their demonstrations. What efforts they made to broaden their reach, enlarge their numbers, put out their message. Most activists in the west eagerly seek out media coverage and jump at any chance they get to be heard and promote their cause. Western activists also generally have a strategy for putting pressure on the polity to effect the changes that they seek. But all my questions on these points were dodged with just more generalized recriminations about Japanese society; no specific plans on how to remedy anything were offered. In the face of intellectual adversity, to borrow an expression from sports parlance, the Japanese do not "step up". They duck. A few symbolic ‘fight the power’ gestures once a month appear to be enough to make them feel swell. That they affect and effect nothing, doesn’t matter.

Perhaps a name change would do our cavalcade of flower bearers some good. If it’s possible for the facelift of a new moniker to instill a greater sense of purpose and assertiveness, then I would like to suggest a more activist-appropriate sounding appellation. For example, they could call themselves
the Prevent the Oppression Of Palestine’s Occupation Organization( POO POO). Or if that’s too long, then People Opposed to the Occupation of Palestine (this too renders a nifty acronym.)

At this point, I must say that I am not averse to the ‘purported’ message of the ‘Flowers for Palestine’ troupe. While I’m no Dixie Chick badmouthing my country when abroad (because, for one thing, unlike the Dixie Chicks, I’m not a broad), I can’t stand it that my country has heretofore been underwriting a state engaged in a slow-motion ethnic cleansing of the stateless Palestinian refugees from what little slice of miserable land that they have left. Yes, Israel has the right to exist. And yes, she has some legitimate security concerns. But I’m not going into that any further in this piece, because frankly, hashing out real concerns is not what our heroes in Flowers are about anyway.

And speaking of heroes, now the time has come to tell you about the Flowers for Palestine troupe’s own heroic martyr. They spend as much time, if not more, venerating this Japanese jihadist as they do campaigning for Palestine. Until recently, they even would make a little electronic shrine to him the focal point of those flower arrangements they create at the foot of the Israeli embassy barricade each month. A laptop computer with the martyr’s photo on the screen would sit at the center of the placed flowers. Though as an explanation on Mkimpo’s website states, one would have to pay their respects to Mr. Martyr within a 15 minute time frame, because after that the laptop’s battery would die.

The name of this venerated soul was Takao Himori. And according to newspaper reports, at approximately 6:30 pm on the evening of April 30, 2002, the following took place: A call came into the police with a citizen exclaiming,
"There’s a person on fire!" Police rushed to the scene, a water fountain in a central Tokyo park, and used a fire extinguisher to put out a flaming man.
An officer asked the dying man, "Did you do this to yourself?", and he grunted that he had. He was pronounced dead at the hospital one hour later. Upon further investigation, it was learned that one Takao Himori, aged 54, had doused himself with kerosene then set himself on fire. He had been a life-long supporter of Red Army causes and more recently, demonstrations in Japan against the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories. People and families in the park enjoying the early spring cherry blossom viewing, cringed and turned their heads away from the ghastly sight. *2

So some Japanese families literally enjoying Sunday evening in the park, now must be tormented by flashbacks and nightmares for the rest of their lives because they were forced to witness a live human being burning to death before their eyes. For what purpose?

One cannot claim that Himori’s act was a ‘sacrifice’ on behalf of the Palestinians. His suicide did make the next day’s papers. But he couldn’t possibly have thought he was starting any kind of debate. In Japan? So sorry. Had he gone to America and done this on the steps of the US Capitol, at least it might have gotten the attention of some of the people who count. But in a park in Japan? The Palestinian problem is no more on the Japanese’s radar than, say, the far more bloody, ongoing civil war in Liberia is on the radar of…..anywhere. If in the name of Liberia, somebody went and did this kind of thing to themselves in some park in the U.S., we’re talking ONE news cycle worth of notoriety and no more. Even the Oklahoma City Bombing didn’t start any kind of dialogue except to point out that there are some really dangerous kooks out there.

And nobody, except the most creative Japanese malcontent would hold Japanese society responsible for the suffering of the Palestinian people. As for potential claims that this was a desperate petition directed at the Japanese government -for what? Anyway, the Japanese government can’t even deal with its own domestic economy, let alone Israel and the Palestinians.

This was no sacrifice. It was a supremely exhibitionist, self-indulgent act of an old leftist in search of self-meaning. There is no moral to this story. Himori is just dead. Those that had to witnessed his depraved pyrotechnics are left to deal with that. He should have stuck to bringing flowers once a month to the Israeli Embassy.
(Lest dear readers doubt the authenticity of events described in the above report, a very short photo log, including one mildly gory photo, can be viewed at JT Brown’s companion site to this and all his reports at Please have a look.
You can also check out Floweres for Palestine’s website in Japanese at Greeting you on the index page is a photo of the late, great, and unexpectedly innocuous looking Takao Himori. In this photo, he is standing on the very ground where he would one day torch himself.)
Ref 2:The Asahi Shinbun, April 1, 2002, "Hanami-kyaku no Chikaku Dansei Shoushin Jisatsu (Man Commits Suicide by Self-Immolation next to Cherry Blossom Viewers)", and The Asahi Shinbun, April 2, 2002, "Shoushin Jisatsu Dansei wa Nihon Sekigun Shiensha (Man Who Commits Suicide by Self-Immolation was Japan Red Army Sympathizer)"

© J T Brown June 2003

also Japanese Childcare

More about Japan and other countries in Hacktreks


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