Just Wanna Have Fun
Flowers for Palestine
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, hes not Zimbabwean, or anything
like that; hes 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 "theres 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 dont 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 journalists
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 wits 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
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 Avivs Lod (now, Ben Gurion)
Airport in 1972.*1
Now these guys are in their 50s and 60s 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 dont 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
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
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, doesnt matter.
Perhaps a name change would do our cavalcade of flower bearers some
good. If its 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 Palestines Occupation Organization(
POO POO). Or if thats 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 Im
no Dixie Chick badmouthing my country when abroad (because, for one
thing, unlike the Dixie Chicks, Im not a broad), I cant
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 Im 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 troupes 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 martyrs photo on the screen would sit
at the center of the placed flowers. Though as an explanation on Mkimpos
website states, one would have to pay their respects to Mr. Martyr within
a 15 minute time frame, because after that the laptops battery
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
"Theres 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 Himoris act was a sacrifice
on behalf of the Palestinians. His suicide did make the next days
papers. But he couldnt 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 Japaneses radar than, say,
the far more bloody, ongoing civil war in Liberia is on the radar of
If in the name of Liberia, somebody went and did this kind of thing
to themselves in some park in the U.S., were talking ONE news
cycle worth of notoriety and no more. Even the Oklahoma City Bombing
didnt 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
cant 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 Browns companion site to this and all his
Hackwriter.com reports at http://www.geocities.com/themightykeyboard/index.html
Please have a look.
You can also check out Floweres for Palestines website in Japanese
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
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