”This is like something the yakuza would do.”
Takashi Tachibana, head of the Protect the People from NHK political party, has a pretty straightforward platform. Basically, he’s opposed to NHK, Japan’s public broadcaster.
Japan has a complicated relationship with NHK. On the one hand, the organization is respected for its cultural and news programming, but on the other, hardly anyone is fond of its fee collection tactics. Technically, everyone with a TV or Internet connection is supposed to pay an annual fee to NHK, but rather than levying the amount as a government-mandated tax, NHK employs a corps of independent bill collectors to go door to door and ask for the money directly. Some of these collectors resort to some pretty shady or strong-arm tactics, and so Tachibana’s single-minded opposition to NHK allows him to affect the persona of a champion of the people.
The most recent sign of the Party to Protect the People from NHK’s branding success came at the end of July, when Tachibana was elected to the House of Councillors, the upper chamber of Japan’s national Diet. Hoping to keep this political momentum rolling, last weekend Tachibana was in Kashiwa City, Chiba Prefecture, to stump for Masanobu Ohashi, his party’s city council candidate.
As is the norm in Japan, he did this by setting up loudspeakers on a crowded street and crowing for anyone in earshot, as shown in the video below, in which Tachibana is the man in the suit, and Ohashi is wearing a short-sleeved shirt and yellow tie. At one point in Tachibana’s speech, a passerby shouts out “Liar!”, and that’s when things get strange in a hurry.
Rather than shake the remark off and continue extolling the virtues of the Party to Protect the People from NHK, Tachibana calls back “The hell are you?” Ohashi immediately follows his political boss’ lead, parroting “The hell are you?” Likewise, when Tachibana commands “Get over here!”, so does Ohashi.
The silver-haired man who shouted the comment keeps walking, though, at which point Tachibana, Ohashi, and a posse of at least half a dozen other Party to Protect the People from NHK campaigners, many sporting the party’s yellow-and-blue sashes or banners, abandon their speech venue to follow the man for nearly 10 minutes as he attempts to get away from them. “Who are you? What’s your name? What did I lie about?” demands Tachibana, while Ohashi and others warn him “Don’t run away, dammit!”
At first, there are chuckles form the crowd, but the comedic affect dissipates as the Protect the Nation from NHK group tails the man for several blocks repeatedly attempting to stand in front of him and block his progress. “It’d be fine if you told the truth,” the silver-haired man says after repeated pestering, to which Tachibana asks “So what’s the truth?”, followed by a junior party member, in a yellow T-shirt, screaming “Answer!” in the man’s face, as shown in the time-cued video below.
The silver-haired man stays calm, though, even as his pursuers’ language becomes increasingly heated. “Apologize,” snaps Ohashi, who, remember, is in the middle of presenting himself as a competent governor to the very people the group is walking past. “Apologize!” “You’re obstructing our campaign!” shouts another party member, and then Tachibana informs the silver-haired man that he intends to place him under citizen’s arrest. “Stop. Please stop right here,” he says. “I’m calling the police.”
Realizing he’s clearly not dealing with an anywhere reasonable group of people, as well as being outnumbered at least eight to one, the silver-haired man keeps walking. Ohashi gives him a slight shoulder bump as he attempts to block his path, then settles for once again yelling in the man’s face while junior staffers form a semi-circle to keep him from moving too far ahead. “I’m going home” the silver-haired man declares, and breaks into a trot when the human barricade gets loose enough for him to briefly slip past, only to be blocked once again by a T-shirted party member who stretches his hands out to each side like he’s defending an opponent in a basketball game.
▼ Yet another T-shirted party member, shouting into the man’s face
“You’d better not run away!” shouts a party member after the chase has been going on for a solid six minutes. It’s apparent the group intends to follow the silver-haired man no matter how far away he walks, so when he spots a taxi, he starts moving towards it, at which point Tachibana commands his underlings “Stop the taxi, no matter what!” The junior party members are quick to comply, blocking the road and telling the driver, “Nope. Nope. Just keep moving along.”
As the silver-haired man attempts to get into the back seat of the car, Tachibana grabs him by his left arm and pulls him back into the street. Ohashi then grabs the man’s other arm, and the pair of political partners hold him in place, no longer even allowing him to continue walking.
It’s at this point that an older woman, who’s pushing a bicycle since the members of the Protect the People from NHK party are completely blocking the path, comes along and sees a group of eight people accosting a single man. “Aren’t you embarrassed by what you’re doing?” she asks the party members, which Ohashi responds to by screaming “No we’re not!” repeatedly while advancing on the woman, who’s about as tall as his shoulder, adding “YOU should be embarrassed!” and “Don’t get in our way.”
▼ A second video shows that Tachibana did indeed call the police, though the video doesn’t show them arresting the silver-haired man for “obstructing a political campaign,” and eventually the recording just kind of stops.
Perhaps the weirdest thing of all is that the videos weren’t uploaded by random witnesses, but by Tachibana’s official YouTube channel. They’re even proudly titled “We turned over a man we arrested for obstructing the Kashiwa City Council election campaign to the Kashiwa Police-Part 1” and “Part 2.”
Reactions to the video, however, have been less positive than the self-satisfied description from Tachibana himself, with online comments including:
“How could you do that to this person? Keep your head in situations like this. There’s something wrong with you.”
“Ohashi has some serious mental deficiencies.”
“This is going way too far. I used to support Tachibana, but this is like something the yakuza would do.”
“What the silver-haired guy did [shouting “Liar!”] wasn’t good, but this response is terrible.”
“Tachibana, do you need to go that far to deal with one old man?”
“After watching this, I can no longer support the Party to Protect the People from NHK.”
There are a lot of people who aren’t fans of NHK in Japan, but after watching this video of Tachibana’s methods to “protect” the people, odds are many are rethinking whether the enemy of their enemy really is their friend.