Protesters gathered in Toriumi Plaza before marching to the Terasaki Budokan.

An assemblage of about 30 demonstrators gathered in front of the Terasaki Budokan last week to voice opposition to the Japanese government’s decision to move ahead with the Tokyo Olympics during a global pandemic, but the action has some people scratching their heads.

J-Town Action & Solidarity (JA&S), describing their members as “culture workers dedicated to exploring, critiquing, and acting on the intersection of art, politics, and community,” helped coordinate the demonstration that began at Toriumi Plaza on June 22 atop the parking garage at First and Judge John Aiso streets and proceeded to walk through Little Tokyo.

Puzzling to some residents and workers was the decision to demonstrate in front of the Budokan, a community sports facility built by the Little Tokyo Service Center (LTSC), a leading proponent of affordable housing in the Los Angeles area. Social media posts touting the demonstration have subsequently been deleted.

Demonstrators, which included members of Chinatown Community for Equitable Development (CCED), Southeast Asian Community Alliance (SEACA), and a group calling themselves Nolympics, decried the decision to proceed with the Games. The groups simultaneously condemned the new construction and gentrification that has accompanied the Tokyo Games and is destined to occur in Los Angeles as this city prepares for 2028.

Anti-Olympic protesters in front of Terasaki Budokan. The Twitter post by Chinatown Community for Equitable Development (CCED) has since been deleted.

“We stand in solidarity with the people of Tokyo, who are resisting the deadly imposition of the Olympics in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic,” a J-Town Action & Solidarity spokesperson emphasized, adding, “This was an urgent action meant to raise dialogue about the harm caused by Olympic games but also an urgent attempt at cancelling a potential human disaster as Tokyo prepares to welcome athletes into a largely under-vaccinated country.

“The (June 22) protest was held as part of an international day of action organized by the Hangorin no Kai in Tokyo, connecting an international network of cities. The Budokan was chosen as it has a relationship to LA28 (we would like to be clear that we disagree with protest speakers who negatively misrepresented the Budokan’s history and community role), but Little Tokyo broadly was chosen because the Japanese government has historically paid attention to our community.”

Hangorin no Kai began protesting the Olympics long before the scheduled start of the Games in 2020. Spokesperson Ayako Yoshida said last month, “Ever since the beginning, the government response to COVID-19 has been inadequate because everything they do was centered around the Games. Instead of providing appropriate financial aid to those struggling due to COVID-19 restrictions, all types of resources were spent on the Olympic projects while discarding human lives. Our anger is exploding.”

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