Chorus of opposition rises against Yokohama mayor over IR bid

Yokohama Harbor Transport Association Chairman Yukio Fujiki may be the top leader of the opposition to an IR bid at Yamashita Pier, but a chorus of other voices arose last week, making clear that he is far from alone, and that Mayor Fumiko Hayashi will be facing heavy dissent over her unpopular decision.

Yukio Edano, leader of the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, went so far as to accuse Mayor Hayashi of being a liar, asking for his party’s support during her 2017 reelection campaign on the basis of being a “blank slate” on the IR issue.

“At that time,” Edano explained, “she said she was a ‘blank slate’ and that the understanding of the residents of the prefecture would be a precondition for moving forward. She has lied to us, and I understand why our Kanagawa prefectural chapter is strongly protesting.”

On Saturday, a group of opposition lawmakers and citizens groups called “Civil Rights Kanagawa” held a meeting and issued an “emergency appeal” calling for Mayor Hayashi to immediately withdraw her decision: “We are shocked by the mayor’s sudden declaration, and we cannot hold back our many doubts and strong anger,” they petitioned.

Last Thursday, the Kanagawa prefectural branch of the Japan Lawyers Association for Freedom, which has about 150 lawyer members, also issued a statement protesting the mayor’s decision, pointing to the damage to the community they expect from gambling addiction and money laundering. “Is it possible to say that this was a decision based on the opinions of the people?” they asked.

That same evening about one hundred ordinary citizens gathered in Yokohama to hold a meeting protesting the IR decision. They decided that they should begin a citywide signature-gathering campaign against the IR bid, and discussed the possibility of seeking a dismissal of Mayor Hayashi under a recall campaign.

Protesters opposing an IR bid also began to appear at Yokohama Station last week, seeking to widen the base of local activists subscribing to the anti-casino cause.

Meanwhile, Yokohama Harbor Transport Association Chairman Yukio Fujiki continues speaking out against the IR bid, declaring on Saturday that “there is nothing worse than addiction,” and noting that it is the children who suffer the most.

Fujiki’s campaign to oppose the IR bid also garnered the public support of his colleagues in neighboring Kawasaki city, with the chairman of the Kawasaki Port Promotion Association declaring that he stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Fujiki: “As the same sort of harbor man, I stand together with Mr. Fujiki,” he stated.

On Tuesday, political fireworks are expected as the Yokohama City Council holds its first plenary meetings since Mayor Hayashi announced her IR decision. Although the ruling parties hold about 60% of the seats in the chamber, resistance from the opposition caucuses is expected to be intense, especially when it comes to any municipal budget that includes funds for IR development.