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HOME  > Past issues  > 2018 April 25 - May 8  > 98-year history of ‘May Day’ action in Japan
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2018 April 25 - May 8 [LABOR]

98-year history of ‘May Day’ action in Japan

April 27, 2018
On May 1, workers in many countries celebrate May Day as a day of unity and solidarity among workers across the globe.

In Japan, the first May Day rally took place on May 2, 1920. In the era of the Empire of Japan, there was no legal protection pertaining to workers’ rights to organize and strike. Despite this, nearly 10,000 workers gathered at Tokyo’s Ueno Park, calling for an eight-hour-work day, the abolition of the Public Security Preservation Law banning workers from forming unions, and the creation of a law on minimum wages. They also demanded the withdrawal of Imperial Japanese soldiers from Siberia. Imperial Japan at that time sent its troops there as part of the allied military forces that intervened in the Russian Revolution.

After that, May Day events in Japan were held on May 1. With the upsurge of militarism, annual May Day slogans shouted for not only better working conditions but also for opposition to Japan’s military aggression.

In 1936, however, in the wake of the attempted military coup by a group of young Imperial Army officers, known as the “2.26 incident”, the government declared martial law and a prohibition was declared of any May Day events.

After the end of WWII, in 1946, May Day celebrations were revived. In Tokyo, 500,000 workers and citizens assembled in front of the Imperial Palace, carrying placards that read, “Establish a democratic people’s front!” “More food for people!” Since then, every year on May 1, the Japanese labor movement organizes various actions nationwide to show the unity and solidarity among workers by holding up demands for better livelihoods, protection of labor rights, and people-oriented government policies.
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