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Rallies protesting Russian invasion of Ukraine held across Japan

People holding the Ukrainian flag protest the Russian invasion of Ukraine in front of JR Shibuya Station in Tokyo's Shibuya Ward on Feb. 26, 2022. (Mainichi/Yuki Miyatake)

Demonstrations against Russia's invasion of Ukraine were staged across Japan on the weekend of Feb. 26 and 27 by people of many nationalities.

    As a yellow and blue Ukrainian flag fluttered in the wind, a rally by the Hachiko dog statue in Tokyo's Shibuya Ward began shortly after noon on Feb. 26. At one point the square where the famed dog statue stands was filled with people, including Japanese people and families.

    Tomo Tanaka, 24, who has been to Ukraine many times and has friends there, held up a printed email message that he'd received from a friend living in Kyiv. The friend wrote in English that they had no choice but to leave the city where their family had been born and raised.

    Russians and Ukrainians raise their voices against the Russian invasion of Ukraine in Tokyo's Shinjuku Ward on Feb. 26, 2022. (Mainichi/Masahiro Ogawa)

    "My friends there say there's nothing left to do but hide. There may not be much we can do in Tokyo, but I want to let people know what's going on there right now," Tanaka said.

    At a rally in front of JR Shinjuku Station in Tokyo, meanwhile, many Ukrainians and Russians participated to criticize Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.

    "I am against the war. Not just me, but all the Russians around me are against the war," said a 19-year-old from Moscow who is studying at a Japanese language school.

    She has friends in Ukraine who are hiding out in subways, and she also knows people in the Ukrainian military. She said, "One friend told me, 'Every morning I wake up and think, I may die today.' I am hoping for peace for Ukraine, and freedom for Russia."

    Hiroshima residents and others gather to protest the Russian invasion of Ukraine in front of the Atomic Bomb Dome in Hiroshima's Naka Ward on Feb. 26, 2022. (Mainichi/Misa Koyama)

    The rally began at 4 p.m., and grew as it went on.

    Also on Feb. 26, emergency rallies were held in Hiroshima and Nagasaki -- the only cities in the world that have been hit by atomic bombs -- with the slogans "Stop the War" and "No Nukes." Among survivors of the 1945 atomic bombings, there has been a strong backlash against Russian President Vladimir Putin for his speech hinting at the use of nuclear weapons.

    "If this develops into a nuclear war, radiation will reach Ukraine's neighbors and the damage will spread. I'm watching the situation, afraid, and on the edge of my seat," said Toshiyuki Mimaki, 79, director-general of the Hiroshima Prefectural Confederation of A-Bomb Sufferers Organizations.

    Some 60 people, including foreign nationals and children, took part in the emergency rally in front of the Atomic Bomb Dome in Hiroshima's Naka Ward. Volunteers from Hiroshima and Nagasaki called on residents in their respective cities to take part. At 11:02 a.m., the time on Aug. 9, 1945 when the atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, participants at rallies in both cities called for Nagasaki to be the last city to be struck by a nuclear weapon.

    Serhii Govorovskyi, left foreground, a Ukrainian national living in the Hokkaido city of Eniwa, calls for a stop to the Russian invasion of Ukraine in front of JR Sapporo Station's South Exit on Feb. 27, 2022. (Mainichi/Kunihiko Misawa)

    Around 50 people gathered at Hypocenter Park in Nagasaki, at the behest of Mitsuhiro Hayashida, 29, a third-generation A-bomb survivor. At the demonstration there, rallygoers released a statement saying: "As human beings from A-bombed places who know the catastrophic damage that atomic arms cause, we strongly protest Russia for wielding the threat of nuclear weapons."

    In Japan's northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido, demonstrations took place in two cities on Feb. 27. Some 200 Japanese nationals and Ukrainians living in Hokkaido gathered by the south exit of JR Sapporo Station after spreading word of the rally through social media, holding up placards that said, "No War" and "Peace for Ukraine."

    At the rally, Serhii Govorovskyi, 47, a Ukrainian national who lives in Eniwa, south of Sapporo, said, "In Kyiv, my friends are defending our country. Right now, all I can do is speak out and pray for their safety. When it comes time to rebuild our country, we will need the help of the Japanese people." A high school student from Sapporo said, "I became keenly aware that invasions destroy people's lives. It's wrong to do nothing. I want to keep speaking out against what's going on."

    A 24-year-old Hokkaido University student held up a placard that said in English that she was Russian, and that she was sorry about the invasion. She told the Mainichi Shimbun that her grandmother was Ukrainian and that she couldn't understand or believe what was going on.

    Around a dozen people gathered in the Hokkaido city of Nemuro to protest the invasion as well. Tadashi Jin, 79, who attended the protest, said, "Nemuro is a region with a territorial dispute over the Northern Territories with Russia. If Russia deals with Ukraine using military force, there will be no solution to the territorial dispute."

    (Japanese original by Haruka Udagawa, Digital News Center; Richi Tanaka, Tokyo City News Department; Misa Koyama and Isami Gari, Hiroshima Bureau; In Tanaka, Nagasaki Bureau; Kunihiko Misawa and Nozomi Gemma, Hokkaido News Center; Hiroaki Homma, Nemuro Bureau)

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