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1/1/06 Tokyo Shinbun by Masatomo asai

Fighting Singer Tetsuro Tanaka (57)

It has been long since it was said that, “The Japanese stopped getting angry”. How many people are getting angry in reaction to the industrial scandals and companies unjust restructuring lay-offs, or the national and the local tax increases? However, if you listen closely, you can hear trembling and angry voices, which may be lonely, isolated or concealed for a long time underneath the surface. Some of those voices have such anger beyond sorrow feeling. The first of the 2006 unique series will be on ‘Anger’.

Eight o’clock in the morning, a middle-aged man with a guitar appeared in front of the gate of the Oki Electric Industry Co., Ltd. Hachioji office of Hachioji city in Tokyo.

The wave of workers flow into the gate avoiding eye contact Playing a guitar with my fingers in the work gloves with tips cut open, I shout Please live, live like a human! Don’t turn your head away from what you see (Song from ‘The sunlight’)

No one stops to listen, but Tesuro Tanaka with a guitar has continued to appeal to the Oki workers for the last 24 years. He was laid off from Oki Electric on June 29, 1981. Requesting his job back, he started the protest the next day. This was the birth of the ‘singing fighter.’ The incident that changed Tanaka’s destiny was the mass layoff of 1350 workers at the Hachioji office in 1978. The trade union had gradually been loosing power before the company’s re-structuring plan and the workers who supported the laid off members were becoming increasingly isolated. Tanaka was in the midst of this whirlpool.

The company started doing the morning exercise the next year. The supervisors encouraged workers saying that by participating in the morning exercise, they could show their loyalty to the company. It was clear that this action was like a ‘fumie’ (stepping on a picture – in Tokugawa era, in order to stop spreading Christianity, loads made people to step on a picture of St. Mary to show that they were not Christians) Among 200 workers on the floor, Tanaka was the only employee who didn’t participate. ‘Honestly, by sitting alone, my heart was pounding at the beginning.’ But, ‘by the act of carrying out my feeling through, I gained my confidence.’

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