Earth Day Tokyo 2015

Entrance To Earth Day Tokyo In Yoyogi Park -- Photo from Flickr cc by Hajime NAKANO
Earth Day, as the name explicitly states, is about the whole Earth. The Tokyo in the event title, thus, seems almost out of place. I think that most people would raise an eyebrow if they saw a flier announcing, “Japan Day Osaka,” “Australia Day Perth,” or “California Day Fresno,” but there are Earth Day celebrations in many cities around the world.
I suppose, though, that since each city or country does do its own “thing,” the city naming is somehow appropriate. Tokyo, despite its international reputation and its general attraction to all things new, wasn’t an early adopter. The Tokyo edition started in 2001, more than 30 years after it was born in many cities throughout the United States.
Kids At Earth Day Tokyo -- Photo by Mike Kato
The Earth Day movement began in 1970, the year of Jimi Hendrix's death, the Beatles’ release of their 12th and final album “Let it Be,” the successfully aborted Apollo 13 space mission, the Jackson Five release “ABC,” Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wins the Nobel Prize in Literature, and Anwar Sadat became president of Egypt. Of course, many other things occurred worldwide in that year, but in Japan, it was the year of the Osaka Banpaku, the all-important Expo '70 that put Japan on the modern world map.
Earth Day Tokyo 2015
This year, Tokyo is celebrating its 15th annual event on April 18-19th. Most years, the event draws well over 100,000 people, who flock to Yoyogi Park to eat food, find out about a wide variety of local NPOs, listen to some great music and other performances, and to enjoy the spring air with a distinctive Tokyo touch. I’ve been going most years since that very first one.
Performances Take Place On The Large Stage At Earth Day Tokyo -- Photo from Flickr cc by Hajime NAKANO
This year’s theme is “Yes, Peace!” echoing the original objectives of the founders. While many of them were intellectually stimulated to act by Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring,” released in 1962 – the year I was born – the Earth Day they imagined was also one that protested the Vietnam War, in outrage for the major oil spill in Santa Barbara, California, to celebrate the hippie movement, and, most importantly, to bring together political action from both the left and right to make fundamental changes in policy that will affect the planet. And it worked.
The Earth Day Tokyo 2015 committee have made a commitment to focus on three key themes – energy policy, food and farming, and economic impact. Instead of a celebration that seems to focus “only” on environmental issues, they have made a concerted effort to show how the three themes are interconnected and how people can – every day – make small lifestyle changes that can make our earth better and enhance the potential for global peace.
Music Performances At Earth Day Tokyo -- Photo by Mike Kato
Many highlights are expected, like the food stalls for example. All the food stalls in the “Earth Day Kitchen” will feature their responses to 4 “No” and 8 “Yes” questions. The “No” items include questions about the use of GMO foods, chemical flavorings and additives, and other “no-no” items. The “Yes” checkboxes include items pertaining to Fair Trade, animal welfare, and other good things.
C.W. Nicol, as the annual spokesperson for Earth Day Tokyo, will again participate in many functions. He will also be preparing food in his “Forest Kitchen” booth. This booth has become famous over the past several years for serving deer meat. The sausages, kebabs, hamburgers and curry all feature deer meat. This is an important ecological concern in Japan. Hundreds of thousands of deer are slaughtered each year, because of overpopulation in many regions, including Nagano, Gunma, Niigata, and Hokkaido. But nearly all of it is burned or buried. The meat is wasted while the Japanese government continues to negotiate to import more beef and to restart commercial whaling.
Crowds At Earth Day Tokyo -- Photo by Mike Kato
In addition, the “Earth Day Food Action!” program will encourage visitors to bring their own dishes and cutlery, as well as providing reusable dishes. In previous years, some of the stalls offered packaging from recycled paper. However, in 2015, all of the Earth Day Kitchen stalls will only use reusable dishes and visitors will be asked to wash what they use in the washing stations.
“Earth Day Energy Action!” will be conducted to power the booths and stage with renewable resources. This follows last year’s event when most of the energy used by the booths was powered with used cooking oil. This year, recycled cooking oil and used plastic – mostly PET bottles – will be utilized to generate electricity.
Two special events will take place on the 18th (Saturday). One will be a parade, held in Shibuya during the day. The parade will start on Keyaki Road which runs through Yoyogi Park, next to NTT’s public studio entrance, and will go through the streets of Shibuya. It will be an interesting sight, with neo-hippie activism intersecting the casual Shibuya youth culture. The second event will be a candlelight vigil at 8:30 pm. This vigil is in commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II and to celebrate this year’s ”Yes, Peace!” theme.
Entrance To Meiji Jingu Shrine -- Photo by Mike Kato
Finally, it should not be forgotten that Yoyogi Park is adjacent to one of Japan’s most natural sanctuaries, Meiji Shrine. However, one of the most important things about that forest is what should be remembered: During the days of Meiji, roughly 100 years ago, the shrine was relatively barren. University students were called upon to restore its natural environment, renaming the shrine for the Meiji Emperor.
Students came from every prefecture, bringing seeds and seedlings of native plants from every part of Japan. During a period of around four years, the students planted something upwards of 100,000 trees and other plants. Now, 100 years later, we see Meiji Shrine as one of Tokyo’s most lush natural environments. But it is completely man-made, enlisting the endeavors of tens of thousands of young people. Humans can make a huge difference in our world. Our impact can echo over centuries. This is what makes Earth Day Tokyo such an important festival – and of course its great music, food, and other cool stuff!
See what other sights await you around Yoyogi Park on Odigo below

Michael Kato