Ukrainians protest in Tokyo over Russian invasion

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Ukrainians living in Japan protest Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in Shibuya Ward, Tokyo, on Thursday.

About 100 including young Ukrainians gathered at Hachiko Square at Tokyo’s Shibuya Station on Thursday to protest against Russia’s invasion of their country.

Ukrainians living in Japan called for participation in the rally via social media. They held up the Ukrainian flag and shouted slogans such as “Stop the war” and “Peace for Ukraine.”

Among those present Thursday was an IT company employee from Setagaya Ward, Tokyo, whose parents live near Kyiv. The 22-year-old Ukrainian said he had called to confirm their safety.

“My mother said she heard the sound of explosions. She cried, saying, ‘Why are we being attacked by a neighboring country? It’s so upsetting,’” he said. “I hope the Japanese government will provide a helping hand for the sake of peace.”

People also protested in front of the Russian Embassy in Minato Ward, Tokyo. A Russian man in his 30s held a cardboard sign that called in English for an end to the war.

“I have many friends in Kyiv. Russia is my country, but it’s shameful to attack Ukraine. [Russia] should stop the war immediately,” he said.

Oksana Stepanyuk, 44, a musician of Ukrainian origin living in Kokubunji, Tokyo, spoke by videophone with her sister in Kyiv a little after noon on Thursday. Her sister told her that the city was filled with the sound of sirens, and that life had been completely upended.

Stepanyuk had told her parents, who live in a village about 150 kilometers from Kyiv, to pack their belongings so they could evacuate immediately in case of shelling.

“We’ve been fighting for eight years [since the annexation of Crimea], but this time we’re really scared,” she said.

Risa Ikeshoji, director for Europe and the Americas in the International Relations Division of the Yokohama city government, said: “We’re worried about Ukrainian citizens and the officials in the departments we’ve been in contact with.”

According to the Yokohama city government, Yokohama and the southern Ukrainian city of Odessa became sister cities in 1965, as they had both recovered from war and are international port cities. When the Great East Japan Earthquake struck Japan in March 2011, Odessa citizens made donations through the city of Yokohama.

Although the spread of the novel coronavirus has prevented the two cities from exchanging visits, they have continued to interact, for example holding a “web photo exhibition” featuring the cityscapes of Yokohama and Odessa to commemorate the 55th anniversary of their partnership in 2020.

Mayor Takeharu Yamanaka told reporters: “We’re watching the situation through news reports. I hope [Russia] will not use force any more.”