Hiroto Watanabe: ‘If there is no vision, there is nothing to work toward’

April 10, 2022

Hiroto Watanabe joined the NPO Posse after volunteering at a tent city set up to help those affected by the 'Lehman shock' in 2008.  | HANAE TAKAHASHI

1. How did you get involved with Posse? In 2008, I volunteered to help jobless people at a tent city that sprung up in Hibiya Park following the “Lehman shock.” It was my first experience with activism and I met people from Posse there.


2. What made you volunteer? Poverty in Japan tends to be hidden. I went to a university seminar about it and realized how serious it is. In my search for solutions, I volunteered and found Posse.

3. What is the membership of Posse like? We had slightly more men in our group before the pandemic started, but now around 80% are women. Most of them are students in their teens or 20s, some have full-time jobs. Many of our members are also minorities in some way: women, mixed race or LGBTQ.

4. What are the barriers in place to solving a problem like poverty in Japan? Poverty is increasing and I think it will increase further if we don’t change. One barrier is the jiko-sekinin (self-responsibility) mindset in Japan that results in people being less empathetic toward others.

5. Have you noticed any changes amid the pandemic? The number of consultations concerning mistreatment in the workplace increased from 2,000 cases a year to around 5,000 cases in the first year (of the pandemic).

6. That’s a considerable rise, are Japan’s labor laws too weak? Actually, the laws themselves are pretty decent. The problem is that companies don’t follow these laws, and the penalties aren’t strong enough. For example, the law says people should not work more than eight hours a day and up to 40 hours per week. If they work more, they should be paid 20% to 50% more for the overtime.

7. What kind of people tend to seek Posse’s help? Women and foreign workers who are non-regular employees, who are themselves the most vulnerable as many of them had jobs that were affected by the pandemic.

8. Why mostly women? For a long time, female workers have been treated as people working for extra money because society expected them to have husbands who would provide for them. Of course, this is not the case.

9. Have you found any possible solutions for joblessness? One solution could be that we value care work more. Right now, care work is treated like something anyone can do and the pay is low. That’s not the case, it is quite difficult and payments for it should increase.

10. Do you have to be a part of the system to change it? No. Elitism is a huge problem in Japan and I used to think that I could only spark change by becoming a part of the system. However, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders showed us all that by amplifying the concerns of smaller social movements you can rally the youth. We need that in Japan.


Posse's membership has seen an increase in women joining since the pandemic began. | HANAE TAKAHASHI

11. How can Posse achieve that goal? Young people in Japan aren’t taught they are capable of affecting change. Posse wants young people to know that they can make change through activism. The first step is education.

12. Can you recall any success in particular? Yes, there are a lot. There was one in 2016 where we helped a high school sophomore through the collective bargaining process and, as a result, got him two years of unpaid overtime at his job. That action also resulted in payments to the 70 other employees of the company. He was the only one to stand up to the company, but it resulted in justice for the rest of his coworkers.

13. What stops people from standing up for themselves? Jiko-sekinin, they feel like they are on their own. People, especially young people, feel trapped in this capitalist competition so they don’t want to disadvantage themselves by speaking up (and being seen as complaining). If they fail, they simply blame themselves.

14. What’s in store for youth activism moving forward? According to the polls, young people are becoming more conservative. However, I don’t think it’s that simple, we just don’t want our situations to become worse. The pandemic has made a lot of us passive, but there is also a sense that we are trapped in our current situations. So to answer the question, I think we have to clearly show to young people a vision of how things can be. If there is no vision, there’s nothing to work toward.

15. You are co-editor of Posse’s magazine. What kind of books do you read? I enjoy reading science fiction. Ken Liu (“The Paper Menagerie”) is one of my favorite authors.

16. Why do you like sci-fi? It allows me to escape reality for a little while, but also helps me think outside the box. That way of thinking helps when I return to reality.

17. Are there any specific subgenres of science fiction that you like? Yes, I’m interested in “solarpunk” (a genre that envisions a future where humanity has solved problems like climate change) and “ecopunk” (a genre that focuses on how humans interact with their environment) because they explore the role of activism, but that stuff hasn’t been translated into Japanese yet.

18. Are there any lines from your readings that have helped motivate you? One idea that has stayed with me is from science-fiction writer Ursula K. Le Guin who believed that the role of a writer is to fuel imagination. I need imagination because I am a Japanese man who lives in Tokyo. Books allow me to see different perspectives and different lives.

19. Is imagination important for an activist? Yes, because we need to think about what comes next. Abroad, activism is performed in imaginative ways, but we aren’t at that level in Japan yet.

20. What do you see in your future? I’d like to make a project that could help others visualize a new kind of society that isn’t centered around money but is based on valuing people. If we use our imaginations, we could really blossom in that way.



I would like in the future to know more about Asian community and build good relation BASED on respect and to know traditions and values and things that we are proud of 

unfortunately people I have met till know doesn’t represent what the Asian community and what I hopped 

I will do my best to build this relation by my self and find how a friends from this community are different 


Happy Sunday 

the weather is great day , enjoy your time

All My Best