How To Reach Out To Your Local Legislator in Japan
Last Updated on October 7, 2020 by Marc-Antoni
After learning of the impending climate crisis, I wanted to do more! If you’ve read our blog before, you’ve doubtlessly noticed that my husband and I are dedicated to the sustainability lifestyle. We opt for local, organic options as often as we can, we bike & take public transport, and are overall climate conscious in many of our decisions. We’ve also been trying to actively spread the word, and have even been attending the growing number of climate marches.
Still, I wanted to do more. It’s entirely reasonable to be frightened by the dramatic rise in extreme weather (crazy temperatures, bigger longer storms, etc.), the devastating loss in biodiversity, and the continued rise in carbon emissions. I would think it’s a pretty normal reaction to the climate crisis. So what do we do? For me, that meant greater climate activism.
I felt it was time to write in to our elected representatives. It’s certainly something we’ve recommended before (see Get Political). I had already written a few times back in Canada, but this was my first go here in Japan. Admittedly, I thought the language barrier was going to hold me back, but surprisingly it wasn’t really an issue. Here’s how I got it done!
1. Write the Message (in English or Japanese):
I wrote a very short, to the point message in Japanese (although I know people who have also written in English, and they also received responses). Basically, I asked the legislators to sign the Climate Emergency -Legislators’ Declaration Form.
Translated message in English:
I’m the mother of 2 boys under the age of 3.
Global warming is currently the scariest crisis in the world.
As a parent, I want to do everything I can for the future of our children.
Legislators, could you do something about the Climate Crisis?
If you could at least agree to support the joint declaration for Climate Emergency?
Approval application form:
Thank you from deep within my heart.
2. Find the Legislators Contact Information:
To find my local representatives, I Googled (in Japanese) the name of the ward I live in (ex: 目黒区 = Meguro-Ku) and the word “Legislator” in Japanese (議員 = giin). The first or second search result was the page from the city ward with a full list of all the local legislators (see the list of legislators for Meguro-ku).
Interestingly, only 34 out of 36 had email addresses, so those are the ones I contacted first. The list includes their home addresses as well as their phone numbers, so there are many ways to reach them.
3. Email the Legislators:
I copy & pasted each of their emails addresses to “bcc” because I was sending a mass email. Also, putting them on bcc prevents them from seeing each other’s address, and avoids getting the “reply all” messages. This article explains how to do the above in details.
4. Wait For Responses & Reply
I was surprised at how fast they responded. Two legislators even got back to me within the hour. One was totally onboard, and thanked me for bringing this to his attention. He is supportive of the cause, and even pledged to involve more people. Awesome!! That totally made my day 🙂 I replied my thanks and appreciation for supporting the cause.
The second legislator wrote saying that he understood that the climate crisis is serious, but he didn’t see the meaning of this initiative. He therefore thanked me for writing him, but politely refused to sign & support. I replied back with a bit more context and information on the climate crisis, as well as an offer to meet him in person to better explain the details.
We eventually met a few days later, and after a 2 hour conversation with him at a local cafe, he agreed to support the cause! Furthermore, he also agreed to assist with a few of my other ideas for the city of Meguro. Totally another win!
There were another 2 legislators that did not directly respond to me, but I did see their names on the list of supporters within a few days of my email. Not sure if was a result of my email, or someone else got through to them, but I’m certainly going to count that as another win.💪
5. Send A Follow-Up
Be sure to send a 2nd round email to those that didn’t respond. I sent my follow-ups after about 2 weeks. My message this time was also a bit longer. I included more context, and how specifically the climate crisis was impacting me and my family. In my email, I also offered to meet if they wanted to learn more about this crisis.
Again, I received 2 responses. One legislator apologized for having missed my original email, and said he was supporting it for sure (sweet!). The second legislator thanked me for the email, but explained that although he understands the crisis very well, he didn’t see the value/impact of declaring a climate emergency for Tokyo. He politely concluded that he would not be supporting this initiative.
Don’t Give Up!
Not taking no for an answer, I naturally replied back, pointing out that if he recognized the gravity of the situation, then we certainly needed to start somewhere. Unless there were other comparable initiatives currently ongoing, we absolutely needed to support what was currently underway.
As best I could, I wrote him that we should start with what we have, and could always grow/expand from there. He replied back saying he was impressed with my passion and determination, and therefore decided to support me on this by signing the declaration.🙌
Ultimately, 6 out of the 34 legislators that I contacted, agreed to support the Climate Emergency Declaration for my city. Since then, I shared my story with friends and other local moms. They said they felt encouraged and inspired by my action, and decided to also reach out to their specific legislators (the ones they voted for).
The last time that I checked the list of legislator supporters, I noticed that the number in other cities had increased as well. I can’t say I had something to do with it, but I know that many people around me who had never reached out to their legislator did. In doing so, they were happy to discover how accessible they were and how easy it was to become involved.
Climate Activism, Find Your Flavor!
Climate activism is not as frightening as you might think. The climate emergency is much scarier! Once you’ve decided that you want to do something, it’s a matter of finding your flavor. What specific issue do you want to address? Be it fighting to end the burning of coal for power in Japan, or perhaps encouraging action against single-use plastics? There’s plenty that needs to be addressed.
Although Japan might have the appearance of a technologically advanced society, much of its energy & production is painfully out of date when it comes to sustainability. You can make a difference! You do NOT even need to be a Japanese citizen to reach out to the local city councilors. If you live in Japan, then you should be able to express your concerns, and reach out for support. You might be surprised by the response!
You Can Totally Do It!
I hope this post encourages you, and that you feel that you can also take action! It’s definitely worth contacting your local representative(s) for. As you can see from my experience, climate activism is not as painful as you might think! So will you also decide to take action for climate justice? Please share your thoughts with us in the comments below. 🙂