Last week, an estimated 300 pro-life advocates gathered in Tokyo for Japan's fifth annual March for Life. Though still of a humble size compared to the teeming millions of the capital, the march is steadily growing in size and visibility.
The 2018 rally "was more international than ever, and numbers have increased," Church Militant contributor Neil Day, a Tokyo resident, reported Tuesday. "More priests involved with the Catholic hierarchy here are publicly supporting it — something we have not seen to date."
The procession began at Tokyo's first cathedral, Tsukiji Catholic Church. From there, bearing a statue of Our Lady of Fatima, marchers made their way through Ginza, an opulent shopping and entertainment district, and Nihonbashi, a frenetic center of finance. The rally concluded at Hibiya Park.
Human Life International Asian Director Dr. Ligaya Acosta took part, as did a handful of priests and nuns. Participants were encouraged that, ahead of the march, leading members of the Japanese hierarchy issued public statements encouraging the initiative.
The greatness of a nation's civilization is measured by the way it treats human life in its weakest forms. I pray that the march for life may raise awareness about the need to protect human life from womb to tomb.
Osaka Cdl. Thomas Aquino Manyo Maeda declared, "To build a society where given life is valued by those to whom the life is given and also by the people around them, I bless March for Life. I will call for everyone to join."
"Every human life is a gift from God. Therefore every human being is to be respected and protected. Human life is sacred because it has been created in the image and likeness of God," said Apostolic Nuncio Abp. Joseph Chennoth. "The greatness of a nation's civilization is measured by the way it treats human life in its weakest forms. I pray that the march for life may raise awareness about the need to protect human life from womb to tomb."
"We have never seen this type of endorsement before," Day told Church Militant, "so it was well-received here."
The March for Life is growing at a time of demographic crisis for Japan, where the Culture of Death has been entrenched for generations.
Abortion was legalized in 1948 when, goaded by U.S. population control agents, the government revised its Eugenic Protection Law.
Japanese resorted to abortion widely, snuffing out a brief post-World War II population boom.
In the first year after legalization, the government recorded almost 250,000 abortions. Five years later, more than one million were occurring annually.
Though the rate subsequently declined, since 1948, the number of officially recorded abortions has surpassed 39 million.
By the early 1970s, Japan's fertility rate slipped beneath the replacement level. The nation's population peaked in 2010 and is now in decline.
Last year, Japan registered 981,000 births — the lowest number since the government conducted its first census in 1899 and the largest net decrease in almost a decade of continuous population decline.
Analysts project that, by 2050, the population will fall from 127 million today to 107 million. By that time, 40 percent of the country's remaining population will be over age 65.
Japan's population collapse has given rise to a host of troubling social phenomena.
Each year, thousands of solitary dementia sufferers go missing after wandering away from their homes — 15,432 in 2016. Of these, hundreds are later found dead.
In response, citizens are organizing "dementia supporter" brigades, patrolling neighborhoods and returning wandering sufferers to home.
Japan is now plagued by a "lonely death" phenomenon — childless elderly dying alone in their homes without anyone knowing. Typically, their bodies are discovered after their neighbors notice the smell, but some aren't found until years later, once their bank accounts run dry.
With 4,000 lonely deaths occurring each week, there are now thousands of companies across Japan specializing in lonely death cleanup — scrubbing empty houses of body seepage and other traces of decomposition while gathering the possessions of the dead together for recycling or sale.
With population in full retreat, the government is increasingly concerned over the prospect of a declining tax base and resulting degradation of social and physical infrastructure.
Private industry is also threatened by the collapse. A 2015 report notes, "Due to a shrinking population, labor shortages are predicted for Japan."
To manage its looming workforce problem, private industry is turning to mechanization — as people gradually disappear from Japan, robots are being created to take their place.
As the markers of decay continue to mount, Japan's burgeoning pro-life movement is working to reawaken society to the sanctity of human life.