The Japanese Student Movement in the Cold War Crucible, 1945-1972


July 15, 2022

The Japanese Student Movement in the Cold War Crucible, 1945-1972
The Japanese Student Movement in the Cold War Crucible, 1945-1972

Volume 20 | Issue 14 | Number 1

Article ID 5724


Abstract: This article provides a concise overview of the well-organized, nationwide student movement which emerged in Japan in the immediate aftermath of World War II; its participation in the escalating political struggles of the 1950s, including an abortive attempt at a communist revolution from 1950 to 1952, anti-military base protests climaxing in the Sunagawa struggle from 1955 to 1957, and the massive Anpo protests against the US-Japan Security Treaty from 1959 to 1960; its collapse into warring “sects” in the 1960s; its revival in the form of the radically de-centralized, anti-hierarchical zenkyōtō movement of the late 1960s; and a final turn to violent extremism and a resulting delegitimization of student activism in the early 1970s. Among other observations, this article elucidates how the movement grew so large and so powerful so quickly, how it differed from student movements in other nations, connections between the Japanese student movement and similar movements in the western world, and the movement’s broader social and political context both in reference to other Japanese social movements and the ongoing global Cold War.


Keywords: Zengakuren; Zenkyōtō; student protests; Anpo protests; Sunagawa struggle; 1968; snake dance

Japanese student activists took center stage in many of the major social, political, and cultural struggles in early postwar Japan, from immediately after the end of World War II in the fall of 1945 until the early 1970s. Over this same period, Japanese youth also gained worldwide attention for their innovative protest tactics and later for the extreme violence of their protest activities. Ultimately, Japanese students played an essential role in the shaping of the US-Japan alliance, and to a lesser extent, the broader contours of the “global revolution” of the late 1960s.

For the purposes of this article, we will define “Japanese students” and “Japanese youths” as those people who were no longer considered “children,” but who had also not yet entered the regular workforce to become “responsible adults” (shakaijin). For the most part this meant college students and students in graduate and professional schools, and to a lesser extent, high school students. Many of these students were drawn from the socioeconomic elite, that is, upper-middle class and professional families, because during this time period, especially in the earlier years, many working-class students still went immediately into the workforce following the conclusion of middle school (or later on, after high school). However, in some cases the category of “youth” (seinen) expanded to include workers in their late teens and early twenties, especially the radical “youth sections” of labor unions. Due to the patriarchal nature of Japanese higher education during this time period, the stereotypical image of a Japanese student movement activist from this era is a young male. Nevertheless, female students played an increasingly important role in the Japanese student movement throughout the period, and as educational opportunities for women expanded, became increasingly visible over time.1

In many ways, Japanese youth culture during this period followed a similar trajectory to that of youth cultures in other nations around the world; Japanese students fell in love with rockabilly and rock ‘n’ roll in the 1950s, increasingly embraced television and consumerism, experimented with sexual revolution and counter-culture in the 1960s, and protested against the Vietnam War and overcrowded universities in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Also like students in other places, Japanese students were profoundly influenced by the global Cold War, and Japanese student uprisings tended to track closely with rises and falls in global Cold War tensions. In other ways, however, the Japanese student movement differed from seemingly similar student movements in other parts of the world, owing to the legacies of Japan’s disastrous defeat in the Asia-Pacific war and the ensuing US-led military occupation. These differences allowed Japanese students to play a leading role at the vanguard of the student-led global revolutions of the 1960s.

Japan’s defeat in the Asia-Pacific War left Japanese society in a state of emotional, psychological, and physical disarray, and Japanese students were no exception. In the final stages of the war, teenagers and even children were removed from school and put to work in support of the war effort, and in the final months of the war, even elite university students, who had previously been exempted from conscription, were drafted into military service, with some even undergoing training to become kamikaze pilots.2 Many Japanese youths who survived the war recalled feeling a mixture of relief and guilt over the fact that they had survived when so many of their peers and classmates had perished.3 Having experienced the mass fire-bombings of Japanese cities by the US military, suffered intense privation in the war’s final months, and witnessed fathers, uncles, older siblings, and senior classmates drafted and sent to their deaths on far-flung battlefields, an entire generation of Japanese youths emerged from the war with a profound commitment to pacifism, and a correspondingly fierce militancy to fight as hard as possible—and even put their own lives on the line—to prevent their nation from backsliding toward the errors of the past.

On August 28, 1945—five days before Japan officially surrendered—US occupation forces began landing in mainland Japan. The ensuing US-led Allied Occupation of Japan, which would last for seven years until 1952, profoundly influenced the growth of a powerful, nationwide student movement in Japan, more than a decade before similarly large movements emerged in most other nations around the world. The Occupation influenced the rise of a Japanese student movement in two interrelated ways. First, an initial phase of the Occupation, focused on demilitarizing and democratizing Japan, saw the release of communists and other left-wing dissidents from prison, the legalization of the communist and socialist parties, the encouragement of labor and student movements, and policies aimed at implementing so-called democratic education in schools and universities. Second, a “reverse course” in Occupation policies after 1947, as a response to the onset of the global Cold War, emphasized rearmament and economic stabilization, saw a “red purge” of communists and suspected communists from both the public and private sectors, and sought the strengthening of conservative, anti-communist elements in Japanese politics and society.4 The Occupation thus bequeathed to Japan’s student movement a dual legacy. On the one hand, it offered the students a theoretical and conceptual toolkit for building up a mass movement, in the form of leftist ideologies and idealized American democratic values. On the other hand, the Occupation provided the students with a sense of urgency and a set of enemies to organize in opposition against when it carried out the reverse course suppressing the left and empowering the right. In combination with the vivid memories and the deep and lingering scars of wartime trauma, this dual legacy of the Occupation would help fuel two generations of militant student activism.


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With the arrival of US occupation forces beginning in August 1945, most Japanese youths returned to their middle schools, high schools, and universities and resumed their studies, except now under a system of “democratic education” that emphasized an American vision of democracy and taught that Japan’s previous rulers had wrongly led the nation into a disastrous war of aggression.5 For Japanese youths, who had been educated since grade school under an ultranationalistic education system that emphasized the sacred character of Japan’s war in Asia and the infallibility of Japan’s divine Emperor, this sudden change in educational emphasis came as a shock, and for many students, produced a sense of rage and bitterness towards older people who had gone along with the system and forced so many young people to fight and die in a hopeless war. Although Japanese youth movements in the years to come would have many and often vicious disagreements with each other, virtually the entirety of Japanese youth would remain staunchly anti-war.6

Meanwhile, the Occupation authorities broke up the formerly centralized national education system into American-style autonomous local school boards and oversaw purges of schoolteachers and university professors who were reported to have been ultranationalists, while restoring to their posts those who had been dismissed during wartime for being too liberal. The Occupation also ordered the release of imprisoned Japanese communists, some of whom had been incarcerated for decades. The reformed Japan Communist Party (JCP), under the leadership of Nosaka Sanzō, initially pursued a strategy of portraying itself as “lovable” (aisareru), and was largely successful at persuading many Japanese people of the notion that the communists had been the only people who had resisted wartime militarism.7 At the same time, many Japanese teachers and college professors felt a profound sense of guilt for having supported the wartime state and having inculcated ultranationalism in their students, whom they then sent off to die. Under the Occupation, many sought to rehabilitate their reputations by taking up the banner of Marxism in their research and education. Taking advantage of these trends, the JCP, although it never won massive victories at the ballot box, succeeded in establishing outsize influence among teachers and professors.8

By June 1947, the JCP succeeded in helping establish a single, nationwide labor federation representing nearly every schoolteacher and university professor in Japan, called simply the Japan Teachers’ Union (Nihon Kyōshokuin Kumiai, better known by its Japanese abbreviation Nikkyōso).9 Initially under the JCP’s influence, and later under the influence of the militantly socialist Sōhyō labor federation, Nikkyōso took an extremely militant line vis-à-vis a series of conservative governments in Japan, and these governments in turn undertook a decade-long struggle to undermine Nikkyōso and recentralize the Japanese education system under the Ministry of Education. The ruling conservatives finally succeeded in breaking the power of Nikkyōso with the implementation in 1958 of a single nationwide curriculum and the Teacher Efficiency Ratings System (kyōin kinmu hyōtei, which in essence allowed the government to fire teachers it did not approve of); membership in Nikkyōso rapidly declined thereafter.10 However, in the intervening years, the fiercely independent teachers and professors of Nikkyōso succeeded in inculcating leftist and pacifist ideals in an a generation of Japanese youth, who would go on to forge a powerful nationwide student movement.

The early postwar Japanese student movement arose out of a movement to restore university autonomy and academic freedom. Japanese universities had been established in accordance with the German Humboldtian model of higher education, which emphasized the need for universities to be set at a remove from society and politics, supported economically by the state, yet free from interference by the government. The Humboldtian model also emphasized that students and faculty were co-equal in their pursuit of knowledge and suggested that students should play a significant role in shaping the university community.11 In the 1930s, at a time of rising militarism, the autonomy of Japanese universities had come under assault, most notably in famous examples such as the 1935 persecution of Tokyo Imperial University (Todai) constitutional law scholar Minobe Tatsukichi for his “emperor organ theory,” the 1937 dismissal of Todai economist Yanaihara Tadao for publishing his anti-war essay “Ideals of the State,” and the 1940 dismissal of historian Tsuda Sokichi from Waseda University for his research demonstrating that the ancient chronicles Kojiki and Nihon Shoki were not based on historical facts but rather were deliberately written to legitimize the imperial institution.12 However, the Humboldtian ideal remained so strong that as late as summer 1938, when the army general-cum-Education Minister Araki Sadao attempted to abolish the right of university faculty to vote on hirings, promotions, and the selection of university presidents, instead making all posts direct appointees of the Ministry, a nationwide outcry among university professors forced him to back down.13 However, following the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, the government eventually came to exercise near total control over the universities, citing wartime necessity, and many professors were dismissed from their posts. As the war situation worsened, draft deferments for university students were gradually stripped away, and finally in December 1943, the draft age was lowered to 19, meaning most male students were drafted into military service upon completion of high school.14

Because of the persistence of the Humboldtian ideal, early postwar student protests focused on restoring, protecting, and expanding university autonomy and self-governance. In September 1945, as US Occupation forces were just beginning to arrive, the first student strike took place at Mito High School (equivalent to an undergraduate college under the prewar system; it later became what is now Ibaraki University). The students were angry that the school’s authoritarian president, who had been appointed by the Ministry of Education rather than elected, had punished several liberal faculty members and had stripped the students of their traditional right to manage their own dormitories. Appealing to the school’s liberal traditions, the students barricaded themselves in one of the dormitories and appealed directly to the Ministry to fire the president and reinstate the liberal professors. After they had occupied the dorm for 37 days, the Ministry capitulated and the students won a total victory.15

Similar protests rapidly sprung up at other colleges and universities throughout the country. The main demands of the student activists were: 1) the dismissal of administrators and professors deemed to have supported wartime militarism, 2) resumption of instruction in the social sciences, which the wartime government had banned for teaching dangerous thoughts, and 3) the establishment of student self-government to allow the students to exercise what they felt to be their rightful role in university governance. When universities largely acquiesced to the first two demands but protests continued, they finally gave in to the third demand. In January 1947, Tokyo University became the first to allow students to organize self-governing associations (jichikai), which, while falling short of giving the students a meaningful say in academic administration, were granted autonomous jurisdiction over the management of dormitories, dining halls, student centers, and the like. With the nation’s most prestigious university giving in to this demand, other universities rapidly followed suit, and students soon organized jichikai on every campus. Every student registered at a university was automatically enrolled in their department’s jichikai, with dues automatically deducted from tuition fees.16 These jichikai would become the basic building blocks of the powerful nationwide student movement that would emerge shortly thereafter.

Sensing an opportunity to expand its influence on college campuses, the JCP sought to use its organizing expertise to weld the numerous campus and departmental jichikai into a single, nationwide organization. In this endeavor, the JCP was aided by student anger at Occupation authorities unilaterally cancelling a planned nationwide general strike in February 1947, as well as the Japanese government’s efforts to impose a three-fold tuition increase on students attending public colleges and universities.17 The growing perception of a need to build a more centrally organized student movement led to increased calls for a nationwide student organization, and JCP organizers stepped in to help the students make it happen. Finally, in September 1948, Zengakuren (an abbreviation of Zen Nihon Gakusei Jichikai Sō Rengō, the All-Japan Federation of Student Self-Government Associations) was established. Quickly expanding to include almost all campus jichikai in the nation, it rapidly fell under the sway of the JCP. Zengakuren’s first chairman, University of Tokyo undergraduate and JCP member Takei Teruo, recalled, “The decisive factor that united national and private university students from all over the country into a single nationwide federation was the Allied Occupation that unilaterally imposed its self-righteous university reform plans, and the thoughtless brutality with which the Japanese government and Ministry of Education blindly carried out the Occupation’s demands, such that the students had no other choice but to resist.”18

The Ministry of Education viewed this development with alarm, and almost immediately, on October 4, announced its intention to pursue a new University Bill that among other provisions unacceptable to the student activists, would ban students from participation in “political” activities on pain of expulsion. However, the announcement had the opposite of its intended effect, as it enraged the students even further and caused them to rally against the proposed law. When the law was put before the Diet in the spring of 1949, Zengakuren carried out massive strikes nationwide and showed its strength by turning out 200,000 students as well as significant numbers of non-student supporters, ultimately resulting in the shelving of the bill.19

The proposed University Bill, which had been heavily pushed by the Occupation authorities, was part of the broader “reverse course” in Occupation policy. Against the backdrop of the testing of the Soviet Union’s first atomic bomb and victory of the Chinese communists in 1949 and the outbreak of the Korean War the following year, the Occupation transitioned from an emphasis on demilitarizing and democratizing Japan to eliminating communist influence and building Japan up economically and politically as a strong Cold War ally.20 Amid this change in direction, the Occupation’s Civilian Information and Education section (CIE) switched its focus from purging militarist teachers and democratizing instruction to attempting to limit the infiltration of communist thought into Japanese education. Meanwhile, the Occupation and Japanese government officials collaborated in a sweeping nationwide “red purge” that saw more than 27,000 individuals suspected of harboring communist sympathies removed from their jobs, including at least 1,150 university professors and 1,010 schoolteachers.21

But even as Zengakuren was becoming estranged from the Occupation, it was also becoming estranged from the JCP. Pursuing its leader Nosaka Sanzō’s policy of a “lovable” communist party, the JCP had been making steady gains at the ballot box, and in the 1949 election it won ten percent of the popular vote and sent an all-time high of 35 members to the National Diet. However, on January 6, 1950, without warning, the Cominform, at Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin’s direction, issued a searing criticism of Nosaka’s policy line of pursuing peaceful socialist revolution under the US Occupation. No gradual, peaceful revolution was possible under American imperialism, this “Cominform Criticism” suggested, and instead Japanese communists should immediately pursue violent revolution to oust the Americans and overthrow their Japanese collaborators, taking the recently successful revolution in Maoist China as an exemplar. Stunned, Nosaka tried to hold out, hoping that his friends in China, where he had spent much of the war, would support him. But when China’s People’s Daily published an editorial supporting and reiterating the Cominform Criticism on January 17, Nosaka capitulated, accepting the rebuke and issuing a self-criticism on January 22. Thereafter, the JCP committed itself to immediate, violent overthrow of the Japanese government and the US Occupation, and sent its most expendable members—university students and zainichi Koreans—out into the streets to hurl Molotov cocktails at police boxes and up into the mountains to organize “mountain village guerilla squads” (sanson kōsakutai). The era of the “lovable” JCP was over.22

At first many of the students in Zengakuren celebrated the shift in JCP policy, as they had begun to feel that the peaceful policy of the JCP under Nosaka was holding them back from actively pursuing revolution. The majority of Zengakuren vigorously supported JCP efforts to foment a Maoist revolution and expelled student leaders who were seen to have collaborated too closely with the JCP’s old peaceful line (these leaders formed a new “peaceful” splinter group of the student movement, called the Anti-War Student League, or Hansen Gakusei Dōmei). However in reality, conditions in early 1950s Japan were very different from conditions in late-1940s China, and the students were faced with an impossible task. Sent into the mountains without training, food, supplies, or weapons, they were supposed to build a revolutionary army in accordance with Maoist doctrine by radicalizing the “peasants,” which in Japan’s case were highly educated farmers generally loyal to the conservative parties. Most came back within a few days because they had nothing to eat and nowhere to stay. Others were ordered to attack police stations and US military bases with homemade Molotov cocktails, but those who tried to do so were promptly arrested.

The climax of the armed struggle came in the summer of 1952. First came “Bloody May Day,” in which—as part of a larger protest against the newly enacted peace and security treaties ending the occupation but maintaining US military bases in Japan—students, zainichi Koreans, and militant young labor unionists affiliated with the JCP attempted to strike a blow against Japanese monopoly capitalism and US imperialism by occupying the “people’s plaza” in front of the Imperial Palace in central Tokyo. Arming themselves with baseball bats, bamboo spears, pavement stones, pachinko balls, and Molotov cocktails, the JCP-linked activists engaged in a pitched battle with police that led to hundreds of injuries and two deaths, after the police officers opened fire with their service pistols.23 As the protestors retreated, they set fire to American military cars parked along the road in front of the plaza. Thereafter, sporadic violence continued throughout the summer. Communist activists threw Molotov cocktails, stones, and acid at police in Shinjuku on May 30, clashed with police in Osaka in June, and threw Molotov cocktails at police and US military vehicles in Nagoya in July.24 However, in the fall 1952 general election, Japanese voters vented their fury at the JCP’s antics, and the party lost every single one of its 35 Diet seats, a blow from which it would take two decades to recover. The following spring, Joseph Stalin died, and thereafter the JCP spent two years gradually backing away from its policy of armed revolution.25

Finally, at the JCP’s Sixth National Congress on June 27, 1955, the party completely disavowed the militant line and returned to its former policy of peacefully pursuing revolution using democratic means. This action was enraging to the students of Zengakuren, many of whom had spent time in jail and had been forced to withdraw from universities, and now felt they had sacrificed their youths for nothing. Particularly galling was the way the JCP leadership began to rewrite its own history thereafter, blaming the mistakes of the early 1950s on the students themselves and their “extreme-left adventurism.” Two final blows came in 1956. First in February, Stalin’s successor Nikita Khrushchev gave his “secret speech” exposing the depredations of Stalin’s regime, and then in the fall, the Soviet Union sent in tanks and ruthlessly suppressed the Hungarian revolution. In the eyes of many Zengakuren activists, these events exposed the corruption and brutality of the Soviet regime, but when the JCP continued to loyally follow the Soviet line, student activists lost all remaining respect for the party. Although many students remained party members, Zengakuren as a whole would no longer do the JCP’s bidding.

In the summer of 1955, the JCP briefly tried to turn Zengakuren into a non-militant student welfare organization devoted to sports and social activities such as potlucks and dances, but a majority of the students refused to give up militancy and instead, in direct defiance of JCP orders, threw themselves into the ongoing struggle by farmers in the village of Sunagawa south of Tokyo to prevent their land from being expropriated to expand the runways of the US military’s Tachikawa Air Base.26 With Zengakuren pouring student manpower and resources into the conflict, the Sunagawa struggle evolved into the largest and bloodiest anti-base struggle among the many anti-base struggles that took place in the 1950s.

At Sunagawa, Zengakuren activists pioneered a new style of protest tactic. Eschewing the Molotov cocktails and makeshift clubs and spears they had used during “Bloody May Day,” the students deliberately made a show of confronting police entirely un-armored and unarmed. Taking advantage of the newly emerging medium of television and wearing white dress shirts for greater visibility and contrast with the darkly-clad police and the dark red of their own spilt blood, the students hurled themselves again and again into police lines, purposely allowing their youthful bodies to be beaten in order to arouse sympathy from ordinary people around Japan. Some students, having already been beaten bloody, famously made a show of trudging to the back of the line and waiting their turn to be beaten again. In part due to Sunagawa’s proximity to Tokyo, the protests soon turned into a mass media spectacle, as reporters, television crews, artists, writers, and curious citizens flocked to the scene to observe the struggle in person. Earning the sobriquet “Bloody Sunagawa” (ryūketsu no Sunagawa), the Sunagawa protests riveted the nation and made front-page headlines daily for weeks in the fall of 1956. The students’ new tactics proved effective in arousing public outcry, and ultimately the plans for expanding the runway were called off.27

The success of the Sunagawa struggle gave student activists confidence in their ability to take action independently of the JCP, and in the wake of the struggle the majority of Zengakuren became even further estranged from the party. Searching for a socialist theory that would be more suitable for modern Japan than either Stalinism or Maoism, students began turning to the original writings of Karl Marx and the thought of Vladimir Lenin and Leon Trotsky. In 1957, a group of JCP dissidents, including a number of Zengakuren activists, broke away from the JCP and founded the Japan Trotskyist League (Nihon Torotsukisuto Renmei), soon thereafter renamed the Revolutionary Communist League (Kakumeiteki Kyōsanshugisha Dōmei, abbreviated Kakukyōdō), under the influence of the half-blind Trotskyist philosopher Kuroda Kan’ichi. In December 1958, another group of students, mostly veterans of the Sunagawa struggle who hoped to pursue similar struggles in the future, formed the similarly named Communist League (Kyōsanshugisha Dōmei), better known by its German-derived nickname “the Bund” (Bunto), as an insurgent sub-faction within Zengakuren. Committed to Marxism, but also virulently anti-JCP, these two groups made their watchwords “anti-imperialism and anti-Stalinism” (hantei hansuta), by which they meant to signal their opposition to both the United States and the Soviet Union.28

Utilizing cutthroat electioneering tactics, these two groups managed by 1959 to seize a controlling majority on Zengakuren’s central committee. This was just in time for the start of the largest and longest series of popular protests in Japan’s modern history—the battle to try to prevent the 1960 revision of the US-Japan Security Treaty, known as “Anpo” in Japanese. Although the revised treaty represented a substantial improvement over the original security treaty enacted in 1952, limiting the use of US troops based in Japan to the “Far East,” promising prior consultation with the Japanese government before using those troops, specifying a means for abrogating the treaty, and explicitly committing the United States to defend Japan if it were to be attacked, passage of the revised pact would lock in the presence of US military bases for at least another 10 years, so the Japanese left chose to attempt to prevent the revision as a first step to getting rid of the treaty entirely. The resultant People’s Council to Prevent Revision of the Security Treaty (Anpo Jōyaku Kaitei Soshi Kokumin Kaigi, abbreviated Kokumin Kaigi) brought together hundreds of organizations from all over Japan, including anti-nuclear groups, anti-base activists, the socialist and communist parties, labor unions, women’s societies, child protection groups, pro-China groups, farmers’ cooperatives, and even some more conservative business cooperatives.29 Given its proven organizing power and past successes, Zengakuren was included in the 13 groups that comprised the Kokumin Kaigi’s “board of directors,” and thus had a major say in the timing, strategy, and targets of its nationwide “united actions.”30 Indeed, in 1960 Zengakuren was at the height of its power, counting as members over 300,000 students on more than 120 campuses nationwide.31

Following the lead of the Bund, the Japanese student movement attracted worldwide attention during the 1960 protests with their attempts to replicate their success at Sunagawa by creating a media spectacle that might “expose the contradictions” of Japanese capitalism and US Imperialism and attract national and international sympathy for their cause. In particular, they attracted attention with their colorful and innovative tactics for conducting unarmed street protests, especially the so-called “snake dance” (jiguzagu demo or “zigzag demonstration” in Japanese) in which sequential ranks of five or six activists locked arms and careened back and forth across the street like a giant snake. At a time when other protest movements around the world that would later come to be associated with the “global revolutions” of the “sixties” had not yet started or were just getting under way, images of the Japanese student activists putting their unarmed bodies on the line and performing spectacular snake dances to physically prevent a major Cold War treaty from being put into place were beamed into households all around the world through the rapidly proliferating new medium of television and seen by millions more in the newsreels that were still widely shown before feature films at the cinema.32

However, as the protests proceeded over the course of 1959 and 1960, a split began to emerge within Zengakuren over how to conduct the anti-treaty protests. Whereas the Trotskyist Bund- and Kakukyōdō-affiliated students in the Zengakuren “mainstream” saw the primary enemy in the treaty struggle as being “Japanese monopoly capital,” and therefore favored protesting at the National Diet Building and the prime minister’s official residence, the JCP-linked “anti-mainstream,” which still represented around 40 percent of the Zengakuren jichikai, adhered to the JCP’s official line that the primary enemy was “American imperialism,” and thus preferred to protest outside the US Embassy. Moreover the mainstream hoped to reprise the tactics that had been so successfully applied at Sunagawa, and therefore sought to provoke confrontations with the police in order to attract sympathy from the broader public, whereas the anti-mainstream, adhering to the JCP’s peaceful line, denounced the mainstream as “Trotskyist provocateurs” engaged in “extreme left adventurism.”33

The simmering dispute came to a head in the fall of 1959. During a November 27 “united action” at the National Diet, the Bund and radical young labor unionists smashed their way into the Diet compound itself in defiance of explicit orders to the contrary from the Kokumin Kaigi, hoping to provoke a bloody, Sunagawa-style confrontation with police. However, the police declined to engage, leaving the youths in control of the compound, where they snake-danced and sang protest songs for several hours. The Bund’s Diet invasion led to blistering condemnation from the JCP and other members of the Kokumin Kaigi. Then on January 17, when the Zengakuren mainstream occupied the Haneda Airport terminal in an attempt to prevent Prime Minister Kishi Nobusuke from traveling to the United States to sign the new security treaty, the anti-mainstream students refused to participate. Vowing revenge, the mainstream locked the anti-mainstream students out of the 15th Zengakuren National Congress in mid-March, on the flimsy pretext of having paid insufficient dues. Thereafter Zengakuren, although nominally still one organization, was functionally two different Zengakurens, each conducting its own meetings and mounting its own protests in different locations.34

Although their preferred targets differed, both halves of Zengakuren played a role in escalating the security treaty crisis in the summer of 1960. In May, Kishi had used his Liberal Democratic Party’s absolute majority in the Diet to suddenly cut off debate and call for a snap vote on the treaty, in violation of longstanding parliamentary norms. When the opposition Japan Socialist Party mounted a sit-in in the halls of the Diet building in a last ditch effort to block the treaty, Kishi had them physically dragged out by police officers, and rammed the treaty through just after midnight on May 20, with only members of his own party present, outraging much of the nation with this high-handed and anti-democratic maneuver. Thereafter, the anti-treaty protests swelled to truly massive size as millions of ordinary citizens from all walks of life turned out in the streets on nearly a daily basis to express their outrage at Kishi’s tactics.35

Amid the chaos, Zengakuren’s two rival factions instigated two notorious incidents that drastically escalated the sense of crisis: first the anti-mainstream mobbed a car carrying US President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s press secretary and the US Ambassador outside of Tokyo’s Haneda Airport on June 10, as befitted their preference for targeting “American imperialism.” The students and JCP-linked labor unionists battered the car and rocked it back and forth for nearly an hour before the occupants were finally rescued by a US Marines helicopter.36 Then on June 15, the Bund-led mainstream smashed its way into the Diet compound once again, finally precipitating the long-hoped-for Sunagawa-style bloody battle with police. Amid the harsh glare of the klieg lights brought in by television film crews, waves of conspicuously unarmed protesters crashed again and again into massed ranks of helmeted police officers armed with truncheons, battling long into the night as the student activists attempted to repossess the grounds of national legislature in the name of the Japanese people. Images of youths beaten unconscious and lying in pools of their own blood were transmitted to stunned citizens across the nation. By the time the police finally cleared the compound in the early hours of the morning, thousands had been injured and one student protester—female Tokyo University student (and committed Bund activist) Kanba Michiko—had been killed.

Together these two violent incidents produced a sense of shock throughout the nation and a feeling that the protests were getting out of hand. The mass media and many ordinary Japanese withdrew their support for the protest movement, and the treaty was allowed to come into effect as planned when ratification instruments were exchanged on June 23, 1960.37 However, these two incidents also underscored the depth of opposition to Kishi’s actions, leaving him little choice but to announce his resignation. They also forced Kishi to humiliatingly revoke an invitation to have Eisenhower become the first sitting US president to visit Japan, for fears that his safety could not be guaranteed. The actions of the radical student activists thus directly helped precipitate a major crisis in Cold War US-Japan relations, the resolution of which would be left to Kishi and Eisenhower’s successors, Ikeda Hayato and John F. Kennedy.38

With Kishi’s resignation and the effectuation of the revised treaty, the anti-treaty protests died away; however, their impact on Zengakuren was only just beginning. Although the protests had achieved enormous size and did force the collapse of Kishi’s government as well as the cancellation of Eisenhower’s visit, they had failed to achieve the primary aim of stopping the treaty itself. Thereafter Zengakuren (like many other member organizations of the Kokumin Kaigi) fell into vicious infighting over the exact causes of the failure to stop the treaty, who precisely was to blame, and where the student movement should go from there. Just a few weeks after the end of the protests, on the occasion of Zengakuren’s 16th National Congress that began on July 4, 1960, the Bund’s politburo (seijikyoku) sparked a firestorm within the Bund by declaring that “the Anpo struggle was at best an unfinished ‘Pyrrhic victory’….From the perspective of the Proletariat, it was not a victory at all. It was nothing but a major setback on the road to victory.”39 Debate raged within the Bund over the next few months regarding exactly what sort of setback the Anpo struggle had been and who was to blame for its failure. Over the course of this debate, the Bund itself disintegrated into three warring factions: the Revolution Faction (Kakumei no Tsūshin Ha, abbreviated Kakutsūha), the Proletariat Faction (Puroretaria Tsūshin Ha, abbreviated Purotsūha), and the Battle Flag Faction (Senki Ha). 

The Revolution Faction’s position was articulated in an article published by the Tokyo University cell of the Bund in the August issue of the Bund’s newsletter Senki (Battle Flag). Titled “The Failure of the Anpo Struggle and the Formation of the Ikeda Cabinet: The Numerous Theoretical Problems with the Anpo Struggle,” the article castigated other factions within the Bund for the “criminal malpractice” of “misdiagnosing” the Anpo struggle as a “preliminary skirmish” (zenshōsen) rather than the “final battle” (kessen) of the class war. According to the anonymous authors of the tract, this misapprehension had precipitated the Bund’s failure to make a truly all-out effort to stop the treaty’s ratification.40

The Proletariat Faction responded that the Bund’s strategy during the Anpo struggle had been fundamentally correct, and that the Revolution Faction’s argument amounted to “throwing the baby out with the bathwater” by refusing to recognize the gains made during the protests. The Proletariat Faction insisted on sticking to the “Himeoka Doctrine,” as articulated by Bund ideologue Himeoka Reiji in 1959, which called for a long and protracted struggle against Japanese monopoly capital.41

Meanwhile, two other members of the Bund, Yamazaki Mamoru and Tagawa Kazuo, who would later become the nucleus of the Battle Flag Faction, penned an article in Senki, titled “Overcoming Subjectivism and Petty-Bourgeois Radicalism,” in which they totally repudiated the Bund as an organization of “petty bourgeois radicals” and “individualists” who had foolishly expected a socialist revolution to “spontaneously generate” in response to a few radical actions.42

Thereafter, the Revolution Faction threw itself into a campaign to forge a nationwide movement to topple the cabinet of the new prime minister, Ikeda Hayato, but when such a movement failed to materialize, the faction dissolved in despair. Meanwhile, most of the Proletariat Faction and all of the Battle Flag Faction merged with Kakukyōdō in the fall of 1960. This marked the end of the original Bund, less than two years after its formation, and left a power vacuum at the top of the original Zengakuren, which the Kakukyōdō-affiliated students, now having reorganized themselves into the Marxist Student League (Marukusushugi Gakusei Dōmei, abbreviated Marugakudō), eagerly stepped in to fill. Meanwhile, the JCP-dominated “anti-mainstream” jichikai broke away to form a rival Zengakuren, officially called Zenjiren (an abbreviation for Zenkoku Gakusei Jichikai Renraku Kaigi, the All-Japan Liaison Council of Student Governments), and the Socialist Party, seeking to carve out its own slice of the student movement, established a party youth wing called the Socialist Youth League (Shakaishugi Seinen Dōmei, or Shaseidō).

By the time of the twenty-seventh meeting of the original Zengakuren’s Central Committee in April 1961, the organization had fallen under the control of Kakukyōdō’s Marugakudō. In July, Marugakudō presided over the 17th Zengakuren National Congress. The JCP-affiliated members of Zenjiren boycotted the Congress, signaling their final break with the remains of the original Zengakuren, while the last remnants of the Bund along with Shaseidō attempted to storm the Congress but were beaten off by Marugakudō students wielding squared timbers (later known as gebabō, “violence sticks”), in one of the earliest examples of so-called uchi-geba, or internecine violence between student activists (the geba in gebabō and uchi-geba is an abbreviation of the loanword gebaruto, from the German Gewalt, “force, violence”). Having driven its rivals off and having the Congress all to itself, Marugakudō voted its own members to all leadership positions and implemented an uncompromising “Anti-Imperialist, Anti-Stalinist” line that strictly adhered to the teachings of their “Blind Prophet,” Kuroda Kan’ichi.43

Thereafter, the student movement continued its rapid disintegration into a dizzying array of warring “sects” (sekuto). Among the major developments, in August 1961, on the eve of the JCP’s 8th Party Congress, the JCP’s “structural reform” faction, led by Kasuga Shōjirō, was driven out of the party and many of the student activists who had thus far remained loyal to the JCP left with him, forming the Structural Reform Faction (Kōkai Ha) Zengakuren. With much of Zenjiren now having deserted them, the JCP set up a new student group, the Democratic Youth League (Minshu Seinen Dōmei, or Minseidō). Then in early 1963, Kakukyōdō itself split in two over the issue of whether to pursue socialist revolution in alliance with others, as had been done during the 1960 protests, or to focus on strengthening and expanding a single revolutionary organization, with the resultant split of the Marugakudō into the Central Core Faction (Chūkaku Ha) Zengakuren (which favored allying with others) and the Revolutionary Marxist Faction (Kakumaru Ha) Zengakuren (which followed Kuroda’s line of going it alone). By early 1963, there were at least six major radical leftist student groups claiming the title of “Zengakuren”: the JCP’s Minseido, the JSP’s Shaseidō, Chūkaku Ha, Kakumaru Ha, the Hansen Gakusei Domei that had split off from Zengakuren way back in the early fifties and later renamed themselves the Socialist Student League (Shakaishugi Gakusei Dōmei, or Shagakudō), and the Kōkai Ha Zengakuren, who had since renamed themselves the Socialist Student Front (Shakaishugi Gakusei Sensen, better known simply as “Front” [Furonto in Japanese]).

Despite all this turmoil within the student movement, to an external observer student activism would seem to have entered a relatively quiet phase from 1961 to 1966. Although the Zengakuren sects continued to take part in various protests such as the 1961 struggle against the Political Violence Prevention Bill, the 1963 battle against the University Control Bill, the 1964 demonstrations against US nuclear submarines, and the 1965 movement against Japan–South Korea diplomatic normalization, turnouts were low, and no major incidents of violence occurred.44

But inside the universities, embryonic new forms of student activism were beginning to take shape. In May 1963, an extremely prescient Asahi Shinbun editorial titled “Universities in Crisis” warned that the student movement was entering a tumultuous new phase. Taking up the example of Japan’s elite Tokyo University, it pointed out a trend among students of increasing calls to attack the system and argued that the university was “beginning to collapse from within.” In the wake of Anpo, the students had lost their ideological footing: “The student radicals of ten years ago judged everything simple-mindedly through the prism of Marxism. But in the confused atmosphere of the present day, the meaning of Marxism itself has become subject to competing interpretations, and determining the increasingly varying ideology of Tokyo University students has become an increasingly complex task.” The editorial concluded with an ominous warning: “The real crisis in our universities is that nobody is attempting to deal with the growing confusion on the campuses.”45

Although many less-committed students had indeed abandoned the movement, others soldiered on even as the internecine struggles and schisms proceeded apace. Student organizers such as Tokoro Mitsuko and Yamamoto Yoshitaka (future leaders of the zenkyōtō movement) had gotten their first taste of activism as undergraduates while participating in the 1960 Anpo protests. Although they were deeply disillusioned with the failure of the protests to stop the treaty and thoroughly disgusted with the organized left as represented by the existing socialist and communist parties, they did not give up on activism, but instead sought out a new ideological basis for their activism that would respect and perhaps even foreground the rights and perspectives of each individual.46 Inspired by French existentialist philosophers such as Sartre and Camus, the German Marxist philosopher Herbert Marcuse, the homegrown philosophical musings of Japanese poet and critic Yoshimoto Takaaki, and the posthumously published writings of Kanba Michiko, this new generation of activists began to reject organized hierarchies of any kind, embraced notions of individual autonomy (jiritsusei), radical subjectivity (shutaisei), and an almost masochistic self-negation (jiko hitei), and sought to resolve conflict not via democratic centralist fiat but through more collectivist processes that Tokoro herself called “endless debate.”47

Finally, in December 1966, Chūkaku-Ha joined with Shagakudō (which now included remnants of the old Bund’s Battle Flag faction) and the Shaseidō subfaction Kaihō Ha (“Liberation Faction”) to form an alliance known as the “Three-Faction” (Sanpa) Zengakuren. On October 8, 1967, in what became known as the “Second Haneda Incident,” the Sanpa Zengakuren, arming themselves with wooden staves and helmets, attempted to battle their way through a police cordon to forcibly prevent Prime Minister Satō Eisaku from flying to the United States to meet with President Lyndon Johnson. This event, in which 840 police officers were injured, 49 vehicles were damaged or destroyed, and a 19-year-old Kyoto University student named Yamazaki Hiroaki was killed, has often been used to mark the start of a new phase of more violent student activism.48 In particular, the use of staves and helmets, in addition to the hurling of rocks and paving stones at police, marked a break with the earlier tactics of conspicuously unarmed protest that had been deployed to spectacular effect at Sunagawa and during the 1960 Anpo protests.

Around the same time in late 1967, several of the Zengakuren sects also became involved in the protracted “Sanrizuka Struggle” against the construction (and later the proposed expansion) of Narita Airport on the site of a small agricultural community called “Sanrizuka” in Chiba prefecture. Allying themselves with farmers fighting to prevent the expropriation of their land to make way for the airport’s construction, the student activists engaged in increasingly violent forms of confrontation, including hurling rocks, Molotov cocktails, acid, and human excrement at police, engaging in fierce hand-to-hand combat with staves, sickles, and bamboo spears, and constructing an elaborate network of tunnels, trenches, watchtowers, and makeshift fortresses in order to defend farmland from encroachment by surveyors, construction crews, and riot police.49

If anyone doubted that the Japanese student movement had entered an explosive new phase, these doubts were put to rest by the so-called Shinjuku Riot (Shinjuku sōran jiken) of October 21, 1968. A year earlier, on August 8, 1967, a freight train carrying jet fuel bound for US military bases collided with another freight train and exploded at Shinjuku Station in central Tokyo. This spectacular incident had drawn nationwide attention to the fact that Japanese infrastructure was being used to carry war materiel in support of (and Japanese businesses were thus profiting from) the increasingly unpopular US war in Vietnam. On October 21 of the following year, as part of a nationwide day of protest to mark “International Anti-War Day,” members of various Zengakuren sects as well as radical young labor unionists, amounting to around 20,000 activists in total, occupied Shinjuku Station, sitting on the tracks to halt the passage of trains through Tokyo’s busiest train hub. When police attempted to restore order, they were repeatedly repelled by the activists, who fought back with staves and hurled paving stones and track ballast. Meanwhile, the station’s south entrance was set on fire, and a crowd of thousands of onlookers appeared to watch the spectacle. Finally, an official invocation of the 1952 Anti-Subversive Activities Act that had passed the Japanese Diet the day after the Occupation ended allowed 12,500 riot police to be sent in to clear the station. Riot police battled the student activists late into the night, and trains finally resumed normal operations the following morning. All told, 770 protesters were arrested and 1,157 police officers were injured across Tokyo.50

Meanwhile, a new type of student protest movement was emerging on university campuses. Beginning in 1965 and 1966, Japanese university students had increasingly begun erecting barricades and occupying university buildings when various demands related to their campus life were not met. In 1966, for example, students at Waseda University and Meiji University occupied buildings in protest of tuition increases, and students at Chūō University barricaded a building in a dispute over management of a student dormitory. Then in 1967, students began erecting barricades at Nihon University amid outrage over embezzlement of 2 billion yen of university funds by university administrators, and students at Tokyo University’s medical school locked down their building and went on strike in protest of coercive unpaid and under-paid student labor.51

The protests at Nihon and Tokyo universities, in particular, rapidly swelled to encompass the entire campuses as students in other departments joined the struggle one by one out of sympathy and solidarity, but also to protest other issues arising within their own departments. Each department formed its own “joint struggle committee” (kyōtō kaigi), with separate sub-committees for undergraduates, graduate students, and low-ranking lecturers, and then these various committees joined together to form “all-campus joint struggle committees,” (zengaku kyōtō kaigi, or zenkyōtō for short). This model spread rapidly among Japan’s educational institutions, and soon similar zenkyōtō appeared on hundreds of other college campuses and in thousands of high schools around the nation.52

When several university presidents took the drastic step of inviting riot police onto campus to quell the student protests, the student activists felt that their cherished Humboldtian ideal of a college campus set at a psychological remove from ordinary society and free from outside intrusion was under mortal threat, so they began barricading their entire campuses against police entry and arming themselves with staves and helmets in the manner of the Zengakuren sects to fight back against police assaults. Increasingly, they also began turning their staves on each other when disagreements arose over strategy and tactics, and uchi-geba (internecine violence) became one of the watchwords of the era.

For a time, the “zenkyōto movement” brought a surge of fresh blood into the student movement as the proudly proclaimed “non-sect” and “non-ideological” nature of the zenkyōtō allowed students to enter the movement regardless of their preexisting ideological orientation and crucially, without joining one of the Zengakuren sects, which many students viewed as too extreme and overly dogmatic. Moreover, insofar as the zenkyōtō initially focused on issues relating to daily life on campus, they offered up a set of clearly defined goals and demands behind which students from many different backgrounds could unite. In this sense, the protests reflected the broad-based dissatisfaction of the massive baby boom generation—now attending high school and college in larger numbers than any previous generation—with Japan’s overcrowded and inadequate educational facilities, as well as their feelings of insecurity over finding good jobs at a time when so many new graduates were hitting the job market all at once.53 Initial media coverage of the students heroically standing up for academic and personal freedom against the depredations of the riot police was sympathetic, and a variety of students flocked to the movement, including many who had never taken part in protests before.54

However, the Zengakuren sects rapidly infiltrated the zenkyōtō and sought to redirect the movement toward various broader political aims, such as protesting the Vietnam War, the US-Japan Security Treaty, the policies of the conservative government, and even, many sect members hoped, overthrowing capitalism and fomenting a Marxist revolution.55 It was difficult to refuse sect participation in the zenkyōtō movement because battle-hardened sect members offered seemingly valuable practical and logistical advice as well as “combat training.” Moreover, the rhetorical stance of the zenkyōtō as “non-ideological” organizations that “anyone can join” precluded them from excluding any part of the campus community from membership. While the top leadership posts of the zenkyōtō largely remained in the hands of “non-sect radicals” (non-sekuto rajikaru) such as Yamamoto Yoshitaka at Tokyo University, over time, more and more of their support and manpower derived from the various Zengakuren sects, and it became increasingly difficult to distinguish where the sects ended and the zenkyōtō began.56

Nominally egalitarian and anti-hierarchical, the zenkyōtō sought to practice direct democracy and took decisions on a simple yes-or-no vote via a show of hands by all members present, but in practice were often dominated by one or a few charismatic leaders (typically male) who exercised coercive authority over their followers. Despite their anti-hierarchical rhetoric, the zenkyōtō and the Zengakuren sects often reproduced traditional gender hierarchy, marginalizing women from decision-making processes and instead relegating them to traditionally “feminine” tasks such as secretarial and housekeeping duties and the serving of tea. At a time when the sexual revolution was spreading around the world, popular songs and media portrayals in Japan tended to exoticize and romanticize “free love behind the barricades,” but in the worst cases, this involved men coercing their female colleagues into unwanted sexual relationships in the name of egalitarian solidarity and “support” for the movement, and even instances of sexual assault and rape.57 This reproduction of gender hierarchy, which was mirrored in other “New Left” movements around the world, led many women to abandon the movement, and helped birth the women’s liberation movement in Japan.58

Over the course of 1968, as the zenkyōtō were increasingly radicalized by their clashes with police and intransigent university administrators, as well as their encounters with the New Left ideologies of the preexisting sects, the tone of the movement began to shift away from advocating for concrete demands toward more abstract goals. Especially at elite universities such as Tokyo University, the zenkyōtō students’ quest for autonomy and radical subjectivity led many to turn inward and engage in often awkward and painfully sincere self-criticism (hansei) and even attempts at “self-negation” (jiko hitei).59 Inspired by New Left ideologies, they were forced to reckon, as students on an elite fast track to cushy jobs in government and big business, with their own complicity in sustaining the oppressive systems of capitalism and imperialism that they sought to overthrow, as the rhetoric of the movement drifted from “reforming the university” (daigaku kaikaku) to “dismantling the university” (daigaku kaitai). On many campuses, the zenkyōtō refused to disband even after university administrations agreed to meet many of their original demands relating to tuition and campus life, because their demands were no longer as concrete and had come to encompass overthrowing the entire system. As a result, the uprisings lasted throughout 1968 and into 1969 with no end in sight.

Tokyo University Protest 1968 (Wikipedia)


Scholars have estimated that even at the height of the campus protests in 1968-69, no more than 20 percent of students were actively involved in these leftist struggles. The remaining 80 percent of students either remained neutral, or else actively opposed the zenkyōtō and the sects (this included the JCP-affiliated Minsei students and the oft overlooked right-wing counter-movements, which famously included many student athletes).60 Nevertheless, this minority of committed activists was able to seize control of entire campuses and terrorize any students and professors who attempted to remain into submission or into leaving. Students who tried to quit the movement or supported rival factions were threatened, brutally beaten, or in some cases (if female), sexually assaulted.61

Similarly, professors seen as inadequately supportive were hounded and sometimes imprisoned within their offices until they recanted and submitted self-criticisms. Even the famous left-leaning Tokyo University sociologist Maruyama Masao was not exempt from persecution. When student activists occupied the Faculty of Law and ransacked his office in December 1968, he angrily confronted them, telling them “Even the fascists didn’t do what you are trying to do.” This confrontation made Maruyama a target of student ire, and on February 24, 1969, he was accosted by a mob of students, who forced marched him to a lecture hall and subjected him to two hours of “cross-examination” during which they attempted to coerce a self-criticism out of Maruyama.62

All told, some 165 university campuses experienced significant disruption in 1968 and 1969, and some 70 campuses were barricaded against police intrusion, with additional disturbances taking place in an untold number of high schools (especially those in urban areas or otherwise in close proximity to university campuses).63 Several prominent universities were forced to postpone entrance exams for the 1969 school year and suspended classroom instruction, and in some cases entire cohorts of college seniors were unable to graduate on schedule and had to wait until 1970 to graduate.

The spiritual center of the movement was Tokyo University’s iconic Yasuda Auditorium at the heart of the main (Hongo) campus, which the zenkyōtō groups and New Left sects, drawing manpower from several different universities, barricaded and occupied for 249 days, beginning on May 15, 1968. The occupation lasted until January 19, 1969, when 8,000 riot police armed with truncheons, shields, and firehoses marched onto campus and attempted to forcibly remove them.64 Although the students fiercely resisted, hurling Molotov cocktails, rocks, acid bombs, and huge chunks of pavement down on them from above, the police finally recaptured the auditorium after a fierce 36-hour siege that was transmitted on live television into living rooms nationwide.65 One month later, on February 18, several thousand riot police smashed through and dismantled the barricades at Nihon University, and three days later, the spring entrance examinations were successfully held under heavy police guard.66

Although the two most prominent zenkyōtō groups had now been defeated, the student movement on other campuses did not immediately die down, as copycat movements saw the number of barricaded campuses resurge from 33 at the time of the storming of Yasuda Auditorium to 77 in March.67 However, after more than a year of protest and disruption and the spectacular violence broadcast nationwide during the televised siege of Yasuda Auditorium, the tide of public opinion had clearly turned from support of the students resisting police intrusions to support of the police entering campuses and restoring order. The police were further emboldened by the expedited passage of an Emergency University Control Law in August, which repudiated the Humboldtian model of the autonomous university by allowing the Minister of Education to close down departments or entire universities if campus disputes were not settled within nine months, alongside the right to introduce police forces to campus that enforcement of the law implied.68

In fact, the student movement had already been losing momentum even prior to the defeat of the Tokyo and Nihon University struggles, as the drift toward less concrete objectives and the increase in internecine violence drove less ideologically committed students to drop out. Already in 1968, several campuses saw zenkyōto groups associated with more conservative or less political departments vote to disband and return to class. This tended to leave leadership of the student movement in the hands of an ever smaller group of extremists, especially those associated with the militant Zengakuren sects.69

A final blow came with the failure of the 1970 Anpo protests to secure an abrogation of the US-Japan Security Treaty. Ever since the 1960 protests, student activists had looked forward to the ten-year anniversary of the treaty in June 1970 as a chance to mount another massive protest movement (and possibly even foment a socialist revolution), as the text of the treaty specified that either party could abrogate the treaty with one year’s notice following an initial ten-year term.70 Despite the defeats of 1969, many student groups hung on in anticipation of the long awaited 1970 protests, and joined with the anti-Vietnam War group Beheiren71 and a number of other civic groups in staging large-scale street protests in June 1970. However, the conservative Prime Minister Satō Eisaku, having acquired significant political capital by successfully securing a promise from US president Richard Nixon to return Okinawa to Japanese sovereignty in November 1969, simply opted to ignore the protests and allow the treaty to continue as is.

Together the collapse of the campus struggles in 1969 and the failure of the 1970 Anpo protests to develop into a mass movement helped precipitate a second major round of recriminations within the student movement that led to a violent denouement in 1972. In 1971, remnants of the “Red Army Faction” (Sekigun Ha) of the “Second Bund” (Dainiji Bunto) split over disagreements on how best to continue the struggle after the failures of 1969 and 1970. Having already lost much of their leadership and rank-and-file members to arrests and desertion in the aftermath of a series of bank robberies and the group’s hijacking of Japan Airlines Flight 351 to North Korea in 1970, one remnant that insisted the revolution must be completed first in Japan combined with the anti-Security Treaty joint struggle committee of the Kanagawa prefectural branch of the Revolutionary Left Faction (Kakumei Saha Keihin Anpo Kyōtō) to form the United Red Army (Rengō Sekigun) and pursue violent revolution at home. Meanwhile, another remnant, led by Shigenobu Fusako, decided to give up on Japan entirely and pursue revolution overseas. Calling themselves the Japan Red Army (Nihon Sekigun), they decamped to the Middle East, where they pursued a campaign of international terrorism that lasted into the late 1980s.

Relentlessly pursued by police, the United Red Army retreated into the mountains north of Tokyo where, on the orders of their leaders Mori Tsuneo and Nagata Hiroko, the group sought to purify itself for the coming armed struggle with the state via an extended course of self-criticism. This escalated into corporal punishments for those deemed insufficiently committed to the revolutionary cause, and the sect wound up torturing to death 12 of its members—all young men and women in their twenties. Finally in February 1972, the last five members of the sect holed up in an isolated lodge on Mount Asama near the resort town of Karuizawa with rifles and explosives, where they engaged in a standoff with 1,500 riot police for 10 days. Hundreds of media staff were also on the scene to report the story, creating an intense and prolonged media spectacle that has never been surpassed in terms of duration and television ratings. The final 10 hours and 40 minutes of the standoff were televised live on national broadcaster NHK, and at one point nearly 90 percent of television viewers in Japan tuned in to watch the final moments as police stormed the lodge, captured the militants, and rescued a hostage, at the heavy cost of two police officers and one bystander killed in the firefight.72 The aftermath, including sect member confessions and police investigations into the horrifying details of the killings, received heavy media coverage as well, as did the exhumation of the corpses of the twelve murdered youths in March.73

Then on May 30, three members of the Japan Red Army carried out a massacre of civilians at Lod Airport outside Tel Aviv, Israel. Working in partnership with a revolutionary Palestinian group, three Japanese youths in their 20s arrived on an Air France flight from Rome, well-dressed in suits and carrying violin cases. When they disembarked in the Lod Airport terminal, they pulled out assault rifles and grenades and began indiscriminately slaughtering civilians. Altogether, 26 people were murdered (including 17 American citizens on a pilgrimage from Puerto Rico), 79 people were injured, and two of the three attackers were killed by their own weapons. When the surviving attacker, 24-year-old Kagoshima University student Okamoto Kōzō, was detained, he told a diplomat from the Japanese embassy that he held no ill will toward the Israeli people, but that he had merely carried out “my duty as a soldier of the revolution.”74 When Okamoto’s father, a retired primary school principal, was asked if he had been concerned about his son’s involvement in the student movement, he expressed surprise, saying “Who isn’t involved in the movement? Students are all in the student movement…so I assumed [his] participation was normal,” indicating that as late as 1972 participation in the radical student movement while in university was still viewed as normal, even expected.75

It is difficult to overstate the shock many Japanese people felt at the realization that such violent incidents had been carried out by Japanese nationals both abroad and so close to home. Together the Asama Mountain Lodge incident and the Lod Airport Massacre have come to be seen as the end point of Japan’s revolutionary left-wing student movement. The Asama incident in particular has often been cited as a primary catalyst in delegitimizing leftist agitation or indeed political activism of any kind in Japan.76 However, the warring Zengakuren sects did not entirely disappear after 1972. For example, remnants of Chūkaku Ha and Kakumaru Ha waged a violent war against each other in the 1970s, resulting in several deaths per year, including the premeditated assassination of Chūkaku Ha leader Honda Nobuyoshi, who was murdered while he slept in his apartment in Kawaguchi city in the predawn hours of March 14, 1975, causing Chūkaku Ha to murder 14 members of Kakumaru Ha in revenge.77 Similarly, after Kakumaru Ha members ambushed and killed Kaihō Ha leader Nakahara Ishi in front of Toride Station north of Tokyo in on February 11, 1977, Kaihō Ha exacted revenge by murdering 20 members of Kakumaru Ha by June 1980.78

Even as they battled each other, the Zengakuren sects continued their struggle at Narita Airport into the mid-1980s, long after the local farmers originally involved had all been bought out or passed away, and some of these sects and successor organizations continue to exist to this day. The Japan Red Army also continued its armed struggle overseas, carrying out a number of smaller attacks, bombings, and hijackings into the late 1980s, by which point most of the members had been arrested, although Shigenobu Fusako herself was not finally detained until November 8, 2000, after she was discovered to have been living quietly under an assumed name in the suburban town of Takatsuki in central Japan.

Nevertheless, membership in the organized Zengakuren sects drastically declined after 1972 and continued to dwindle going forward, as openly ideological political activism came to be seen as distasteful by a broad cross-section of Japanese people. Indeed, student and youth activism of all kinds declined, as a tightening job market amid the oil shocks and recessions of the 1970s combined with the broader delegitimization of the student movement and the partial blackballing of some of the most extreme student activists by Japanese corporations to make participation in the student movement seem increasingly risky.

By this point however, the Japanese student movement had come to be seen as a model for emulation by other student movements and the New Left around the world, including in places such as France, Germany, South Korea, Mexico, and the United States.79 In the wake of the 1960 Anpo protests, Zengakuren leaders began expanding their efforts to cultivate connections with similar movements overseas and sects such as Chūkaku Ha began publishing English-language newsletters on their activities for overseas distribution.80 Around the world, New Left organizations such as Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and the Student Non-Violent Organizing Committee (SNCC) began to take notice. In 1965, SDS president Carl Oglesby visited Japan at the invitation of one of the Zengakuren sects, and would visit again in 1967.81 In various SDS publications, the Japanese student movement was singled out for praise of its militancy and compatible ideological orientation. For example in 1966, Allan Greene, a member of the Baltimore SDS, published a position paper in New Left Notes, an SDS newsletter, titled “SDS and the Japanese New Left,” in which he gave fulsome praise to Zengakuren’s activism and bold militancy, arguing that, “Perhaps the most promising of the [New Left] movements is the militant Zengakuren,” and that, “the actions of Zengakuren…and its militancy, make it vitally necessary for SDS and SNCC in America, and Zengakuren in Japan to be able to compare experiences, common problems and issues, differences, and theories of change.”82

In June 1966, Howard Zinn and Ralph Featherstone of SNCC visited Japan at the invitation of the Japanese anti-war group Beheiren and a number of Japanese universities, speaking at 14 Japanese universities in nine cities about the progress of the American Civil Rights and New Left movements. Zinn was impressed by the passion with which Japanese youths opposed the war in Vietnam, despite their nation seeming to have less of a direct stake in the conflict.83 Zinn recalled,


After a four hour discussion session at Tohoku University in Sendai, a quiet town in northern Honshu, I was met by fifty students waiting eagerly to continue the discussion. We trooped off to the park. There in the cool darkness of Sendai, I wondered why fifty Japanese kids would stay out after midnight to discuss the war in Vietnam, when Japan was only a minor accessory to American action. When the US was helping the French crush the Algerian revolt, did any group of American students ever gather in the park at midnight to brood over this? Did a thousand ever meet to protest it? By the end of our trip I thought I had found the answer. It lay in the Japanese people’s piercing consciousness of their own recent history. Again and again, at virtually every meeting, there arose the accusation, directed at the Japanese past and the American present: “You are behaving in Asia as we once did.”84


Zinn was typical in ascribing to Japanese activists a special didactic role arising from Japan’s experience as one of the only nations to be both a victim (higaisha) and a victimizer (kagaisha) of global imperialism, a framework promoted by many Japanese activists themselves.

Two months later, in August 1966, Beheiren hosted the “US-Japan Two Nations Conference for Peace in Vietnam” in Tokyo. According to Beheiren president Oda Makoto, the explicit goal of the conference was “to provide an opportunity for…activists from the West to learn about Asian perspectives, opinions, and actions” and he told the invited participants, “you are not here to preach to us, but to learn from us.”85 The conference was attended by several representatives from SNCC, SDS, the War Resisters League (WRL), and the Committee for a SANE Nuclear Policy (SANE), among other American anti-war groups, as well as 15 “observers” from similar groups in Argentina, Britain, Canada, France, India, Pakistan, Mongolia, and the Soviet Union. Altogether 1,600 people packed the Sankei International Conference Hall in Tokyo for the three-day event, which was deemed such a success that a second “Two Nations Conference” was held in Kyoto in 1968.86

The year 1968 also witnessed a large international conference hosted by the Second Bund’s Red Army (Sekigun) faction and organized by Second Bund ideologue Matsumoto Reiji (a penname used by Takahashi Yoshihiko in imitation of First Bund ideologue Himeoka Reiji). The August 3 conference was attended by 2,000 activists from Japan and around the world, including representatives from the Black Panther Party, SNCC and SDS from the US, the West German SDS (Sozialistischer Deutscher Studentenbund, the “German Socialist Students’ League”), the Jeunesse Communiste Révolutionnaire (Young Revolutionary Communists) from France, and participants from Cuba.87

New Left movements around the world even attempted to imitate some of the signature protest tactics of the Japanese student movement, especially the iconic “snake dance.” For example, members of the “Chicago Seven,” including Tom Hayden, Rennie Davis, David Dellinger, Lee Weiner, and “unindicted co-conspirator” David Baker, led anti-war activists in conducting Japanese style snake dances at the protests outside of the Democratic National Convention in August 1968, an action which prosecutors later attempted to use as evidence that they had incited others to violent action.88 The following month, a New York Times journalist reported with amusement attempts by student activists at City College in New York to learn the snake dance, which faltered because the students had trouble matching their stride with each other and wound up crashing into each other. The students were told to chant the word “wasshoi” (a Japanese equivalent of “heave-ho”). When one student asked what “wasshoi” meant, another suggested it meant “Down with imperialism, up [yours to] the establishment,” while a third declaimed, “Washoi [sic] is Japanese and it means whatever you want it to mean. It’s the thing of the future, so let’s learn now how to use it.”89


* * *


As this brief essay has suggested, Japan’s postwar student movement both learned from and played roles as a model and exemplar for other anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist, and anti-war movements that arose around the world in the 1960s. In addition, it served as a “teacher by negative example” (hanmen kyōshi) to a second generation of Japanese student activists in the 1960s and 1970s, who sought to move away from the openly ideological, nakedly political approach of the early postwar student movement towards new forms of protest that presented themselves as apolitical or even anti-political. Although the Japanese student movement shared many characteristics with other student movements and broader youth culture around the world, the organizational strength, centralization, and cohesion of the Japanese student movement, as represented by Zengakuren, was unmatched by other student movements around the world in the 1950s, which allowed it to play an outsized role in the massive and spectacular 1960 Anpo protests, at a time when protest movements in other parts of the world were just getting underway. In addition, Japanese activists themselves as well as outside observers around the world consistently pointed to the formative role the experience of wartime had in giving the protests of postwar Japanese student activists against war and imperialism an added poignancy and sense of urgency. In these ways, among others, the Japanese student movement played a significant part in shaping global protest culture around the world from the 1950s into the 1970s.

Related APJJF Articles:

Nick Kapur, “Japan’s Streets of Rage: The 1960 US-Japan Security Treaty Uprising and the Origins of Contemporary Japan

Oguma Eiji, “Japan’s 1968: A Collective Reaction to Rapid Economic Growth in an Age of Turmoil

Oguma Eiji, “What Was and Is ‘1968’?: Japanese Experience in Global Perspective





In particular, see Chelsea Szendi Schieder, Coed Revolution: The Female Student in the Japanese New Left (Durham: Duke University Press, 2021).


See Emiko Ohnuki-Tierney, Kamikaze, Cherry Blossoms, and Nationalisms: The Militarization of Aesthetics in Japanese History (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002), 162-163.


Ohnuki-Tierney, 175.


See Nick Kapur, Japan at the Crossroads: Conflict and Compromise after Anpo (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2018), 9-10.


On education reform, see Toshio Nishi, Unconditional Democracy: Education and Politics in Occupied Japan, 1945-1952 (Stanford: Hoover Institution Press, 1982), and John Dower, Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II (New York: W.W. Norton, 1999), 246-251.


On the persistent strand of pacifism and anti-war sentiment in the Japanese student movement, see Naoko Koda, The United States and the Japanese Student Movement, 1948-1973: Managing a Free World (Lanham: Lexington Books, 2020).


Kapur, Japan at the Crossroads, 12.


Nick Kapur, “The Empire Strikes Back? The 1968 Meiji Centennial Celebrations and the Revival of Japanese Nationalism,” Japanese Studies, 38:3, 307-308.


Benjamin C. Duke, Japan’s Militant Teachers: A History of the Left-Wing Teachers’ Movement (Honolulu: Hawai’i University Press, 1973), 75-77.


Duke, Japan’s Militant Teachers, 136-155.


Oguma Eiji, “Japan’s 1968: A Collective Reaction to Rapid Economic Growth in an Age of Turmoil,” Nick Kapur with Samuel Malissa and Stephen Poland, trans., The Asia-Pacific Journal 13:12 (2015) (accessed September 1, 2019), 11; Rosalind Pritchard, “Humboldtian Values in a Changing World: Staff and Students in German Universities,” Oxford Review of Education  30:4 (December 2004), 510-511.


On Minobe, see Gregory J. Kasza, The State and Mass Media in Japan, 1918-1945  (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988), 129-137 ; on Yanaihara, see Susan C. Townsend, Yanihara Tadao and Japanese Colonial Policy: Redeeming Empire (New York: Routledge, 2013), 228-256; on Tsuda, see John S. Brownlee, Japanese Historians and the National Myths, 1600-1945: The Age of the Gods and Emperor Jinmu (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1997) 186-201.


Byron K. Marshall, Academic Freedom and the Japanese Imperial University, 1868-1939 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992), 168-175.


Ben-Ami Shillony, “Universities and Students in Wartime Japan,” The Journal of Asian Studies 45:4 (August 1986), 779.


See Nishi, Unconditional Democracy, 167, and Matsunami Michihiro, “Origins of Zengakuren,” in Stuart Dowsey, ed., Zengakuren: Japan’s Revolutionary Students (Berkeley: The Ishi Press, 1970), 43.


Matsunami, “Origins of Zengakuren,” 44.


Matsunami, “Origins of Zengakuren,” 45-47.


Takei Teruo, “Zengakuren kessei no zengo: sore wa gyakuryū to no tatakai no makuaki datta,” reproduced in Takei Teruo, Sō to shite no gakusei undō: Zengakuren sōseiki no shisō to kōdō (Tokyo: Supēsu Kaya, 2005), 65.


Matsunami, “Origins of Zengakuren,” 53.


On the “Reverse Course,” see Dower, Embracing Defeat, 268-273, 525-562; and Takemae Eiji, Inside GHQ: The Allied Occupation of Japan and Its Legacy, Robert Ricketts and Sebastian Swann, trans. (New York: Continuum, 2002), 468-495.


Hirata Tetsuo, Reddo pāji no shiteki kyūmei (Tokyo: Shin Nihon Shuppansha, 2002), 22; Koda, The United States and the Japanese Student Movement, 41; Duke, Japan’s Militant Teachers, 90-91.


On the Cominform criticism and its aftermath, see Robert Scalapino, The Japanese Communist Movement, 1920-1966 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1967), 60-78.


Kapur, Japan at the Crossroads, 14-15.


Kapur, Japan at the Crossroads, 14.


Kapur, Japan at the Crossroads, 129.


Kapur, Japan at the Crossroads, 146.


Kapur, Japan at the Crossroads, 15-16.


Kapur, Japan at the Crossroads, 146.


Kapur, Japan at the Crossroads, 19.


Kapur, Japan at the Crossroads, 19-20.


Kazuko Tsurumi, Social Change and the Individual (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1970), 330.


Kapur, Japan at the Crossroads, 3-4.


Kapur, Japan at the Crossroads, 147.


Kapur, Japan at the Crossroads, 147-8.


Kapur, Japan at the Crossroads, 22-25.


Kapur, Japan at the Crossroads, 27-29.


Kapur, Japan at the Crossroads, 30-34.


For further discussion of this crisis and Ikeda and Kennedy’s efforts to resolve it, see Kapur, Japan at the Crossroads, 35-74.


Takagi Masayuki, Shinsayoku sanjū-nen shi (Tokyo: Doyō Bijutsusha, 1988), 49.


“Anpo tōsō no zasetsu to Ikeda naikaku no seiritsu: Anpo tōsō ni okeru rironteki sho mondai,” Senki 27 (August 14, 1960), reproduced in San’ichi Shobō Henshūbu, ed., Shiryō sengo gakusei undō 5: 1959–1961 (Tokyo: San’ichi Shobō, 1969), 455–468.


Takazawa Kōji, Takagi Masayuki, and Kurata Kazunari, Shinsayoku nijūnen shi: Hanran no kiseki (Tokyo: Shinsensha, 1995), 45. “Himeoka Reiji” was the pen name of Aoki Masahiko, who later became a Stanford University economics professor. Himeoka’s doctrine had been initially laid out in an article in the June 1959 issue of the journal Kyōsanshugi.


San’ichi Shobō Henshūbu, ed., Shiryō sengo gakusei undō 5, 455; Takazawa, Takagi, and Kurata, Shinsayoku nijūnen shi, 45; Yun Kyŏng-ch’ŏl, Nihon shinsayoku no kenkyū (Tokyo: Bokutakusha, 2001), 23.


Kapur, Japan at the Crossroads, 149-150.


Kapur, Japan at the Crossroads, 150.


“Konnichi no mondai: Daigaku no kiki,” Asahi Shinbun, May 19, 1963, evening edition, 1.


On Tokoro Mitsuko in particular, see Guy Yasko, The Japanese Student Movement, 1968-1970: The Zenkyoto Uprising (Ph.D. dissertation, Cornell University, 1997), 1-45, and Schieder, Coed Revolution, 49-77.


Kapur, Japan at the Crossroads, 151; Schieder, Coed Revolution, 59.


See, for example, William Marotti, “Japan 1968: The Performance of Violence and the Theater of Protest,” The American Historical Review 114:1 (February 2009), 97-135. For police injuries and vehicle damage statistics, see Keisatsuchō, Shōwa 63-nen keisatsu hakusho: “tero, gerira” no konzetsu o mezashite (Tokyo: Keisatsuchō, 1988), “Dai-1-setsu: kyokusa bōryoku shūdan nado no hensen,” (accessed May 24, 2022).


For a detailed account of the Sanrizuka struggle, see David E. Apter and Nagayo Sawa, Against the State: Politics and Social Protest in Japan (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1984).


This account draws upon the following sources: Oguma Eiji, 1968 (Tokyo: Shinyōsha, 2009): 2:86-93; “Mokugekisha ga kataru ‘Shinjuku sōran’: bōto 2-mannin koe, 743-nin ga onawa ni,” Daily Shinchō, December 28, 2016, (accessed September 1, 2019); Toyomasa Fuse, “Student Radicalism in Japan: A ‘Cultural Revolution’?” Comparative Education Review 13:3 (October 1969), 333; and Keisatsuchō, Shōwa 63-nen keisatsu hakusho, Dai-1-setsu.


Oguma, “Japan’s 1968,” 12.


Oguma, “Japan’s 1968,” 5.


Oguma, “Japan’s 1968,” 8-9.


Oguma, “Japan’s 1968,” 3.


Oguma, “Japan’s 1968,” 4.


Sawara Yukiko, “The University Struggles,” in Stuart Dowsey, ed., Zengakuren: Japan’s Revolutionary Students (Berkeley: The Ishi Press, 1970), 141.


Setsu Shigematsu, “’68 and the Japanese Women’s Liberation Movement,” in Gavin Walker, ed., The Red Years: Theory, Politics and Aesthetics in the Japanese ’68 (London: Verso, 2020), 79-80; Chelsea Szendi Schieder, “Human Liberation or ‘Male Romance’: The Gendered Everyday of the Student New Left, in Gavin Walker, ed., The Red Years: Theory, Politics and Aesthetics in the Japanese ’68 (London: Verso, 2020), 155-157.


For other accounts of the emergence of the women’s liberation movement in Japan, see Vera Mackie, Feminism in Modern Japan: Citizenship, Embodiment and Sexuality (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 144-169, and Setsu Shigematsu, Scream from the Shadows: The Women’s Liberation Movement in Japan (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2012).


Takemasa Ando, Japan’s New Left Movements: Legacies for Civil Society (London: Routledge, 2012), 70-72.


See, for example, Oguma, “Japan’s 1968,” 5.


Schieder, “Human Liberation,” 156-157.


Karube, Tadashi, Maruyama Masao and the Fate of Liberalism in Twentieth-Century Japan (Tokyo: International House of Japan), 168.


Schieder, Coed Revolution, 85; Oguma, “Japan’s 1968,” 3; Michiya Shimbori, “Student Radicals in Japan,” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 395 (May 1971), 154-155.


Ichiro Sunada, “The Thought and Behavior of Zengakuren: Trends in the Japanese Student Movement,” Asian Survey 9:6 (June 1969), 472.


Sawara, “The University Struggles,” 156-159.


Sawara, “The University Struggles,” 169.


Sunada, “The Thought and Behavior of Zengakuren,” 472.


Patricia G. Steinhoff, “Student Conflict,” in Ellis S. Krauss, Thomas P. Rohlen, and Patricia G. Steinhoff, eds. Conflict in Japan (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press), 192.


Kapur, Japan at the Crossroads, 152.


This apparent 1970 “deadline” also structured conservative prime minister Satō Eisaku’s diplomacy toward the United States as he waged an all-out charm offensive to successfully secure a promise of Okinawan reversion prior to 1970 in order to head off such protests, as well as the activities of right-wing ultranationalist groups, who traded on fears of a “second Anpo” in 1970 in order to recruit new members and elicit donations.


“Beheiren” was an abbreviation for the “Citizen’s League for Peace in Vietnam” (Betonamu ni Heiwa o! Shimin Rengo).


Shigematsu, Scream from the Shadows, 92; Christopher Perkins, The United Red Army on Screen: Cinema, Aesthetics and The Politics of Memory (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015), 45-46.


Shigematsu, Scream from the Shadows, 92.


Mark Schreiber, Shocking Crimes of Postwar Japan (Tokyo: Yenbooks, 1996), 215-216.


Patricia Steinhoff, “Portrait of a Terrorist: An Interview with Kozo Okamoto,” Asian Survey 16:9 (September 1976), 835-836.


Christopher Perkins discusses this perception in some detail. See Perkins, The United Red Army on Screen, 9.


Takagi Masayuki, Shinsayoku sanjūnen shi : nenpyō, keizu, sakuin, tsuki (Tokyo: Doyō Bijutsusha, 1988), 134; Kagekiha jikenbo 40-nen shi (Tokyo: Tachibana Shobō, 2001), 70-72.


Takagi, Shinsayoku sanjūnen shi, 136; Apter and Sawa, Against the State, 121.


See Alain Brossat, “La Zenkakuren Japonaise: Modèle pour les Étudiants Occidentaux?,” in Philippe Artières and Michelle Zancarini-Fournel, eds., 68: Une Histoire Collective (Paris: La Découverte, 2018).


Koda, The United States and the Japanese Student Movement, 193.


Carl Oglesby, “Movement News: Oglesby Ignites Tokyo Teach-In,” Students for a Democratic Society Bulletin 4:1 (September 1965), 1-2; Carl Oglesby, Ravens in the Storm: A Personal History of the 1960s Anti-War Movement (New York: Scribner), 80, 111.


Allan Greene, “SDS and the Japanese New Left: Position Paper for the SDS Convention with a Resolution on Our Relations with the Japanese New Left,” New Left Notes 1:31 (August 19, 1966), 4.


Howard Zinn, The Zinn Reader: Writings on Disobedience and Democracy (New York: Seven Stories Press, 1997), 289-293.


Zinn, The Zinn Reader, 293.


Oda Makoto, Gimu toshite no tabi (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1967), 18.


Koda, The United States and the Japanese Student Movement, 201-202.


Kei Takata, Cosmopolitan Publics in Isolation: The Japanese Global Sixties and its Impact on Social Change (Ph.D. dissertation, The New School for Social Research, 2015), 155.


See, for example, “Testimony of Irwin Bock,” in Douglas O. Linder, ed., Famous Trials, (accessed September 1, 2019).


“Radicals ‘Take On’ R.O.T.C,” The New York Times (September 28, 1968), 35.

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Volume 20 | Issue 14 | Number 1

Article ID 5724

About the author:

Nick Kapur

Nick Kapur received his Ph.D. in history from Harvard University and is presently Associate Professor of History at Rutgers University, Camden, where he teaches Japanese and East Asian history. His research interests focus on wartime and postwar Japan and East Asia in transnational and comparative perspective. His recent book Japan at the Crossroads: Conflict and Compromise after Anpo (Harvard University Press, 2018) details transformations in Japanese politics, culture and society, as well as U.S.-Japan relations and the Cold War international system, that unfolded in the aftermath of the massive 1960 protests against the US-Japan Security Treaty.

The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus is a peer-reviewed publication, providing critical analysis of the forces shaping the Asia-Pacific and the world.

    About the author:

    Nick Kapur

    Nick Kapur received his Ph.D. in history from Harvard University and is presently Associate Professor of History at Rutgers University, Camden, where he teaches Japanese and East Asian history. His research interests focus on wartime and postwar Japan and East Asia in transnational and comparative perspective. His recent book Japan at the Crossroads: Conflict and Compromise after Anpo (Harvard University Press, 2018) details transformations in Japanese politics, culture and society, as well as U.S.-Japan relations and the Cold War international system, that unfolded in the aftermath of the massive 1960 protests against the US-Japan Security Treaty.


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