Japan’s peace actors and their socio-political origins
Ian Gibson

In 2011 the Global Peace Index (GPI) ranked Japan as the third most peaceful country in the world. This paper studies how peace actors have worked for that peace by examining both their socio-political origins – the factors that shaped their environment – and how their work has evolved in response to the social and political changes throughout Japan’s 20th century history. In the second part of the paper I utilize narratives with current peace actors to illuminate what their concerns are and how peace is understood in Japan. I draw the conclusion that although Japan might be perceived as a peaceful country many problems nevertheless remain.


This paper is an inquiry about peace in Japan. It looks at how peace actors have struggled for peace and how this struggle continues. In turn it examines their socio-political origins, their work to attain conditions of peace, and how this work has evolved in response to the social and political changes of Japan’s history. Japan at the time of writing (2012) is the fifth most peaceful country in the world according to the 2012 Global Peace Index. Japan’s indicators of internal and external conflict remain low, as do its militarization indicators; Japan’s military expenditure is below one percent of its GDP.[1] Although Japan’s Self-Defense Force (SDF or Jieitai) is technologically advanced and militarily capable, the SDF remains tied to Article 9 of the constitution of 1946 written by the then-occupying power, the United States of America, which bans the maintaining of war potential. Article 9 remains a marker for Japan’s pacifist stance and discussion still continues as to its interpretation, its necessity and its origin. Japan has however followed an independent pacifist policy (ikkoku heiwa shugi) for the last sixty years and continues to do so irrespective of whether the international community is in sympathy with this policy or not (Hisae, 2002, pp. 52-5).[2] The reasons and actions that explain Japan’s peaceful conditions prove complex. They stem in part from the actions of citizens against inequitable conditions designed by elites to further their own interests often to the detriment of others; what Karl Marx, whose influence in Japan during its formative industrial years was considerable, referred to simply as “struggle”.[3] The origins of these peaceful conditions lie in part in the culture, the history, and the societal structure in Japan. Japan’s 20th century experienced periods of great conflict and how peace actors sought to wrest peace from this conflict as well as from the socially constructed systems that assisted this conflict – economic, educational, political, religious, and military – is the work of this paper.

Japan’s Historical Narrative: Socio-Political Conflict and Total War

Japan’s historical narrative is an important guide and indicator to Japan’s peace formulations; contained within this narrative are the socio-political origins of the peace actors. The critical juncture of the Meiji Restoration is key, followed by the short Taisho era, the early Showa era, encompassing the militaristic buildup to the Second World War and post-scripted by the Allied Occupation. The Meiji Restoration replaced the Tokugawa feudal regime in 1868 and instituted a belief system in the new constitution, advancing a new “imagined community Nippon” (Martinez, 2007, p. 4).[4] The Emperor became the symbolic head of state, a patriarchal “father figure”, and the country his family. Legal scholars at the time spoke of Japan as a “family-state” (kazoku kokka) with all members descended from Amaterasu the sun goddess.[5] A sense of nationalism was thus constructed, bolstered by the development of the national language kokugo and a national polity (kokutai).[6] Unlike the American and French Revolutions, the Meiji Restoration was not a revolution from below but a restoration from above, closely monitored by elites surrounding the emperor. As for the people, rural forms of social organization continued on from the Tokugawa period, due in part to the high population of these areas. With the introduction of a factory system in the 1880s, many families moved to the cities in search of work, but they retained strong ties with their rural counterparts (often returning to the country during times of unemployment).[7] These bonds were tightly observed by obligation and social mores and remained rigidly hierarchical, locked to the wider family state.

The Taisho period (1912-26) brought much social change, particularly in democratic activity and social debate (the so-called “Taisho Democracy Movement”).[8] Intellectuals translated the works of Durkheim, Weber, and Marx even before their western counterparts.[9] As Japan industrialized, tensions arose during the World War I economic boom with labour disputes in factories and mines, as more people moved from agriculture to industry.[10] Following the boom came a post-war slump. The shortage of rice production coupled with high prices set on rice caused urban discontent resulting in the Rice Riot of 1918 and its subsequent repression by the military.[11] Other disputes, such as the 1918 Coalfield Riots where miners protested company indifference to their economic difficulties and the 1924 Miike Strike involving six thousand workers from Mitsui Manufacturing, Mitsui Mines and Mitsui Zinc Smelting, led to the government passing the 1925 Law for the Maintenance of Public Peace followed the next year by the Violence Control Act.[12] Political demands from the emerging urban population resulted in the enactment of universal (male) suffrage in 1925 and election of eight proletariat candidates to the House of Representatives in 1928. However, groups of established party members formed and large business managers and owners (the zaibatsu) gained the political high ground even eclipsing bureaucratic power. As the underrepresented struggled for equality and justice, elite factions pursued greater political and social power. Kokutai expressed loyalty to the country and the state demanded loyalty in all spheres of an individual’s life. True individualism (the western liberal idea) was negated by this state ideology, manifested in laws such as those cited above. It was characteristic of the Taisho era that concepts like equality and democracy were discussed amongst intellectuals and workers, but were never enacted nor even openly shared without state oppression; the paramount political and legal structure of Emperor and advisors (the Privy Council, the Imperial Household Ministry, the House of Peers and the genro – elder statesmen) remained immovable from the Meiji Restoration to the Allied Occupation.

The following early Showa period (Showa jidai) expanded rapidly into an age of militarism and ultra nationalism. Their roots were already established in the Taisho era and now they achieved full fruit. Ian Buruma in his work Inventing Japan (2003) recounts how General Nogi, a hero of the Russo-Japanese War, had schooled the young emperor-to-be Hirohito, committing suicide with his wife on the death of Hirohito’s father, the Emperor Taisho. Following Nogi as Hirohito’s tutor was Admiral Togo, a keen follower of Ikki Kita the ultra-nationalist political philosopher and spiritual influence behind the 1936 failed coup d’état. In his writings, Ikki Kita promoted a restoration of the Emperor Showa (as Hirohito became known on his ascension) from the evils of political corruption between the old zaibatsu organizations and military and political leaders who kowtowed to western pressures. Military factions, like the protagonists of the coup, the kodo (imperial way) who shared Kitta’s beliefs, as well as in the case of the kodo his financial sponsorship, supported this move.

Ultra-nationalism emerged from the hierarchical ideologies promoted by factions of the military, politicians, bureaucrats, right wing groups, and monopoly capital, but this is not to say that these groups worked in tandem. For one thing, the military was answerable only to the Emperor according to the vague terms of the Meiji Constitution and, after a law passed in 1936, only actively serving officers could become the Army and Navy ministers in the government. Moreover, as seen above, different factions within the military were often opposed to their military commanders, the zaibatsu and the government, citing cronyism and corruption.[13] As the military began to exert more political power (following moves into China in 1931), the social structure began to be positioned as an overtly “fascistic” state bent on expansionism. Monopoly capital became the main driver behind the expansionist movement into Manchuria. The military, the bureaucracy, provincial landlords, elite politicians, and monopoly capitalists thus combined in an uneasy alliance during the 1930s to create a system that would protect the capitalist structure in Japan from both the threats of an economic depression and a proletarian revolution. The collapsing economy in the late 1920s dictated that these groups were now faced with the problem of searching for outside resources with which to fuel Japan’s burgeoning industrial growth.[14] The Establishment of the Manchurian Economy (Manshu Keizai Kensetsu Koyo) in 1933 was followed one year after by the creation of the puppet state of Manchukuo. The military then began to intensify its power through this constructed state.[15] It dominated politics, ably assisted by industrialists and elite bureaucrats working there, among them Nobusuke Kishi, who would later become prime minister 1957-60 (see below). After gaining experience in the political economy of Manchuria, these integrated groups went on to disseminate their expertise in mainland Japan, where they came to power in the late 1930s and early 1940s.

While further Imperial expansion continued into South East Asia, the militarists joined with the fascists in Germany under Hitler and those in Italy under Mussolini, the three powers signing the Tripartite Pact on September 27th 1940, forming the Axis Powers. The ideology of a privileged and exalted national identity in Japan peaked during this period, manipulated by patriotic education such as that prescribed by the ‘Imperial Rescript on Education’ (1890) through the ‘Essence of our National Polity’ (1937) (kokutai no hongi) published by the Ministry of Education. The militarist structure in the 1930s propelled both the economic direction of Japan as well as the path to war from its early beginnings with the Manchurian (Mukden) Incident in 1931 to the Marco Polo Bridge Incident in 1937, which began the Second Sino-Japanese War and subsequently led to the full-scale Pacific War.[16]

Social and Cultural Formulations: The Social Stock of Knowledge in Japan

Turning to the social and cultural formulations of Japan, the family system in Japan was intensely patriarchal at the turn of the twentieth century, like so many other systems around the world. The position of women was designated as subordinate to men in institutionalized patterns of male dominance and female subordination and, according to anthropologist William W. Kelly, patriarchy aptly characterized Japan well into the postwar period (1991, p. 409).

The oligarchs of Meiji Japan inculcated filial loyalty and piety in the “family state” as well as loyalty to the father of the state, the emperor (Garon, 2010, p. 318). The Imperial Rescript of Education (1890), as part of the hidden curriculum of socialization in schools, pressed students to be “filial to your parents, affectionate to your brothers and sisters; as husbands and wives be harmonious”, but importantly “should emergency arise, offer yourselves courageously to the State; and thus guard and maintain the prosperity of Our Imperial Throne coeval with heaven and earth”.

The authoritarian government that emerged at the beginning of the 20th century recognized the emperor as head of Japan’s “family” and firmly and vigorously promoted gender identities. Women were socialized to be virtuous, obedient and self-effacing. Self-denial was encouraged for the good of the country, and mothers had been forced to say “come back dead” when seeing off their children to war (Yamamoto, 2004, p. 192). Moreover, the imperial state systematically employed the family to inculcate patriotism while mediating a broad array of public policies. This positioning was also to be found in the military training of Japan’s soldiers and resulted in untold suffering both for the soldiers and for their opponents in war.[17]

The educational system created during the Meiji period (the first period of westernization) had a deep and influential control over the socialization process in Japan. The Restoration had sought to imbue a deep sense of national loyalty (and control) in Japan through its education system, which culminated with ultra-nationalism during the militarist period that ended with surrender in 1945.

The second wave of westernization (also known as the second period of educational reform, see Horio, 1986, p. 32) came with the Occupation, which resolved to eradicate the ultra-nationalistic and militaristic ideology in Japan. Determined to transform the indoctrination of pre-war Japan and the “national morality” of the Imperial Rescript to an ideal of democracy and pacifism (ibid.), the Allied forces instigated the 1947 Fundamental Law of Education (FLE, Kyoiku kihonho). This defined the basic right of the people to receive education following the edict of the 1946 Constitution. Now there was education as right rather than duty, freedom rather than control, individuality over conformism, and egalitarianism replacing elitism. In pre-war Japan, fewer than seven percent of the population were college graduates, particularly from the Imperial University of Tokyo (Nakayama, 1989, pp. 39-40). US occupying forces, seeking to break down Japanese elitism, insisted that the government expand their higher education sector to include a university in each prefecture (Ibid.).

Although the Americans had viewed pre-war Japan as being too centralized, and sought to disband the Ministry of Education, the US nevertheless had to rely on a degree of Japanese bureaucracy post-war. This meant that they continued to maintain the pre-war civilian elites to a large extent and in so doing perpetuated the existing bureaucracy to implement reform programs (Garon, 1984, p. 441). The relationship was therefore an ambivalent one, but the Civil Information and Education Section (CI&E) within the SCAP administration and under the guidance of the American Mission of Education, recommended many educational reforms to counter the belief systems created before the war including the creation of the 6-3-3-4 coeducational system. Furthermore teacher training that had been conducted at pre-war normal schools was replaced by university-based education with a stress on liberal arts education. An open certificate system was thus created where colleges and universities could engage in teacher education without direct control from the Ministry of Education (Shimahara, 1994, p. 453).

Peace Actor Formulations

Non-violent struggle has always been a major part of peace action. The issues of inequality and violent conflict as well as the right for free expression and the challenges that stem from corruption and detached and indifferent government (as well as detached and indifferent people) forms the basis of the work of peace actors.[18] The historical narrative recorded above shows how any challenges to the ruling elites were vigorously and violently suppressed by means of arrests, torture, and sometimes death. The tenants and workers who had joined with intellectuals in the aforementioned “Taisho Democracy Movement” pressed for universal suffrage and democratic rights and freedoms, which were never fully realized. Community groups such as the Movement for Freedom and Popular Rights formed after the Meiji Restoration began these moves in their debates for democracy in Japan (Bowen 1980). Most of these actors, such as volunteer groups and intellectuals, were oppressed, disbanded, or imprisoned during the militarist period in the 1930s. However, positions changed after the war. While the roles of post-war volunteer organisations have been varied, they remain the medium wherein individuals meet to build trust and social capital as groups, and they act as a conduit between society and the state, relaying societal concerns to officials and public policies to citizens. Subsequently, the immediate post-war era of 1946 to 1959 was a period of great reflection and intellectual debate and discussion, the debate culture (rondan bunka) being created in part by the reforms of the Occupation forces. The effects of ultra-nationalism, militarism, and the devastation of Japan’s cities (most notably of course Hiroshima and Nagasaki) proved highly detrimental to Japan and its people. Together with the Occupation, the new Constitution, the controversial continuance of the Emperor, the onset of peace and the peace treaty in San Francisco, and Japan’s post-war resource constraints, these factors all gave rise to much reflection, discussion and action.

Trades Union Activism

Following from the policies of the Occupation, particularly those emphasized by General MacArthur that supported more union freedom to counter the post-war zaibatsu trend, there was a strong emergence of activist trade union groups. These groups included most notably Kokuro, (the National Railway Workers Union), Sohyo, (the General Council of Trade Unions of Japan) the umbrella labour organization that took over leadership of the labour movement from the Sanbetsu, (the Congress of Industrial Unions of Japan), Sanbetsu’s splinter group Sanbetsu Mindo, (the League for Democratization of Sanbetsu), and Shin Sanbetsu, (the National Federation of Industrial Organizations). Unions were involved in promoting rights for workers as well as being politically active in opposing many of the Occupation’s policies, particularly the Security Treaty with Japan and the involvement of unions (as well as the wider nation state) in the Korean War.

Peace movements originated mainly from post-war communist activists influencing union workers who were both hungry and war-weary and who themselves began to grow increasingly militant. The workers in these union groups were also variously allied by membership to the JSP (the Japanese Socialist Party) and the JCP (the Japanese Communist Party). Workers’ concerns became aligned to political concerns, particularly at the time of the Korean War when armed police supervised the Kokuro in conditions similar to those of the recent Pacific war. Japan’s railway infrastructure was much needed by the US for transportation of military material and workers were needed around the clock to cope with the tremendous workload.

Workers in other industries, such as shipbuilding, steel and automobiles were also pressured to work long hours for very little pay, often employed as contract labourers with few rights. Many anti-American sentiments arose at this time, as being forced to work again for a war cause led many workers to question war itself. This resentment about war joined with resentment about working conditions resulting in strong pacifist feeling and an increasingly politicized agenda. Many members of these unions in turn were severely constrained by the Occupation’s reverse turn and “red purge” of 1950, which marked a severe decline of union activism and a consolidation of conservative political power. However, peace action became a counter-rallying motivator for much union action from then on.

Non-communist members headed the trade union group Sohyo formed in July 1950 such as Minoru Takano, Secretary General of the Japanese General League of Labor Unions (although he was allied to certain Marxist thought). Its aim was to push for a democratic revolution and strive to form a society built along socialist lines. Sohyo supported the U.N. military plan in Korea and also advocated peace and a restoration of Japan’s independence in its opening conference.[19] It also worked with religious groups in order to promote a peace movement. These groups together with Sohyo organized the Nihon Heiwa Suishin Kokumin Kaigi (the Japanese National Congress for the Promotion of Peace), adopting the slogans of protecting the peace constitution, overall peace and neutrality, opposition to rearmament, and safeguarding the freedoms of thought and association. Union leaders like Kaoru Ota of the chemical industry, Fumihiko Takaragi of the telegram and postal services, and Iwai of the National Railways, formed their own society called Rodosha Doshikai (Labourer Comrade Society). They held that they would follow the “Four Principles” and the struggle for world peace as well as support the wellbeing of Asian peoples (Igarishi, 1985, p. 353). The early 1950s were a turbulent period of change for Japan and Sohyo became one of the main opposition groups to the conservative powers as these powers regained their control of the state. Restructuring of the Steel Industry led to labour conflict in 1953-4, which in turn spread to farmers and other commercially interested groups as well. US bases, which had procured local land, furthered social concern about the disruption of local resident’s lives and livelihoods. In particular, the “Lucky Dragon” tuna boat incident in 1954 (see below) provoked significant Nuclear Debate in Japan. These social issues consolidated Sohyo as a critical force for action against a perceived conservative support for pre-war conditions such as the suppression of rights and a belief in militarism and the union attracted many other social movements. Small business owners, grassroots groups and other non-labour concerns began to attend Sohyo’s annual conventions and activism spread through Japan (Yamamoto, 2004, p. 63-4).

Takano was ousted from his position in 1953 and replaced by Akira Iwai, a member of the left wing of Mindo unionists, the largest group within Sohyo remained involved with political action, however, supporting the protest against the Sunagawa military airfield in May 1955, of which many students also partook.[20] Here the US had seized large areas of land from some 140 farms and in September 1957 promoted a people’s movement (kokumin undo) focusing on intervention by the government into education, nuclear weapons, price increases, the minimum wage, and military bases.

The Anpo Toso (The Anti-Security Treaty Struggle)

It was the Anpo Toso movement where Sohyo and general labour power peaked. This event also saw many grassroots groups join in protest against the treaty. The US-Japan Security Treaty was due to be revised in 1960 and the actions of Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi had already given labour unions as well as many other citizens much to reflect on, particularly Kishi’s wartime career and his current political actions.[21] After the Yoshida Cabinet fell, Kishi became Prime Minister and proposed the Police Duties Law in 1958, the aim of which was to strengthen the powers of the police. The law was opposed by union action and many saw Kishi and his law as a symbol of the pre-war repressive establishment, which had led the country into war. As 1960 drew close, a movement began (the Anpo Struggle) to protest its revision. Unions like the Tokyo Teacher’s Union and the Japanese Coal Miner’s Union moved to gather workers, and students joined the movement. The unprecedented mass movement in opposition to the signing of the 1960 US-Japan Security Treaty was a shock to the conservatives. The Kishi administration, however, was determined to place the revision into law. Kishi saw the ratification of the revised US-Japan Security Treaty of 1960 as important to the nation. The revisions were crucial in that they would strengthen Japan’s sovereignty by placing limits on US military’s rights to intervention in internal disputes. Furthermore, the commitments to purchase US military hardware and provide infrastructure to the US would aid Kishi’s push to remilitarize Japan. In a snap vote that involved the police (on Kishi’s orders) ejecting all of the Diet members affiliated with opposition parties the treaty was approved on May the 19th. As a result, political unrest was widespread. On June 15th, protestors breached the south gate of the Diet, the riot police retaliated, and a Tokyo University student Michiko Kanba was killed. This caused seven newspapers to issue a joint statement imploring the people to stop the violence and restore democracy (a move that many took to mean that the media supported the government). The protests continued, however, and forced US President Dwight D. Eisenhower to cancel his planned trip to Japan and Kishi stood down. The US-Japan security treaty was renewed but the trade-off was that the leadership and authority of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (the LDP) had reached a crisis point.[22]

Intellectual Groups

Tokyo Imperial University attracted some of the finest minds in Japan, many of whom had great influence on Japan’s development. In the early 1930s, a group of students formed Kokogai as a means for independent historical research and an exchange of ideas. The group attracted similar minds from other universities and became known as Rekishigaku Kenkyukai or Rekiken in the mid 1930s. Disbanded in 1944, it came together again in late 1945, and was officially reformed in June 1946.[23]

While responding favourably to SCAP’s new constitution in 1946, which introduced a peace clause (Article 9) and important freedoms such as the sovereignty of the people Rekiken, the group was opposed to the continuance of the emperor system. They identified this system as detrimental to Japanese capitalism and a buffer to socialist revolution. The recent war had exemplified imperialist aggression and the constitution now linked the emperor with the new peace state, a paradox, as the emperor was viewed as at least partly responsible for the disasters of the war.

Rekiken also protested the San Francisco Peace Treaty and the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security (both 1951). In light of the Korean War and internal issues, such as the rise of fascism, the peace problem (heiwa mondai) became synonymous with the lack of rights in Japan both of peace and civil freedoms. This in turn was applied to Rekiken’s opposition to the Ministry of Education’s (Monbusho) dictates for history education. The ministry still proposed the learning of facts and events, which Rekiken criticized, preferring students to critically think about these events. Rekiken members were also strongly opposed to the mythologizing of ancient history and the 1946 textbooks Kuni no Ayumi (The Country’s Progress) for elementary schools and Nihon no Rekishi (Japan’s History) for Junior high schools. The texts proposed no way of thinking about how events occurred but rather stuck to the old ways of disseminating facts to be learnt. In 1949, the ministry produced a Democracy (Minshushugi) textbook, provoking more protests organized by Rekiken and other groups who accused the ministry of gross distortions of democratic history and philosophy. Rekiken member Saburo Ienaga led a protest against the political control of scientific education in 1955 with his article “On the Open Defiance of Scientific Education in Japan”, he was also the co-author of Kuni no Ayumi and later a staunch opponent to the ministry’s history texts.

Another highly influential intellectual group was the Minshushugi Kagakusha Kyokai (Minka) formed on 12 January 1946. Adapting Marxist ideology to formulate their ideas of progressive democracy, a group of approximately 200 Japanese scientists in the Tokyo area developed within two years into a national organisation. Formed at the time of popular left-wing ideologies and the Japanese Communist Party’s (JCP) election success, Minka’s political and social stances were seen as synonymous with left-wing leanings and the JCP. Opposed to the hierarchical and feudal structures of society, including the universities, Minka advocated the importance of science in social change. Minka became more radicalized with the Occupation’s “reverse course” and the political turn in Japan to more conservative policies. Opposing the Anti Subversive Activities Law, Minka urged all democratic scientists in Japan to fight against restrictive policies. The encroaching Cold War and the risk of nuclear war rallied the scientists into calling for research into peaceful nuclear power rather than its military use. Minka subsequently supported the successful Stockholm anti-nuclear signature push, which was tied to the pressing concerns of the Peace Treaty and conditions of peace in Japan, and attracted six and a half million signatures.

Together with Rekiken, Minka also opposed the inclusion of the emperor system within the new 1946 constitution. The concerns raised by Minka were that the constitution had not been allowed public scrutiny, that the government were not representative of the will of the people and could therefore not carry out any constitutional revision and that no improvement of social welfare could be acted out in Japan without a drastic transformation of the political social and economic structure. The inclusion of human rights clauses were a misnomer unless the above were realized and the Article 9 peace clause merely negated national independence, the right of a nation to defend itself adequately or to fight a “just war” against fascism.

Peace issues such as the Peace Treaty and the Peace Problem were also central to Minka’s concern. At its 5th Annual Conference (April 1950) Minka opposed any aligning with the US over security issues, declaring that a partial peace as proposed by the Peace Treaty would jeopardize democracy, science, and the freedom to research for scholarly or creative purposes. Instead, research would be conducted for the purpose of war and thus the nation would be unfavourably and unremittingly linked with war.

The Peace Problem arose at the next annual conference as to how peace was related to the people of Japan. Eschewing an abstract view of peace, Minka proposed a peace treaty signing with the five major powers, asking for a government that would support independence and true peace with an end to conscription, re-armament, and a standing military. The National Railway Workers’ Union, with its adoption of a pacifist anti-war stance following the outbreak of the Korean War, enlisted the help of Minka to conduct a nationwide educational campaign for the newly created principles of peace.[24] Minka strove for democracy for the people, peace, and national independence in the early 1950s; its 7th Annual Conference slogans were Heiwa to dokuritsu no tame no kagaku, or Science for peace and independence and Kokuminteki kagaku no sozo to fukkyu, Creation and dissemination of natural science. Rekiken Minka’s history section was also opposed to the Ministry of Education’s post-war textbooks.

The Heiwa Mondai Danwakai (Heidankai, The Peace Discussion Group) was a movement of liberal, conservative and progressive intellectuals who formed to act as a voice for peace against the oppressive tensions of the oncoming Cold War. Genzaburo Yoshino, an editor working at Iwanami Publishing in Tokyo, had read a 1948 UNESCO statement prepared by eight intellectuals from Eastern and Western Europe. The document, which was to prove highly influential in Japan, as well as in Europe, inspired Yoshino to organize Japanese citizens who shared the document’s pacifist and humanist values. Yoshino gathered bunka jin (liberal men of culture), influential scholars and people in the public eye from many areas of society in preparation for discussion of the UNESCO declaration.[25] Seven committees were prepared based around politics, law, and economics with the inclusion of philosophers, historians, and sociologists meeting through November and December 1948 in Kyoto and Tokyo. The members convened at a joint meeting in Tokyo on December 12th 1948 to discuss a draft from all committees and issue a joint statement entitled Senso to heiwa ni kansuru Nihon no kagakusha no seimei (Japanese Scientists’ Statement on War the Problem of Peace) signed by thirty five scholars. They argued that the strictures of the San Francisco Peace Treaty aligning Japan to US Cold War security would create a separate peace from the rest of the world and could contribute to war. The scholars stressed cutting dependency on the United States (Dower, 1993, p. 9). The statement was subsequently published in Sekai in its March 1949 special issue on world peace and the peace problem. The statement, although compromised by the different committees’ interpretations of the UNESCO declaration nevertheless imparted the deeply felt commitment of the group towards peace.

Also in March, Heidankai became formally established with intellectuals such as Yoshishige Abe in Tokyo and Hiroshi Suekawa and Kyo Tsuneto in Kyoto. The group was extremely disparate, but joined by a common feeling that world peace would be far more preferable to its encroaching alternative, issuing three statements on comprehensive peace, the first in 1949 and two following in 1950. The third and longest statement criticized the realist bipolar worldview and argued that social-democratic reforms influenced by neither Soviet ideology or American cold-war objectives would promote peace and economic equity domestically.[26] The end of the Occupation in April 1952 preceded by the Peace Treaty and Security Treaty signings in 1951 that stationed US troops on the Japanese mainland was a frustrating blow for the Heidankai and although meetings continued during the 1950s, the group disbanded in November 1959. The Heidankai supported Japan signing agreements with former enemies of Japan and opposed the US military bases in Japan. The US base problem was interpreted in two ways in the HeidankaiThe older liberals who, along with Japanese official policy, were disturbed by the Soviet presence and communism, thought that having the US in Japan might make Japan a likely target by the Soviets. Conversely, the leftist liberals, particularly the Marxists in Kyoto, held different views on the Korean War and were more concerned about capitalist aggression towards the Soviets. Maruyama Masuo, a drafter of the three statements of peace argued that neutrality was not a matter to be decided upon in accordance with international political pressures, but rather a principle that Japan should abide by in so far as it desired the idea of world peace and national welfare.[27]

During the Occupation, SCAP had tightly controlled information about the A-bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki until this censorship was curtailed in 1949.[28] As the Korean War progressed, SCAP pressed Prime Minister Yoshida for remilitarization.[29] This was unacceptable to liberal and Marxist intellectuals who together with The Communist Party and the Socialist party insisted on an “overall peace”. This would mean a peace settlement where the Soviet Union, Communist China, and the East European countries would participate. Japanese conservative politicians wished to preserve the security alliance after the peace treaty was signed, to the detriment of their opponents mentioned above as well as those from the National Democratic Party.[30] With the alliance, Japan could retain independence from conflict as well as their new independence after the Occupation ended whilst still retaining US security and enjoying economic benefit from the Korean War.

Grassroots’ Movements: The A-bomb and H-bomb Protests

Gensuikyo (The Japan Council Against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs) was the organizational centre for Japan’s “ban the bomb” movement formed in 1955. Kaoru Yasui (1907-1980) was the chair and leader of this movement.[31] Gensuikuyo’s origins lay in the Lucky Dragon’s misfortunes the year before.[32] To commemorate the tenth anniversary of Hiroshima, the national council held a world conference and established Gensuikyo, aimed at furthering petition action and publicizing the plight of the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the hibakusha. By the end of 1955, every prefecture in Japan had a GensuikyoAlthough Gensuikyo continued to hold world conferences against nuclear weapons, it failed to hold multiparty support and interest faded. Factionalism instead emerged with the progressives urging opposition to the US Security Treaty and the conservatives withdrawing their support (and funding). Conservatives formed their own anti-nuclear organisation in 1961, the National Council for Peace and Against Nuclear Weapons, while leftist Socialists established the Japan Conference Against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs. This factionalism greatly upset Yasui who saw any form of political schism as detrimental to the cause of the hibakusha and the anti-nuclear movement. Nevertheless the anti-nuclear movement succeeded in voicing great opposition to nuclear weapons as well as lobbying politicians not to allow the US to openly deploy nuclear weapons on Japanese soil.


The legacy of war remains, however, and nowhere more than in Okinawa. It has been a host for seventy five percent of US facilities and bases since 1945 and has played an important role for US military operations as the “keystone of the Pacific” (Akibayashi & Takazato, 2009, p. 243). Okinawa suffered immeasurably at the end of the Second World War with the Japanese command showing an indifference to civilian lives during the conflict and the lives of the people of Okinawa under long-term military occupation remaining neglected at the expense of power politics.[33] The “typhoon of steel” (the name attributed to the Battle of Okinawa quoted in JICA, 2006, p. 16) caused the drafting of students and teachers into the “Emperor’s Blood and Iron Brigades”, and the Japanese military, in order to delay a US landing on the mainland, conducted a war of attrition, abandoning local residents without food or places to evacuate during heavy fighting, resulting in large loss of life (ibid., 16-17).[34] At the San Francisco conference in September 1951, Prime Minister Yoshida signed the treaty that restored sovereignty to Japan while the United States “retained its rights to maintain bases in Japan and kept full administrative control over Okinawa” (Jansen, 2000, p. 701).[35] The treaty created great animosity towards Hirohito by the people of Okinawa who had suffered terribly during the latter stages of the Pacific War – “when the battle of Okinawa ended, ninety-five thousand civilians had been killed by enemy fire, by Japanese soldiers, by loved ones and trusted acquaintances, and by their own hands” (Dower, 1986, p. 45). At the time of the battle, 222 female students aged between fifteen and nineteen “were mobilized as battlefield nurses, along with 18 of their head teachers. 123 students and 13 teachers lost their lives” (JICA, 2006, p. 74).

Okinawa has seemingly been excluded from the ‘peace’ of Japan. Many crimes committed by US soldiers on the civilian populace coincide with periods when the US was engaged in war in Asia. For many of these soldiers, Okinawa was the final stop before troop deployment to the battlefields of Korea and Vietnam.[36] As well as the continuing question of the bases, Okinawa faced considerable problems in rebuilding its education system after the Second World War. Okinawa was placed under US military rule for 27 years from 1945 to 1972 and schools faced significant difficulties in acquiring resources and funding. US rule “gave first priority to the functioning of the bases” which, contend JICA, became a major theme of peace education in Okinawa (JICA, 2006, p. 57). Traditional teacher trainer programs were only instigated in 1952 and sent 1,431 people to the mainland for training between 1958 and 1972 (ibid. 47). Moreover, in a movement that sought to come to terms with the harrowing experiences in Okinawa, parents and grandparents began to tell of their experiences at home, and slowly these stories started to be published.

Initially, books dealing with Okinawa were written by the military or state historians and followed the victor/defeated tract. However, the first books written by Okinawans themselves about their experiences during the Battle of Okinawa emphasized the civilians’ point of view. These were Typhoon of Steel published in 1950, followed by Accounts of the Battle of Okinawa in 1971. Both books detailed the horrific conditions of war but, as the preface of Typhoon of Steel explains, the people wished to speak of something deeper, in the wish to seek human understanding and friendship that transcends nation and race appealed for lasting peace. Peace education courses using the experiences of Okinawan civilians as a focus for study began to be taught with peace education taking many forms such as fieldwork, media presentations, plays and concerts. Peace museums also played a role in this work, which carried (and still carry) exhibitions of the conflict in Japan.[37]

Many protests have continued around these bases by both Okinawan people and people on the mainland of Japan. The offshore base dispute concerning the replacement sighting of the US Marine Corps Air Station Futenma (MCAS) from Naha to an offshore base at Nago of 1997 brought Prime Minister Hashimoto down to Okinawa to try to appease the anti-base coalition formed in Nago and Henoko in the winter of 1996.[38] There had already been a huge protest (over 85,000 people) on the island in 1995 following the abduction and rape of a girl by three US servicemen the so-called Kin Town rape (Inoue, 2004, p. 97). The plan was defeated through popular mobilization, local elections, and the decision by Governor Masahide Ota to veto the Tokyo-Washington project. His move led to Tokyo cutting off contact from the prefecture, effectively employing economic sanctions and forcing him out of office in November 1998 (McCormack, 1999, p. 4).

Other protests on Okinawa have taken the form of anti-war protests against US militarism. In April 2003, five thousand people and forty-five peace groups, including the Naha-based Okinawan Women Act Against Military Violence took part in a ‘die-in’ around the perimeter fence of Kadena Air Base (Spencer, 2003, p. 139). Spencer notes in her article that the citizen protests against these bases have also incorporated a broader perspective into their protests such as environmentalism, feminism, anti-militarism, and even anti-globalization.[39]

The relocation of Futenma as a heliport in Henoko became the undoing of Prime Minister Hatoyama of the Democratic Party of Japan at the beginning of 2010. Hatoyama and his party had made an electoral commitment that the Futenma base would not be relocated to Nago (as had been negotiated by the former LDP government). Unfortunately, Hatoyama folded under pressure from the US government and uncooperative Japanese bureaucrats and agreed to implement the 2009 Guam International Agreement on the 28th May 2010. Hatoyama further acceded to paying $7 billion towards the cost of relocation of 8,000 Marines and 9,000 of their family members from Futenma to Guam by 2014. Furthermore, the government of Japan would also construct a “Futenma Replacement Facility” near Henoko (McCormack, 2010, p. 1).

Peace Actor’s Voices in 21st Century Japan

I have outlined many of the concerns of peace within Japan through the passage of Japan’s turbulent 20th Century, and I now turn to peace actors in the 21st Century. My interviews took place over the autumn and winter of 2011 into early 2012 and followed work I started in 2009 (see Gibson 2011). Funding determined that I concentrated on the Kansai area of Japan but the peace actors that I interviewed have extensive connections with many other areas of Japan. Of the interviews I conducted, I chose to focus on two groups and two individual actors due to space strictures in this paper. These respective peacemakers nevertheless help demonstrate a comprehensive overview of what constitutes peace concerns in Japan.

Shinfujin (The New Japan Women’s Association or NJWA) founded on October 16 1962 have five objectives: to protect the lives of women and children from the danger of nuclear war, to oppose the adverse revision of the constitution and the resurgence of militarism, to work together for better living conditions, extend women’s rights and children’s wellbeing, win genuine national independence, support democracy and the emancipation of women, and to join hands with women in the world for building lasting peace. Granted Special Consultative Status by UNESCO in May 2003, Shinfujin has more than 150,000 members across Japan and publishes a weekly paper, the Shinfujin Shimbun with a weekly readership of over 230,000 together with a monthly magazine Josei & Undo (‘Women and the Movement’). The Kansai group interviewed saw it as important to deal with the abolition of nuclear weapons after Hiroshima and Nagasaki and also were in solidarity with Hibakusha, many of whom receive only limited medical care and lack government recognition. Shinfujin have collected 1.7 million signatures in support of the Appeal for a Nuclear Free World and presented them to the UN in 2010 together with a further 7 million signatures collected worldwide (viewed by the organization as not a collection of names but a collective voice of individuals).

The organization also deals with the US military bases, especially in Okinawa, and petitions to cut military spending, arguing that this money would be effective if used for food, education, and health, particularly in support of the Millennium Development Goals. The March 11, 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accident in the Tohoku region of Japan have also presented many concerns for peace; the group feels the government’s response has been slow and inadequate, and that the information supplied, particularly relating to the Fukushima power plant, has been duplicitous. The issue of democracy continues to be important because in the case of the nuclear accident people were not clearly informed of events as they were happening. Democracy issues also relate to the Japanese election system, which continues to be unrepresentative of the people and is in desperate need of revision. Minority groups are not reflected and minority candidates cannot be elected. As the organization points out, the improvement of women’s positions and equality between men and women can only be realized when there is peace, so without peace, it is not possible to attain gender equality. In the UN, gender equality development and peace are regarded as both important and interconnected, and Shinfujin actively pursue these issues both in Japan and internationally.

A smaller group interviewed was the Kyoto Mothers Movement (Kyoto haha oya renraku kai), but they share extensive ties with many similar Mothers groups all over Japan. Their organization has its origins in a mothers’ congress which, following the 1954 US hydrogen bomb test on the Bikini Atoll, was held in 1955 in Switzerland. Mothers from 14 countries assembled to share ideas of peace and began to organize internationally to protect children’s lives. During the Second World War in Japan, women could not speak out, but after the end of the war the new Japanese constitution was ratified and it became possible for a woman to have the right of vote. The purpose of this movement is to exercise that vote and demonstrate against war, as mothers and citizens. Every December 8th on the anniversary of Pearl Harbor (the date of the attack in Japan), the group distributes a flyer, an exact replica of the draft order that Japanese men received during the war, to over 200 elementary schools, junior high schools, and high schools, and to special needs schools in Kyoto. Other Mothers Movement groups also distribute the paper all over Japan. They use the conscription order as a means to relay information about peace which is contained on the reverse side, and explain that December 8th was the day when Japan started the war, so please try to promote peace education at your school. Avoiding issues with the board of education, the mothers lobby the schools directly. They have been doing this nationally since 1980, not only on December 8th but also August 15th, the day that Japan was defeated (though the group notes that generally speaking in the mass media defeated is not used, the preferred term being the day that the war finished).

When questioned about their view of peace, the group described a world without war and where people can live with security. As for politics, the group opposes the US bases in Okinawa and the dispatch of the self-defense forces abroad. They also think that the reconstruction of the Tohoku area is very important. The group’s members are from organizations like teachers unions, NGOs, or less formal regional gatherings to promote the mothers movement. So, in effect, there is no formal membership but a collection of NGOs and individuals who share a common identity as “mothers recognizing mothers as the symbol of life”. A leading member of the Kyoto group explained that she was proud of Article 9 of the constitution, despite its being ignored by the members of parliament. As for the Mothers Movement’s influence on society, their movement has been repeatedly ignored in the media (a common complaint by peace activists in Japan) where for example last year in July (2011), a Mothers Congress was held in Hiroshima attended by 16,000 mothers but received no major media coverage. The Movement does its best to disseminate what they are doing but “the media choose to ignore this and that's really terrible.”

Professor Ikuro Anzai is the honorary director of the Kyoto Museum for World Peace established in 1992. A graduate from the department of nuclear engineering at Todai (Tokyo University) in 1962, he specialized in radiological health sciences and states he had no direct relationship to peace at that time. However, it was in the 1960s that the Japanese people began to think about the social responsibility of scientists and technology and so in 1965 an organization of scientists named the Japan Scientist Association (JSA) was established in Tokyo. Anzai was invited to join and later became a member on the board of directors, responsible for social activities relating to the nuclear policy of Japan as well as environmental problems stemming from technological development in Japan. During the 1960s and 1970s, the members of the JSA became critical of the Japanese nuclear power policy, arguing that it was promoted not in the name of safety for people, but in the name of economic growth. At that time, Anzai was an assistant lecturer at the University of Tokyo (in his words “hired by the nation” – Todai being a state university) and he was invited by the Japanese Diet to comment on the issue of nuclear power policy in Japan whereupon he criticized this policy and “invited some difficulties”, difficulties that were to continue. He explains that later on September 18th and 19th 1973, the Japanese government first organized a public hearing about the Fukushima power station relating to the safety issues of the reactor. During that hearing he was also one of the speakers and again criticized the Japanese power policy. As a result of his outspoken comments, Anzai experienced academic harassment from his department; nobody in his immediate faculty of approximately fifteen members were permitted to speak to him “from morning to night” and no one was permitted to walk side by side with him or have dinner with him or take a photograph with him. He was also refused research grants and lecture rights and prohibited by his “boss/professor” to attend or give presentations at academic societies (which Anzai duly ignored). This harassment continued from 1973 up to 1986 when he moved from Tokyo University to Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto.

Anzai was also deeply involved in the Japanese peace movement in the field of anti nuclear weapons. He was a board member of the Japanese delegation to the UN for the first Special Session devoted to Nuclear Disarmament (SSD1) in 1978 as well as giving many lectures and symposium talks on disarmament in the 1970s and 1980s. When asked how he perceived peace he reiterated Johan Galtung’s claim that peace is not just the absence of war but also the absence of structural violence. Making reference to Japan, he gave an example that in the first five years of the Iraqi war the number of civilians killed was 550,000 and in the same period, 200,000 Japanese people committed suicide. Anzai sees that “we have serious social violence”, noting also that Japan has US military bases and that, historically, during the 1960s the US could not have fought the Vietnam War without them. Because of social and structural violence, therefore, he does not think Japan is a peaceful country.

As well as being involved in nuclear issues, Anzai became deeply involved with the role of peace museums in the late 1980s. He sees their role as dealing with issues not just of how Japan was affected by war but also of how Japan affected countries in the Asian Pacific; what Japan did there, what kind of aggressive conduct the Japanese military forces carried out. Japanese peace museums in Japan, he feels, should focus more on this structural violence. As a way of reinforcing this idea, he acted as a mediatory between the Kyoto Museum of World Peace and the Nanking War Museum, after having been invited to the Nanking Museum in 1998. This came about due to the work of Dr. Peter van den Dungen of the Department of Peace Studies, University of Bradford, who after organizing the first peace museum conference in Bradford in 1992, and then in Vienna, requested the third be held in Japan in 1998. Anzai invited people from China and Korea as a means of establishing peace dialogues on Japan’s imperial past. He thinks that it is very important to have communication between these museums even though “we have different points of view”. Anzai continues his work; last year he gave many talks at conferences on the Fukushima disaster, and he remains active as a member of the Article 9 movement, seeing it as necessary to talk not only to those who agree with Article 9, but more importantly, to those who oppose it.

Kazuyo Yamane is a translator, peace educator, a board member for Museums for Peace and author of Grassroots Museums for Peace in Japan. She, like Professor Anzai, has been deeply involved in the work of peace museums as a means for peace and reconciliation between Japan and the victims of its imperial past. As a child of an atomic bomb survivor, Yamane says that she originally possessed a “victim mentality” about the war, but this changed during the 1990s as she and others in the peace movement started to reflect more deeply on Japan’s aggression. Collecting research on peace museums for her PhD thesis, she became aware of the active movement by right-wingers and nationalists in trying to suppress exhibitions on Japan’s aggression in peace museums. They were reacting both against museums and the pressure from Asian countries, who were demanding an apology and compensation from Japan. Yamane views the latter as natural, but says that Japan should have apologized to other countries at an individual level as the US did to the Japanese Americans who were put into concentration camps during World War 2. This included her grandparents and relatives (he mother is Japanese-American and she was born in Washington) and later her aunt received a letter of apology from president Reagan and also as compensation of two million yen. Such a method by Japan, she feels, would have helped to assuage individual psychological suffering. Unfortunately, in the case of Asian victims of Japanese aggression, they are getting old, many people have died, especially the women who were forced to work sexually as slaves – but something should still be done. Yayori Matsui, who organized the comfort women trial in Tokyo, regrettably has passed away, while the media, among them the national broadcaster, NHK, have consistently refused (and currently refuse) to cover this issue.

It was Kazuyo Yamane’s work with Grassroots House that played a large part in altering her perception of “Japan as victim”. She visited China with members of the museum to learn what really happened in the war because the history of the conflict and especially Japan’s aggression had not been taught or discussed in Japanese schools or in the media until the 1980s, and then only in very limited discourse. In China, she investigated the case of germ warfare carried out by the Imperial Forces. She met Chinese victims, and it soon became apparent what had really occurred in China. In the Grassroots House, like many peace museums in Japan, the emphasis was placed on the atomic bombing or the US air raids on Japanese cities, but slowly, through the work in China, the members became more focused on Japanese aggression. This was made more immediate due to the fact that Kochi had sent many soldiers to China and their actions there were not what the city’s people had for a long time believed. Every year the city held an anniversary that celebrated the soldiers as heroes, and Grassroots House’s research had uncovered a different story – a story of Japanese bombers dropping pieces of cloth impregnated with germs on Chinese civilians. The Grassroots group published a testimonial of the victims as a booklet to inform students, which was also used as a teaching material in Kochi University. Grassroots House has also been active for peace and reconciliation in that members who went to China supported a Chinese lawsuit against the Japanese government, demanding their apology and compensation. Kazuyo Yamane recounts that at first “the Chinese people said ‘why did you come to China? We hate Japanese, go home!’” but Mr. Nishimori, who is a high school biology teacher as well as the director of Grassroots House, had brought a junior high school student with him and said “‘well, here is a Japanese junior high school students and he wants to learn what really happened’ and so the Chinese people began to change their mind and talk about their war time experiences, so that was the beginning…”

Peace Actor’s Concluding Remarks

When asked whether they thought Japan was a peaceful country, these peace actors all answered firmly in the negative. Although there is no war, there are many issues that negate “positive” peace. Young people are having a hard time securing work, contract labour is increasing and deteriorating working conditions are causing terrible stress (see Professor Anzai’s account of suicide numbers). Following the 3/11 nuclear disaster, there was a dearth of effective, critical coverage by the media (the actors interviewed lamented the quality of the media overall in Japan, particularly in respect to peace matters), allowing political subterfuge over environmental concerns, especially on the issue of nuclear contamination (Anzai has given many presentations on this matter), and a lack of political will to deal with the survivors. As Yamane points out, while attention has been focused on the 3/11 disaster and its aftermath, there have also been subtle moves to change Article 9 and the Constitution, especially by Osaka’s Mayor Hashimoto. Yamane, together with the women’s groups, is relatively optimistic, taking comfort in the fact that women or mothers have been active for peace, and every year nationally and locally, mothers get together and discuss all kinds of issues: nuclear issues, peace and war, human rights, or children’s education, not only in Okinawa but all over Japan. Growing concern for the future of their children, especially after the nuclear accident, has brought many young mothers to the peace movement. However, many challenges remain. Politicians like Mayor Hashimoto and their nationalist or conservative supporters are trying to abolish peace centres or combine history museums and peace centres together in an effort to rid Japan of exhibitions of Japan’s aggression. Certain US politicians want to change Article 9, so that they could enlist the support of Japanese soldiers in military engagements overseas, as they have done with South Korea (in the case of the war in Vietnam, Yamane recounts, Korean soldiers were sent instead of Japanese soldiers because of Article 9). In Japan, therefore, there is an underlying conflict between those who want Japan to partake in Asian wars again of rulers, including international powers, and others, like these peace actors, who resist revisiting the dark past of war, and continue to struggle for a more just and peaceful future.


The first half of the twentieth century in Japan was a period of great struggle to attain political representation, justice, and equal rights. The rise of ultra-nationalism enabled by the rigid construction of the kokutai, elite factions, and the militarist push into South East Asia subsumed any voice of dissent. Post-war Occupation policies joined by many, suddenly empowered Japanese citizens allowed socio-political peace engagement on a massive scale. Protests against nuclear weapons, environmental damage, political corruption and subterfuge, US bases and compromising US/Japan security issues erupted and continue. In light of the concerns of the peace actors discussed in this article, however, we must conclude that Japan’s peace still remains illusive and contested.


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[1] As John Dower notes critics have always found the one percent of GNP deceptive. Japan has often exceeded this figure by NATO style calculations which include such items as military retirement benefits and as far back as 1976 Japan’s military spending was ranked seventh in the world. Moreover one percent of a top ranking economy is huge by any standards with shrewd political players like Prime Minister Nakasone Yasuhiro deliberately breaching the one percent mark in 1987. The SDF has the fifth largest navy in the world. Its current defense budget is nearly $50 billion placing it in the top seven worldwide with government funding for US bases in Japan running at more than $2 billion a year (Kingston, 2011, p. 129).

[2] Certainly around the time of the Gulf War of 1991 when the international community openly criticized Japan for not supplying “boots on the ground” politicians such as Masahiko Hisae claimed that Japan had no alternative choice because of the terms of its constitution. The international criticism proved unsettling for Tokyo. Ichiro Ozawa, the LDP secretary-general at the time famously stressed the requirement for Japan to become a “normal nation” assuming responsibility “not only as an economic power but as a political and military one as well” (Shinoda, 2007, p. 6). As to the origins of Article 9, Klaus Schlichtmann in his 2009 book Japan and the World: Shidehara Kijuro: Pacifism and the Abolition of War maintains it was Shidehara, Japan’s second Occupation-era Prime Minister who conceived the idea that a war-abolishing provision should be included in the Japanese Constitution. Dower 1999, citing McNelly 1982, refutes claims that Shidehara proposed Article 9 however, attributing “the basic decision” to MacArthur, p. 613.

[3] “The urge to criticize our social and political institutions is a fundamental feature of humanity … a society where criticism has not a role is not just unrealistic, it is the dream of tyrants” (MacKenzie, 2004, p. 25).

[4] Carol Gluck’s Japan’s Modern Myths (1985) is perhaps one of the best studies to show that the rapid change following the 1868 Meiji Restoration after the Tokugawa (Edo) Period (1603-1867) was neither smooth nor unchallenged.

[5] See Garon, 2010 p. 318. Article 3 Chapter 1 of the new constitution proclaimed the Emperor as sacred a Manifest Deity (The constitution also ascribed the emperor military power. Article 11 of Chapter 1 proclaimed the emperor as commander-in-chief (daigensui) of the army and the navy the imperial force (kogun) (see Ohnuki-Tierney 1991 p. 205). In reality the emperor although defined as sovereign by the Meiji Constitution had no decision-making power and remained politically inactive; his role was to grant legitimacy to political decisions. The Han Clique elites advised the emperor on matters of emergency decrees, treaties, constitutional interpretation, martial law and international law in the capacity of a Privy Council (Hayes 2005, p. 22).

[6] However as the sociologist Tadashi Fukutake wrote the growth was carefully protected and monitored by the national government (part of the ruling bloc of Japan) and meant that no truly liberal tradition developed with it (Fukutake, 1974, p. 3). The Meiji ruling bloc consisted of government leaders who were descended from low-level samurai warrior classes. Cheung’s The Political Economy of Japan (2003) documents these processes together with the development of Japan’s economic systems. Kokutai (lit. “National body”) was a semi-mystical construction of the Japanese nations as a form of authoritarian family state with the Emperor as father and stressing a dogma of the unique character and essence of a national community. Kokutai reached its ultranationalist zenith in the 1930s particularly with the publication of the Kokutai no Hongi or Fundamentals of the National Polity by the Ministry of Education in 1937

[7] Modern technologies were introduced from advanced nations in the West such as the US and Great Britain, these were combined with Japan’s own technology in the factories and the division of labour began. The government played an important role by investing in industrial infrastructures and establishing state owned enterprises. Their role declined however and the processes of industrialization were later passed from government enterprises to privileged merchants (called seisho or political merchants) with close links to government politicians and officials. Later these merchants formed zaibatsu large and highly influential family controlled establishments (Mitsubishi zaibatsu gained control of Miike Coal Mine and Tomioka Silk Mill, Mitsui zaibatsu ran Hagasaki Shipyard and Takashima Coal Mine shipyards and Kawasaki zaibatsu acquired Hyogo Shipyard). Moreover the government invited many engineers from the United States and Europe to build factories and facilitate industrial know-how (Nakamura, 1978). The factories continued to be run like large households with the main families at the head of the constructed household (ie) maintaining the cooperative spirit and strong ties of the rural communities.

[8] During the Taisho period democratic institutions made significant developments and as peoples’ awareness of political systems grew so did mass movements of workers farmers, students and intellectuals. Much of the impetus behind these movements was government failure to control inflation and the labour unrest. The influence of Marxist thought after the success of the Russian Revolution also something these movements. Left leaning parties were formed, such as the communist party, in this period along with other socialist parties.

[9] Students and intellectuals talked of ‘Dekansho’ (a shorted form to denote the works of Descartes, Kant and Schopenhauer), dress styles in the cities of Tokyo and Osaka emulated the western “jazz age” and much debate and discussion also ensured with people embracing the outside world (Buruma, 2003, pp. 65-9)

[10] Largely created by munitions and war material orders from the Allies, together with Japanese manufacturers moving into markets abandoned by the blockade against Germany.

[11] Rice was critical for the industrial development of Japan before1960 particularly before 1920 when labor-intensive light industries (such as textiles) predominated, especially in the manufacturing of export goods, to supply cheap rice to industrial workers to keep their living costs and wages low (Hayami, 1972 p. 20)

[12] There were many labour disputes between 1919 and 1938. Statistical data from the Nihon Keizai Tohei Kenkyujo (the Japan Economic Statistics Research Bureau) reveals as many as 2,388 disputes in 1919, an increase of 417 from the previous year. The number of disputes continued high until 1938 when the Japanese economy transferred into a wartime economy (Nihon Tokei Kenkyujo 1958, p. 294).

[13] The two main warring factions were the Kodoha (the Imperial Way faction) and the Tosieha (the Control Faction) comprising among its members Ishiwara Kanji and the future prime minister of Japan General Tojo Hideki. The latter group supported the idea of total war with the West and cooperation with the bureaucracy and business interests. The Kodoha favored the Showa Restoration path ridding the nation of the corrupt bureaucracy and big business (see Buruma 2003 chapter 4).

[14] Monopoly capital was given as one reason to fight (the shortage of raw materials for manufacturing processes was a concern following economic crises like the Showa financial crisis of March 1927 and the Wall Street Crash of 1929). The emperor’s honor was another reason. See Toyama Shigeki, Fujiwara Akira, and Imai Seiichi, (1945) Showa shi, 1st ed. Tokyo: Iwanami shoten.

[15] In October 1934, the Army Ministry published Kokubo no hongi to sono kyoka teishi (The Essence of National Defense and Proposals to Strengthen It). In this pamphlet the Ministry denounced the ideologies of liberalism, individualism and internationalism viewing these as neglecting the nation. It urged for national mobilization to prepare for a future war and further denounced the capitalist system, and called for a “basic reconstruction in public finances, the economy, foreign relations, political strategy, and the education of the people in order to organize and control the great potential spiritual and physical energy of the imperial nation for the sake of national defense and to administer it in a unified manner.” Prominent leaders of the largest socialist party in Japan, the Social Mass Party (Shakai taishuito), soon endorsed the army's program (Fletcher, 1979, p. 47).

[16] Although by no means unopposed even by factions within its own institution – Colonel Kanji Ishiwara although the instigator of the Manchurian Incident in 1931 later opposed the push towards Shanghai and Nanjing citing that resources would be overstretched, a view that proved prophetic.

[17] Japanese soldiers were “socialized to sacrifice themselves for the emperor and the state” according to Dower (1986, p. 68) and “ordered not to surrender by their commanders… Japanese fighting men also died simply because their country or sovereign called upon them to do so. Still others fought to the bitter end, because they believed, with good reason, that surrender would bring ostracism upon their families.” See also Gluck, 1985, p. 248 of how the emperor was “invoked to inculcate a soldierly spirit of loyalty and bushido.” It could also be posited that many citizens were similarly socialized. Following the Emperor’s announcement of surrender on August 15 (the famously euphemistic line translated as “the war situation has developed not necessarily to Japan’s advantage” was insisted on by War Minister Anami, according to Frank, 1999, p. 320) Doctor Hachiya working at a Hiroshima hospital that day observed that many bomb victims in the wards voiced, “expressions of anger… and the hospital turned into an uproar, and there was nothing one could do. Many who had been strong advocates of peace and others who had lost their taste for war following the pika [the Japanese word that here described the ‘flash’ of the atomic bomb] were now shouting for the war to continue…The one word – surrender had produced a greater shock than the bombing of our city” (Hachiya quoted in Frank, 1999, p. 321, see also Frank, 1999, pp. 101-116 for both Japanese and foreign embassies’ decrypted analyses of Japan’s readiness to engage in a mainland war.)

[18] See Thomas Pogge, (2010). Politics as usual: What lies behind the pro-poor rhetoric? Cambridge: Polity Press. Pogge posits that the indifference of the majority of people to the claims of those affected by poverty negates the fact that we are all responsible for poverty and indifference is no excuse.

[19] In light of the discussions of the immanent peace treaty, in March 1951 the union adopted the “Four Principles of Peace” (1) overall peace, (2) neutrality, (3) no offer of military bases in Japan and (4) opposition to rearmament. The day after the peace principles were adopted, Robert T. Amis, who headed the Labor Division of SCAP, summoned Takano and others warning them that their adoption of the “Four Principles on Peace” violated SCAP's policies (Minoru, 1977, pp. 89-90).

[20] This was the first major Zengakuren (All Japan Federation of Student Governments) protest since the 6th Party Conference of 1955. As the JCP became increasingly marginalized by its adoption of military tactics in the early 1950s, base protests led by Sohyo and the faction JSP spread to take over the JCP-led mass movements. By breaking its links with the JCP Minoru Morita the student who took the lead of Zengakuren’s protest at the Sunagawa base the student union was able to secure a mass base it had not had leading up to the Anpo Toso protests (Hasegawa, 2009, p. 118).

[21] Kishi had been a key player in Japan’s pre-war China and was an architect of the Five-Year Industrial Plan (Manshu Sangyo Kaihatsu Gokanen Keiakaku). Bureaucrats brought in from Japan like Kishi and aided by Japanese private enterprises had created this plan. Later Kishi had also been part of the so-called military-bureaucratic coalition and served as Minister of Commerce and Industry in 1942, together with Hideki Tojo, Chief of the Kwantung Army General Staff and wartime prime minister from 18 October 1941 to 22 July 1944. Kishi had been part of Tojo’s cabinet that declared war on the United States and had been arrested as a suspected Class A war criminal spending three years in Sugamo Prison while being investigated. He was eventually not charged and was released. With the advent of the Cold War many conservatives in Japan like Kishi were given a new lease of life under the “reverse course” policy – the purging of all communist thought and actors by the allies. Conservatives regardless of their wartime careers were gaining political ground.

[22] Gao, 1998, pp. 232-3; Yamaguchi, 1992, pp. 158-9.

[23] Rekiken’s modus operandi was to adhere to absolute scientific categories such as fact and truth and to follow normative values as responsibilities and duties recognizing the failure of pre-war historians to withstand ultranationalist and imperialist ideology. The society promoted activism about what it perceived as the correct role for the public intellectual and moral responsibility acknowledging the passivity of past responses to state authority. The members protested perceived losses to freedom in the late 1940s such as the 1949 University Law, which threatened to remove autonomy at university together with the Anti Subversive Activities Bill (Hakai katusdo boshiho) of 1952, which restricted the right to public protest. A sub groups of Rekiken the Gendaishi was particularly aware of the development of fascism being composed of historians concerned with contemporary Japanese history and applied this to the criticism of current political acts that signaled signs of absolutism, denial of democratic rights or centralized bureaucracy. Prominent members included Shigeki Toyama, Kiyoshi Inoue, Bokuro Eguchi and Eiichi Matsushima, who came under the tutelage of Goro Hani the koza faction historian and chair of the new executive committee.

[24] Historical debate still surrounds who were directly responsible for the peace principles that stemmed from the San Francisco Peace Treaty discussions. Many historians cite the Sohyo adopting the principles from the JSP (who began this work around the same time as Heiwa Mondai Danwakai) but others have the Sanbetsu Mindo in 1948 and later the Shin Sanbetsu (formed July 1949) working for democratic peace and initiating these principles before the newly founded Sohyo under its increasingly left wing leader Minoru Takano could finalize its stand around the beginning of January 1951, see Yamamoto, 2004 chapters 2 and 3.

[25] The translation is taken from John Dower’s Empire and Aftermath: Yoshida Shigeru and the Japanese Experience, 1979, p. 363. Yoshino first contacted Ikutaro Shimizu, a prominent sociologist requesting him to be in charge of managing such a group as secretary. Yoshino also asked Yoshishige Abe, President of Gakushuin University, Hyoe Ouchi, Professor of Economics, University of Tokyo, and Yoshio Nishina, Chief of the Institute of Physical Science, to recruit members to form the Tokyo branch of the group. Kyo Tsuneto, President of Osaka City University, and Hiroshi Suekawa, President of Ritsumeikan University, were asked to select a Kansai group (Igarishi 1985, p. 343.)

[26] See Dower, 1993, p. 10. Dower argues that the wording of this third statement appeared reminiscent of Japan’s pan-Asian rhetoric in the Second World War, referring to the “Asian people’s historic position and mission” while also formulating a “victim” construct of the war – nurturing anti-war sentiments that appealed to the suffering of the Japanese “fatherland” in the recent war (and ignoring the suffering that Japan had imposed on South East Asia) that was to continue in Japan.

[27] See Igarishi 1985 p 347.

[28] SCAP censorship during the occupation meant that no media discussion of the bomb or its effects on the populace of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was publicly allowed (see Braw, 1991). The occupation forces relaxed this censorship in the beginning of 1949; however for almost six years after the war scientific information and data on radioactive poisoning that, according to Braw, might have assisted bomb sufferers was suppressed within Japan.

[29] Yoshida resisted this pressure but the encroaching Cold War together with the Korean War underlined Japan’s nervous security alliance with the United States. During discussion on the peace settlement from 1950-1952 and taking their cue from John Foster Dulles “Yoshida and the conservatives were willing to conclude a ‘separate peace’ in which the peace treaty was linked to a military agreement with the United States” (Igarashi 1985, p. 324)

[30] The multinational peace treaty and bilateral US-Japan security treaty were signed in San Francisco on September 8, 1951, China a victim of Japanese aggression during the previous fifteen year war with Japan (from the Mukden Incident in 1931 to the end of hostilities in 1945) was not invited and the USSR subsequently objected to the treaty and refused to sign as did Poland and Czechoslovakia. Japan would agree to US bases stationed in Japan.

[31] James Orr notes that as Professor of International Law at Tokyo Imperial University in the 1930s and 1940s, Yasui contributed to the formation of official cultural policy in occupied China and called on intellectuals to support Japan’s wartime government (Orr, 2000, p. 1). He was purged by the occupation in March 1948 allowing him a certain reflection of his prewar actions. Orr notes that peace activism had been marginalized as a left-wing interest at the time of the Korean War but Yasui was instrumental in establishing political approval of anti-nuclear feeling particularly by those on the right. He guided opposition to nuclear weapons away from anti-Americanism by adopting a conciliatory stance within the movement and pursued an emotional attachment of a shared atomic victimhood. He was key to transforming Hiroshima into “a broadly held symbol of the nation’s war experience, vesting it as an integral part of the common Japanese heritage. He thus helped return pacifist sentiment to the center of discourse on Japanese national identity in an era of significant conservative pressure for remilitarization, as symbolized by the establishment of the Self-Defense Forces and the implementation of the Mutual Security Agreement (MSA) in 1954” (ibid., 2).

[32] On March 1st 1954. The tuna boat had come under a cloud of radioactive ash from the Bikini Atoll Hydrogen bomb exploded by the United States at 3:45 in the morning. Returning to their port in Yaizu, Japan the crew reported the first signs of radioactive poisoning which resulted in the death of the radio operator Aikichi Kuboyama that September. Following Yaizu city’s formal protests the Japanese Diet and other assemblies followed in April 1954 with the Suginami Ward assembly in Tokyo under Kaoru Yasui initiating an appeal that collected 270,000 signatures calling for a ban on the hydrogen bomb. The tuna boat had returned its catch to local markets setting off a scare of radiation-contaminated food that caught press interest. Other petitions arose around the country and a national council was formed in Tokyo with Saburo Yamada, president of Japan’s Academy of Arts and Sciences and Nobel physicist Hideki Yukawa as co-directors. Yasui became general secretary with the total number of petition signatures rising to 30 million by August 1955 (See Orr above and also Yasui, 1955, pp. 64-7).

[33] Jansen, 2000, p. 665. And indeed Okinawa continues to suffer, given the numerous attacks on women by US military personnel stationed in Okinawa. REICO (Rape Emergency Intervention Center Okinawa) has documented police reports on reported rapes (many rapes go unreported). Stars and Stripes Tuesday, April 27, 2004, Marine gets 3 ½ years for rape, records how Marine Lance Cpl. Jose W. Torres was sentenced to 3 ½ years in a Japanese prison for a sexual crime. Prosecutor Tsuyoshi Satake argued that the May 25 attack was a “heinous and vicious crime that could not be forgiven” (Stars and Stripes Tuesday, April 27, 2004). See also JPRI Occasional Paper No. 23 (September 2001) Of Sex, Okinawa, and American Foreign Policy by Sheila K. Johnson for a carefully argued analysis of military violence in Okinawa. Johnson also comments, “[i]t is the contention of Okinawa Women Act Against Military Violence that military training itself instills in soldiers an approved propensity to act violently and that rape is often part of this”.

[34] Okinawan residents suffered terribly during the latter stages of the Pacific War – “when the battle of Okinawa ended, ninety-five thousand civilians had been killed by enemy fire, by Japanese soldiers, by loved ones and trusted acquaintances, and by their own hands” (Dower, 1986, p. 45). At the time of the battle 222 female students aged between fifteen and nineteen “were mobilized as battlefield nurses, along with 18 of their head teachers. 123 students and 13 teachers lost their lives” (JICA, 2006, p. 74). Figal’s discussion on the Okinawa Heiwa no Ishiji (The Cornerstone of Peace war memorial) relates that, “the memorial represents an unprecedented Okinawan initiative, and boasts the reputedly unique characteristic of memorializing all casualties of the conflict: combatants and noncombatants, Okinawan, Japanese and non-Japanese”. This memorial is especially notable says Figal given “Okinawa’s modern history of discrimination and virtual colonial subjugation by the Japanese state [and] its especially bloody sacrifice in defense of the mainland in the Asia Pacific War” (Figal, 1997, p. 747).

[35] Jansen also notes the emergence of a more confident emperor Hirohito who became an “astute spokesman for the Japanese conservative establishment” suggesting to MacArthur in private, “that the United States might want to retain custody of Okinawa after the peace treaty as a base for its military forces, while granting Japan’s residual sovereignty over the island” (ibid., 700).

[36] One Vietnam Marine Corps veteran Allen Nelson recalls that the training became more realistic after arriving in Okinawa, where targets were shaped like human figures and used for live ammunition training. Nelson also noted that young soldiers’ behaviour towards Okinawan people showed a marked lack of respect or feeling. Although US personnel have committed many felonies perpetrators have rarely been identified (Akibayashi and Takazato, 2009, p. 251). One of the reasons the authors suggest is that rape victims and victims of crime fail to come forward fearing stigmatization from their communities.

[37] This was seen particularly with the A-bomb museums at Nagasaki, established in 1996 and Hiroshima, created in 1955.

[38] Nago is in the northern or ‘Yanbaru’ region and is home to the 27,000-hectare Yanbaru sub-tropical forest housing many rare species of plant and wildlife as well as the dugong found only in Japan off the coast of this region (Spencer, 2003, p. 129).

[39] These groups include the aforementioned Okinawan Women Act Against Military Violence, the Association to Protect Life (Inochi wo mamoru kai) the umbrella group of anti-military base community groups, unions, and political parties in Nago (including the Association to Protect life) called Helipoto kensetsu no zehi wo tou shimin tohyo suishin kyogikai [Citizens’ Committee to Advocate a Referendum Concerning the Construction of a Heliport (Suishin kai)] and the Nagoshi kushi chiku no futami juku no kai (Juku no kai) [Nago City, Kushi District’s Futami Ten Ward Committee (Ten Ward Committee)] (Spencer, ibid., 127-9).

About the Author

Ian Gibson is Associate Professor, Inter-Faculty Institute of International Studies, Ritsumeikan University, Kyoto, Japan. He researches on peace education, peace actors and human security.

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