Action, agency and protest were notions that seeped through the social and political terrain of 1960s Japan. Opposition to the Vietnam War, disputes in the universities, environmental concerns and anticipation of the US-Japan Security Treaty’s renewal set down for 1970, saw the entire decade engulfed in activism and protest.
This thesis explores these sites of activism revealing the disparate character of protest in the 1960s – the often competing tactics and agendas that were manifested within the burgeoning and dynamic cultures of protest. The shifting definitions of protest and the competing ideals that emerged from its various sites of articulation are crucial to our understanding of postwar Japan. Excavating these sites – reading the character of protest and the ideals expressed – exposes the notions of autonomy and activism that underpinned conceptions of the postwar national identity.
In the aftermath of the Pacific War intellectuals and activists looked for new forms of political expression, outside the auspices of the state, through which to enact the postwar nation. The identity of postwar Japan was constructed within the spheres of protest and resistance as anti-Vietnam War activists, Beheiren (Betonamu ni Heiwa o! Shimin Rengō), student groups such as Zenkyōtō, and local citizens’ movements negotiated the discursive space of ‘modern Japan.’ Examining the conceptions of political practice and identity that manifested themselves in the protest and resistance of the period, provides insights into the shifting terrain of national identity in the 1960s.