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

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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, antihierarchical 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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number5724
JournalAsia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus
Issue number14
StatePublished - 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations
  • History
  • Cultural Studies


  • 1968
  • Anpo protests
  • Snake dance
  • Student protests
  • Sunagawa struggle
  • Zengakuren
  • Zenkyōtō


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