Japanese radicalism, counterculture, and social movements with William Andrews

Japanese radicalism, counterculture, and social movements with William Andrews

Following the March 2011 Tsunami and Fukushima nuclear crisis, thousands of people flocked to the streets of Tokyo in protest. The participants, old and young, shouted in anger on their march toward the National Diet Building. What was happening to the country? How could these mass protests exist in such a peaceful and harmonious society? Was it the end of Cool Japan?

The answer is: no, says William Andrews, author of Dissenting Japan - A History of Japanese Radicalism and Counterculture, from 1945 to Fukushima. Having lived in the country for more than 10 years and studied the topic extensively, William argues that Japan is not a unique case when it comes to social movements. The history of post-war Japan has witnessed numerous mass protests and violent confrontations that make the 2011's movement seems like a picnic. In doing so, William attempts to debunk the myth of Japan as a peaceful, harmonious and conservative society that has no place for social unrest - a myth that Japan is trying its best to protect.

In today's episode, we will have a chance to learn more about his research and uncover this marginalized discourse about Japanese society.

Some of the topics we discussed were:

  1. What prompted William to shift his interest to counterculture and radicalism? (1:57)
  2. William's blog: Throw Out Your Books. (4:25)
  3. William's book, Dissenting Japan, in which he argues against the trope that Japan is a peaceful society with no social unrest or any elements of radicalism. (5:56)
  4. When was the start of Japanese radicalism? (10:05)
  5. Defining the terms "radicalism" and "counterculture" within the context of Japan. (11:57)
  6. Japanese social movements in comparison with its Western counterparts. (14:32)
  7. Social movements in the 1960s. (17:51)
    1. Protest against American bases movement.
    2. Protest against the renewal of the Security Treaty and Kishi administration.
    3. Labor unions and student groups.
  8. Assassination and international terrorism. (21:48)
    1. Ultra-nationalist movements.
    2. Hi-jacking of the first Japanese airliner by the Red Army Faction.
    3. The Japanese Red Army and its involvement in the Middle East.
    4.  The Lod Airport massacre in Israel by three Japanese nationals.
  9. How does mainstream media (in cooperation with the authority) portray radical groups, and how do these groups respond? (29:32)
  10. The decline of social movements since the 1990s. (31:51)
    1. The internal conflicts between radical groups.
    2. Cracking down on student groups by private universities.
    3. Remaining elements of radicalism in modern Japan.
  11. Student movements in the 21st century. (35:53)
    1. SEALDs (Students Emergency Action for Liberal Democracy)
    2. Characteristics of these student movements and how they differ from the past.
  12. The future of social movements in Japan. (39:19)

Dissenting Japan - A History of Japanese Radicalism and Counterculture, from 1945 to Fukushima is now available on bookshelves around the world: https://dissentingjapan.com/buy/

Be sure to follow William's blog - Throw Out Your Books - for more information that are not covered in today's episode: https://throwoutyourbooks.wordpress.com/

Follow William on Twitter for more update on his work: https://twitter.com/TokyoStages

Bento Bureau Podcast is a podcast about Japan from an international perspective, focusing on various topics about Japanese society through our interviews with experts, authors, activists, or just normal individuals who have stories to share about Japan.

 

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