Social Movements and Japanese Political Culture

English: Anti-Nuclear Power Plant Rally on 19 ...

English: Anti-Nuclear Power Plant Rally on 19 September 2011 at Meiji Shrine Outer Garden 日本語: 2011年9月19日に明治神宮外苑で行われたさようなら原発集会 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Chihiro Kobayashi

When I was in the U.S., I joined some social movements such as “Stop Modern Slavery Walk” and “9.11 Unity Walk” for the first time. My image toward the U.S. is that they insist and try to change their society by themselves through social movements if the current society is not what they want. Therefore, when they want to change the society, social movements are one of the most important ways.

However, in Japan, many people would think social movements are a bad thing and they avoid doing it. One of the biggest reasons why Japanese people do not join social movement is that they fear the bizarre eyes toward people those who join movements such as demonstration march. I do not say there is no social movements at all in Japan, but I think the understanding toward social movements is lower than other countries. Since demonstration type of social movement is hated by Japanese, it is important to find the suitable social movement instead to change our society better.

At the Japanese Political Culture Theory class, I learned Japanese people tend to avoid joining social movements as their culture. Instead, they tend to rely on others to change the society. For example, in the case of politics, many Japanese people complain current policies and criticize about the government as well. However, Japanese citizens tend not to make social movements to change these, instead they depend on politicians to change these problems. I do not really know if these tendency is because of Japanese culture as I learned in the Political Theory class, but I think it is sure that many Japanese have negative image toward social movements. However, I think Japanese people need to have better understanding toward social movements because it is difficult to make our society only by depending on the politicians.

In the past seven years, the Prime Minister of Japan has changed seven times, and Japanese citizens do not expect politicians to make our society better anymore. Since Japanese cannot rely on and trust politicians anymore, how we can change our society? I think we individuals need to join social movements and speak out about the problems to the government.

For example, more and more anti-nuclear plants demonstrations have been occurring in Japan recently, since the Fukushima Nuclear disaster. However, Japanese still might avoid joining a social movement, such as a demonstration march, because they do not want to be seen as bizarre in the eyes of other people. I think there are many other ways which is more suitable for Japanese cultural characteristic to join social movements which is other than demonstration. For example, in the case of anti-nuclear power plants, we have these variety of social movements.

  1. Voting for anti-nuclear politicians: Social Democratic Party and Communist party are anti-nuclear plants.
  2. Purchasing campaign: By buying the products from local area, they can appeal that they do no need to depend on money from the nuclear power plants but they can be independent.
  3. Consumer Boycott: Avoid buying the products which company is related to building nuclear power plants, such as Toshiba, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, and Hitachi, Ltd.
  4. Changing the deposit account: Our deposit which is deposited in mega bank such as Japan Post Bank and Bank of the post office is used in bond purchases, and as a result, it will be used to construct dam construction and nuclear power plant constriction. By changing the bank account such as to National Association of Labor banks, it is possible to prevent our deposit from being used for building nuclear power plant. (Stop Kaminoseki Nuclear Power Plant)

Even though these social movements do not stand out openly rather it is more hidden movement different from demonstration march in the city, these movements still have big power to change the society. Also, even if we cannot change our society and policies, we can still influence public policy by bringing attention to the issues. Considering the recent lack of trust in politicians, we individuals need to stand up to make our society better.

I think it is important for Japanese people to find the best suitable social movements for them, based on their political culture (avoiding demonstrations) because we have different culture and characteristics from Americans and other countries. These little by little hidden social movements might change not only policies but also might change people’s negative perspective toward the social movements in the future.


“Stop Kaminoseki Nuclear Power Plant.” Web. 19 Dec. 2013.

Social movements in Japan after 3.11

by Yurino Kawamura

Social movements in Japan have been popular after 3.11 earthquake and Fukushima-Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant accident. Social movements used to be popular in Japan among university students in the 1960s to 1970s. Students of many universities, such as University of Tokyo or Nihon University, gathered into several thousands to protest for various reasons such as being against for tuition raise or change in university dorms rules. Although these movements achieved their goals to some extent, according to their violent aspect which lead to more than 100 death in total, rapidly scaled down. Since then, these movements have long been slowed down for several decades. However, as the Internet became widespread among citizens, social movements gradually retrieved its popularity. One of the recent and relatively large-scale protest was anti-Fuji television protest held in August 2011. This protest focused on the T.V. programs of Fuji television and accused that it was too much supportive for a specific country. Focusing on a fact that T.V. programs disregarded Japanese figures compared to those from a specific country, many conservatives joined to the protest. It can also be noted that social media such as Twitter or Niconico Douga played an important role in wide-spreading the protest to a massive scale. Although several thousand people have gathered, achievement of this protest is difficult to measure and is quite arguable.

Currently most popular social movement in Japan is no doubt anti-nuclear protests which had quickly spread throughout Japan after 3.11. Framing the issue as health problem especially upon small children, anti-nuclear protests have rapidly gained support from mothers nationwide. Focusing on the health issues, protesters complain that politicians cannot abandon nuclear power because they are receiving support from economic community. Framing nuclear power with economic growth and anti-nuclear power with children’s health is effective in penetrating anti-nuclear policies into housewives and mothers of small children. Protests have gathered more than a hundred thousand people in front of the office of Prime Minister. The fact that this many people have gathered shows how popular this protest has become. Now, I am keeping an eye on the next election for the House of Representative. After the 3.11 earthquake, many new parties calling for no-nuclear policies have been formed. Considering that these policies have been adopted because of the citizens’ protest, if these new parties acquire many seats in the House of Representative that means citizens’ protests have changed the political framework. Since I am eager to know how much effect can the protests make, I want to know how much change will this protest bring about.

How to think about the disaster in Fukushima

by Azusa Iwata

When I saw the news about the explosion of Fukushima nuclear power plant, I could not feel that it happened in Japan. However, as I saw the news on TV many times, I realized that it happened in Japan, which was very difficult for me to accept such a terrible fact. However, I do not know the real situation in Fukushima after that happened because I just get the information through the newspaper and the news on TV. In other words, almost all the information about Fukushima that I have is through just the media. On the other hand, I was really impressed on the movie “Women of Fukushima”, which we saw in the class. I actually have never seen that movie and the activities that I saw in that movie even though I always watch the news on TV.  This paper will focus on  how we should think about “the disaster in Fukushima” as a Japanese citizen through the media.

First, according to “Women of Fukushima”, the ladies in that movie have been protecting the operation of the nuclear power plant. They insisted that the explosion of Fukushima caused the many fields very dangerously, which exposed local people to dangerous from the radiation. In addition, it caused the situation that children cannot play outside safely because of the explosion. I felt so terrible when I knew such a facts. At the same time, I was very surprised for me not to know such a serious situation that I saw in that movie. Surely I am the one who are influenced by the media.

In that movie, one of the ladies said, “I am really sorry that our generations made such a terrible plant in Fukushima. We have the responsibility about this situation that have happened. However, this is not only the responsibility of people in Fukushima but also Japanese government and the citizens in our age. We will try to create Japan without nuclear power plants from learn of “Fukushima”.  Please the young people keep trying to create Japan without nuclear power.” This is the one of the real voices from the people in Fukushima.

In my opinion, I think, in theses days, it is clear that the people, who are influenced by media, are trying to change the situation and affecting the lives of the citizens. That is why there exist people just like me who know not the real voices of people in Fukushima but just the facial aspects of “what happened in Fukushima”. Thus, the media that our generation will lead should convey all the voices of the nation regardless of gain or loss in terms of the agencies. In order to that, all citizens need to know how much dangerous we depend on the media in our life and how much we do not know about Japan because of the media. The disaster that happened in Fukushima is warning that the young generation should change what the media has become today and how powerful the media is. I think Japan, which is not influenced by the partial media, is what people in Fukushima have needed before and after the disaster 3.11.