Observers of early twenty-first-century Japan commonly note economic, political, and social crisis, on the one hand, and pessimism, lethargy, or helplessness about the possibility of reform, on the other. Yet Japan's civil society was idealistic and energetic in the early postwar decades. What happened? The reform movement that captured much of the vitality of the early postwar decades was either foreclosed, as many were co-opted in the "all-for-growth" economism, consumerism, and the corporation, or crushed in successive waves of repression of dissidence as the cold war order took shape. Political parties sacrificed broad vision and ideals to narrow-interest articulation. While the mass base of the reform movement was discouraged, demoralized, and depoliticized, one minority in the late 1960s turned to violent revolution and another in the late 1980s turned inward to seek spiritual satisfaction. Both paths led to violence. This article looks at the course of the student movement between the late 1940s and the late 1970s, with particular reference to the Japan Red Army, and at the new religious movement Aum Supreme Truth in the 1980s and 1990s. Both adopted "terrorist" tactics, by almost any understanding of that term. However, they were children of their times, reflecting the same deep social, political, and moral problems that Japan as a whole continues to face in the early twenty-first century.
|Critical Asian Studies
|Published - 2004