Thursday, September 1, 2016

William Andrews's "Dissenting Japan"

William Andrews is a writer and translator in Tokyo. He studied at King’s College London and moved to Japan in 2004. He works widely in the arts and has translated many stage plays. His articles have appeared in a range of publications and he is the co-translator of Tokyo Theatre Today – Conversations with Eight Emerging Theatre Artists (2011).

He has written for ArtAsiaPacific, The Japan Times, The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus, Baku, CounterFire, Tokyo Art Beat and more.

Andrews applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Dissenting Japan: A History of Japanese Radicalism and Counterculture from 1945 to Fukushima, and reported the following:
From page 99:
The Japanese opposition to the American misadventure in Vietnam was rooted in a sensibility both political and moral. The gut feeling was pacifist; 1945 was a mere twenty years in the past and American involvement in another Asian conflict rubbed very close to the bone. The Japanese population was also fully aware of their nation’s own complicity in the bombing of Vietnamese citizens: American planes were taking off from bases ostensibly on Japanese soil, and men, armaments and fuel were being supplied from their shores. In effect, Japan was a silent partner in the company—but the Japanese pacifists, at any rate, were anything but mute. Frequently they were violent.
This is the first page of Chapter 5. By now the book has already covered the immediate post-war years' unrest, as well as several quite shocking far-right events and the mass protests against the U.S.-Japan mutual security treaty in 1960. So we are very much at the beating heart of the book.

Preceding this section there is a long chapter on the campus movements in the late 1960s, especially the famous struggles at the University of Tokyo and Nihon University. Concurrent with these college upheavals the anti-war movement was developing, and thus Chapter 5 forms a parallel chapter with the previous one. Much of what is both interesting and complex about the peak of the protest cycle in Japan during this time is how so many causes and ideologies became intertwined. The protests against the Vietnam War also came to stand for the struggle against the renewal of the security treaty in 1970 as well as the continued occupation of Okinawa, not to mention the presence of other American bases around Japan.

This was a potent mix and once the New Left student factions had jumped on board, it meant a lot of violence. Most notoriously this took the form of demonstrations-cum-riots in Shinjuku in October 1968 and October 1969, though there were numerous incidents and riots between 1967 and the early 1970s. The events involved hundreds of thousands of people overall, and arrests and injuries also numbered in the thousands. Perhaps not surprisingly, there were also deaths.

It's all pretty sensational stuff, yet pretty much none of this is part of the "official" narrative of Japan's post-war recovery and economic miracle. As such, one of the primary goals of Dissenting Japan is to collate a lot of information about these movements and present them in a clean, clear way for both the general and specialist reader. Even in Japan, much of what happened is not properly remembered or, if it is, only in a negative light. Can -- or should -- we look back on these tumultuous times from a different perspective? And what lessons do they offer us about Japan today?
Visit William Andrews's website.

--Marshal Zeringue