The seminar's members, representing the full range of academic disciplines that bear upon the study of Japan and including Japan specialists from government, business, and the nonprofit sectors, meet regularly to discuss scholarly papers on all aspects of modern Japan, from history, literature, art, and the performing arts to politics, economics, social issues, and the US-Japan bilateral relationship.

Seminar: #445

Founded: 1960

May 21, 2008

October 10, 2008
Kristin Ingvarsdottir
Peace Movements and Grass-Roots Democracy in Postwar Japan

This paper attempts to identify some major trends in the development of Japan’s postwar peace movements, and against this historical backdrop, point out the significance of changes that have taken place in recent years. The paper pays special attention to the Japanese NGO, Peace Boat, which celebrates its 25th anniversary in 2008. The basic perception proposed here is that the peace movements in Japan demonstrate the most active and dynamic form of grass-root democracy in the country at any given time during the postwar period. That is, that Japan’s peace movements provide the best example of grass-roots democracy in post-war Japan. Furthermore, the author regards Japan‘s antimilitary sentiment as an ever-present, strong undercurrent, or “latent force” in Japanese society, which has appeared in various periods and forms to confront threats to undermine the cornerstones of Japan’s pacifist state or identity. The paper also brings attention to the Peace Boat organization, which, in the view of the author, presents a new form of peace movement that in some ways overcomes the shortcomings of antecedent movements.
Discussant: Kim Brandt (Columbia)