An Overview of Article 9 and Anti-War Protests in Contemporary Japan

Japan’s devastating defeat in World War II led many ordinary Japanese people to develop a general antipathy and aversion to war and militarism. Pacifism was enshrined in the famous Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution, which states that Japan “forever renounce(s) war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes.” Although the post-war Japanese constitution was authored by progressive-minded Americans during the U.S. occupation of the Japanese archipelago (1945-1952), Japanese people embraced the peace constitution as their own. Japan became a cradle for a large-scale anti-nuclear weapons and anti-war movement. Following the U.S. involvement in the Korean War, Japan created a Self-Defense Forces in 1954, with American encouragement, but the country has not engaged in direct military conflict since 1945. Some scholars credit Japan’s lower military spending for the country’s economic miracle, which led to it becoming the world’s second largest economy by 1968, a position that it would maintain until it was eclipsed by China in 2010. However, even as Japan has not engaged in military conflict, it is still under the U.S. security umbrella. Japanese national security is guaranteed by the United States and its military, which has numerous military bases across the country, most notably in the islands of Okinawa, Japan’s southernmost prefecture. With its own Self-Defense Forces, and with the widespread presence of U.S. military bases, Japan cannot be described – despite Article 9 and its long post-war pacifist tradition – as a country that has irresolutely abjured war and militarism.

SEALDs: Assessing Student-led Anti-War Protests in Contemporary Japan

SEALDs (Students Emergency Action for Liberal Democracy) was a student organization founded in May 2015 as part of the protest movement against Shinzō Abe and his government’s legislations to reinterpret the Japanese Constitution to allow Japan to engage in collective self-defense on behalf of its allies, e.g., the United States. Japan was rocked by its largest anti-war demonstrations in over fifty years in the summer and fall of 2015, and SEALDs quickly grew in significance to become the most visible face of this movement. Although SEALDs drew on pre-existing protest movements such as the anti-nuclear movement that had arisen after the nuclear meltdown following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in northeast Japan, it expanded the range of its objections beyond nuclear issues and thus gained a wider appeal. Widespread popular protest had been discredited in Japan following the violence and excesses of student radicalism in the 1960s and 1970s. Further, young Japanese people, and especially college students, were seen as apolitical and generally apathetic to social and political issues. SEALDs defied both these trends in contemporary Japanese society by mobilizing tens of thousands of young people to protest Abe’s security legislation.

When it Rains it Pours: The Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong

In 2014, the world saw Hong Kong stop in its pace to make way for the Umbrella Movement. The protest started in response to a decision made by China that would allow elections in Hong Kong in 2017, but only from a list of candidates pre-approved by the Chinese government. The Umbrella Movement was nicknamed so because protestors would use umbrellas to protect themselves from the tear gas used by police. The umbrella became an international symbol of peaceful resistance, in an attempt to fight for Hong Kong’s sovereignty and freedom.

From Pandemonium to Peace: East Timor’s Struggle for Self-Determination

The country of East Timor, now better known as Timor-Leste, had been occupied by Indonesia until their independence on May 20th, 2002. The occupation can only be described as violent and brutal, while the resistance focused on a strategy of nonviolent campaigns, both in East Timor and internationally, in order to push forth their agenda for independence. Through examining the independence struggle and the mobilization of peaceful protests, I believe that nonviolence has foregrounded the independence struggle, but it alone as a political tool would not be sufficient. By examining the effects of the post-Cold War conditions which emphasize sovereignty and freedom, the use of media, and the eventual international circulation of discourse, nonviolence movements in East Timor would not have succeeded without other preconditions which allowed these movements to receive the international attention that it did, and eventually led to the withdrawal of Indonesia from the area.

 The Chipko Movement: Treehuggers of India

Resistance in India has been commonly characterized by nonviolent tactics for centuries. Mahatma Gandhi popularized this nonviolence globally and coined the term, “satyagraha,” a form of nonviolence resistance in place of using force as a political weapon. The Chipko Movement comes from the word, “chipko,” which means to hug or to cling to. During the 1970s rural villagers held on to trees as a way to protest tree felling in regions, notably in Uttar Pradesh.

The Salt Satyagraha

Disclaimer: The following blog post is not a reflection of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s opinion on the Salt Satyagraha By Simran Bedi Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, famously known as Mahatma (great-souled) Gandhi, is often credited as …