AGAINST THE STATE: Politics and Social Protest in Japan by David E. & Nagayo Sawa Apter

AGAINST THE STATE: Politics and Social Protest in Japan

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KIRKUS REVIEW

In 1966, when the Japanese government chose rural Narita as the site for a new Tokyo international airport, local farmers protested the loss of their land, livelihood, and very way of life. Leftist militants politicized the struggle; violence escalated; the Sanrizuka crossroads became ""a metaphor of government oppression"" and heroic opposition; and, while the world blinked at monolithic, conformist Japan in disarray, the airport was held up for more than a decade--a single runway was opened in 1978, and the militants' watchtowers still ring the site. This is the story that Apter and Saws lay out in all its complexity--as an illustration of both the social costs of Japan's economic success and of ""the problem of violent protest in democratic societies."" (A third, subsidiary theme is theoretical--the need to combine functional, structural, and phenomenological approaches.) Readers, however, may take a more limited view of the Sanrizuka movement--with no less interest. ""From the first, the confrontation. . . reminded farmers of their radical inheritance""--dating back to pre-Meiji days, and resurgent in the 1920s and '30s as ""an authentic expression of anti-commercial, anti-bourgeois, and anti-capitalist principles,"" with a feudal or rightist bias and roots in ""both hamlet and household defending themselves against outside interventions."" The militants, on the other hand, saw the Samrizuka struggle as a sweeping attack on the state. ""The airport is a symbol of Japanese imperialism, created by the needs of Japanese expansionism and the remilitarization that goes with it. Farmers are being driven off the land to create an industrial reserve. . . ."" Among the public, when the movement began, there was ""widespread concern about the moral quality of Japanese life in relation to Japan's role in the world."" Against this background, Apter and Sawa trace the immediate and spontaneous response; the mobilization of households on the hamlet system; the emergence of leaders (the foremost, an atypical Christian lay-preacher/artist, is a story in himself); direct action tactics--and public notice; student involvement and the enlistment of diverse leftist sects; pitched battles and arrests; and the fall-off--with farmers capitulating to realism, individual militants returning to society. Meanwhile: ""The government's strategy has been to wait for the deflation of principles. Most officials now agree that it was confrontation that made the alliance effective precisely by enabling principles to be articulated."" For students of Japan and students of protest movements: an accessible, suggestive interweave of vÉritÉ close-ups and thematic probing.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1984
Publisher: Harvard Univ. Press