In summary, the main actors in the new antinuclear movement that appeared in Japan from 2011–2012 came from the following layers
Students may have a lot of free time, but they have little freedom to express their political views. Students in Japan graduate in March each year and large corporations recruit new graduates in a single cohort in Aprilpanies undertake scrupulous checks on their potential employees’ temperament and opinions. While political activism is not explicitly banned, many students avoid it out of a concern that it might affect their employability. In the 1960s, when the student movement in Japan was at its height, the economy was booming and students were in a strong position to find jobspanies were less worried about employing people with a history of political activism. This was partly due to the tight labor market conditions of the economic boom that restricted companies’ ability to pick and choose their employees. From the latter half of the 1970s, and particularly since 1990, however, the rate of economic growth slowed and companies began to screen student applicants more carefully.
Over the course of the series, 53 protesters were asked about their age, their occupation and their reasons for participating
Large corporations that use “Japanese-style management” and the students who want to join them are believed to make up the core of Japanese society. Few antinuclear activists came from this “core”. This is an issue not of income but of political culture and social integration. In the movement against the security legislation in the summer of 2015, however, activists from the student group SEALDs stood out. While only a small proportion of the total students population took part in the movements, their presence nevertheless suggests that the form of social integration that was constructed in Japan after the 1970s is weakening. Furthermore, as is shown by the presence of Local Leaders (point 8) in the survey group, some activists in the antinuclear movement also play leading roles in local communities, such as the head of a local shopkeepers association and the president of a PTA. Alongside the Japan Business Federation (Keidanren), the governing body for large corporations, these local community organizations once formed the support base for the ruling Liberal Democratic Party. The participation of people from these layers suggests that in local community organizations, too, there are definite rumblings against the existing system. Below I discuss some of the background to this change in terms of economic stagnation and the decline in the LDP’s base.
The large number of activists from the “cognitive precariat” shows that the antinuclear movement shares some of the characteristic features of 2011 movements in other developed countries. The large number of healthcare workers reflects their sensitivity to a movement whose origins can be traced to a nuclear accident. The large number of people with a connection to a foreign country is characteristic of societies where there is limited access to information and may well be a characteristic of social movements in non-western countries. Finally, students and salarymen, the supposed “core” of Japanese society did not have a significant presence among the main actors.
Having discussed the main actors, I will now discuss the ordinary participants in the protests outside the prime minister’s residence. Who were they and how did they come to take part? The Japanese newspaper Tokyo Shimbun published a series between titled “Fixed Point Observations Outside the National Diet”. 17 Each column in the series featured an interview with a participant in the weekly Friday protests. While this is not a random sample, it provides a useful point of reference for analyzing the characteristics of ordinary participants.