In 1958, a now independent, much strengthened Japan under the leadership of Prime Minister (and formerly indicted war criminal as a high-ranking bureaucrat in Manchuria, as well as current PM Abe Shinzo's grandfather) Kishi Nobusuke, set about to revise the peace treaty signed with the US ending the Occupation in 1952. The new version was more favorable to Japan in several respects (Japan did not have to share costs to have US bases in Japan, for example) but it was still unpopular with the Left, with labor, and with students. Why? Because it seemed to go against the notion of Japan being a nation of peace--as prescribed by the constitution--by firmly allying Japan with the US and placing Japan under America's nuclear umbrella. Many Japanese wanted Japan to be a neutral, pacifist nation; perhaps even a democratic-socialist one. They felt that being an outpost of democracy and capitalism in East Asia--a floating battleship or aircraft carrier for the US--could be a source of friction with China and North Korea, and perhaps even Southeast Asian countries that Japan had victimized during the war.

There was a deeper context as well. The 1954 Lucky Dragon #5 Incident, when winds shifted and a Japanese tuna fishing boat drifted too close to the Bikini Atoll where the US had been testing a hydrogen bomb irradiating the crew, one member of which died, sparking a widespread opposition to nuclear arms and helping to ground a reinvigorated peace movement.(See Yoshitake in Changing Lives, Ch. 2, p. 80) Women were especially active in this movement such as in the Suginami Ward Appeal, a petiton to abolish nuclear weapons which garnered more than 20 million signatures. Against this renewed citizens' focus on the hibakusha, the victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki., and Gensuikyo, the Japan Council Against Atomic and Hydrogen Bomb, was formed. This organization secured the passage of the Atomic Bomb Victims' Medical Care Law in 1957. Gensuikyo also played a dynamic role in the struggle against Ampo.

The year 1960 was also the year of the Mi'ike Miner's strike on Kyuushu, a 9-month futile effort to improve working conditions in the mines. It became a cause celebre for the Left and for Labor. But two months into the 312 day strike there were bloody confrontations when the company tried to reopen the mine, and one miner was killed. Labor supporters from all over Japan made pilgrimages to Mi'ike to walk the picket line with the miners. But the strike ended badly for labor when a mediation proposal was accepted, over the objections of the local union, leaving the original union leaders and their families in tears.

Also, liberals were distrustful of Kishi because of his previous attempt to alter the constitution and to strengthen the state's police powers. Kishi had sought to revise the Police Law and amend the Constitution prior to 1960, but his efforts ended in failure. This attempt to revise the Police Law was widely interpreted as giving the police prewar levels of power. The new legislation-- drafted after secret consultation with the Public Safety Commission-- would have enabled the police to conduct searches and seizures without warrants in order "to maintain public security and order" and to prevent crimes. This sounded an awful lot like the language of the old "Peace Preservation Law" of 1925 that was so instrumental in thwarting the prewar Left and any and all opposition to increased militarization and military aggression in China. Kishi's proposals had to be abandoned in the face of protests by both the Left (Sohyo called a general strike) and from within the LDP. Three members of Kishi's Cabinet resigned to protest his bill to increase and centralize police power. His effort to revise the Constitution, which he undertook even before the 1958 election, dragged on interminably, and was finally abandoned by Prime Minister Ikeda Hayato in favor of a "low posture" in the wake of the tumult over the Security Treaty revision in 1960. Richard Sameuls includes an interesting anecdote in his profile of Kishi which is available online. Amidst rumors that Kishi raised funds illegally, including going hat-in-hand to the CIA, Samuels notes:

A half decade earlier, during the battle for control of the party in 1957, he had been attacked by Ishii Mitsujiro, formerly of the Liberal Party, for raising dirty money. Ishii remarked of Kishi that "no matter how tightly you seal a bucket of shit, you still can't put it in the tokonoma (place of honor in a Japanese home)." Years later Kishi commented on the charge that "there are plenty of buckets of shit to go around."(See

Samuels sums up this phase of Kishi's political career this way:

The announcement in 1947 of the Truman Doctrine marked the turning point when the United States no longer cared as much about democratizing Japan as about anti-communism. Yoshida gave it his enthusiastic support, but Kishi would carry it even further, pressing for changes in education, police administration, and, above all, the Constitution. Once the LDP was returned to power in the June 1958 election, the Kishi government moved vigorously to amend laws related to national defense-- including the basic laws that established the Self-Defense Forces and the Defense Agency-- with the result that the number of Japanese uniformed soldiers increased by 10,000 men. Concerned that the teachers were too sympathetic to communism, the Kishi government also introduced legislation to force public schools to provide moral education and to implement a system to evaluate the teachers.

However, Kishi's efforts to revise the Police Law and amend the Constitution led to failure. The former--submitted without prior notice--was widely interpreted as giving the police prewar levels of power. The new legislation-- drafted after secret consultation with the Public Safety Commission-- would have enabled the police to conduct searches and seizures without warrants in order "to maintain public security and order" and to prevent crimes. Kishi's proposals had to be abandoned in face of protests by both the left (Sohyo called a general strike) and from within the LDP. Three members of Kishi's Cabinet resigned to protest his bill to increase and centralize police power. His effort to revise the Constitution, which he undertook even before the 1958 election, dragged on interminably, and was finally abandoned by Prime Minister Ikeda Hayato in favor of a "low posture" in the wake of the tumult over the Security Treaty revision in 1960.

The revision of the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty (known as the Ampo in its Japanese abbreviation) is widely understood as Kishi's greatest political legacy. For his supporters it stands as his "monument." For his detractors, it stands as evidence of his unreconstructed authoritarianism. Viewed either way, it clearly was a turning point in conservative hegemony, as the LDP rejected Kishi's leadership and turned away from a focus on foreign affairs toward high speed growth. Kishi's enemies on the left were no less determined than his enemies within the LDP itself, many of whom preferred to see the revision fail than to see him retain power.

To proud nationalists, Ampo was yet another "unequal treaty." While the United States expected Japan to increase its defense capabilities, it had also handcuffed it to an immensely popular Article Nine that renounced the use of force as a sovereign right of the state. U.S. troops were allowed to quell domestic disturbances even after the end of the Occupation, and could prevent the use of Japanese bases by any other power. The political right was encouraged by the establishment of the Self-Defense Forces in 1954, but it was not satisfied that this would suffice without Constitutional revision and a change in the terms of the treaty with the United States.

Once it was clear that the former was out of reach in the short term, revision of the treaty became the main item on Kishi's agenda. After securing agreement with the United States, Kishi battled forces within his own party, squared off against a popular left, and had to contend with the largest mass demonstrations in modern Japanese history. The Americans were easier to deal with. The United States was more than willing to change the terms of the treaty, and through secret side agreements was able to protect those privileges-- such as the transport and introduction of nuclear weapons-- that it most cared about. Nor did the United States even have to agree to return Okinawa to Japanese sovereignty for another decade. But the Japanese public was another matter. In June 1960, hundreds of thousands of demonstrators surrounded the national Diet building in central Tokyo. They forced Prime Minister Kishi to cancel a scheduled visit to Japan by President Eisenhower, for what he had hoped would be his crowning achievement as an international statesman. A week later, after forcing the treaty bill through the Diet without debate and without the opposition present, Kishi abruptly announced his resignation. (Samuels, from the JPRI paper cited above).

Nevertheless, in 1960 the revised treaty was signed and needed to be approved by the Diet; a visit by US President Dwight D. Eisenhower was scheduled for June 19. Kishi was eager to get the treaty approved well in advance but Socialist representatives in the Lower House maneuvered against him. They even, at one point, surrounded the Speaker of the House and the government had to send in police to free him with force. Then, Kishi "rammed" the treaty through a plenary session after midnight without the opposition's knowledge. This action provoked a huge uproar and even treaty supporters were dismayed at Kishi's "high-handed," undemocratic tactics. "High-handed" is a kind of code word for arrogant, insensitive to the needs and wishes of the people, and therefore undemocratic. The opposition movement took to the streets and soon snowballed into the largest mass demonstration in Japan's history!

Hundreds of thousands of ordinary citizens joined the protest while radical students like the Zengakuren (descended from the same student organization that protested the treatment of Professor Takigawa of Kyoto University in 1933; remember Yoshitake Teruko's description of her affiliation with this group while a student at Keio University) organized the "snake-dancing" students who were in the forefront of the demonstrations. The throngs encircled the Diet and challenged the police to keep order. They clashed with police who mainly used water cannons and sometimes tear gas to keep the hordes at bay. So there was some violence, but not a great deal. But there was one instance when the police backed up and allowed students into the Diet compund--trapping them--and then attacked, clubbing them, etc. In the fray, one female student from Todai was clubbed, knocked down and trampled to death. The student organization the "Bund," who broked from JCP leadership, organized a mass funeral/protest for the student, Kanba Michiko, and more clashes with the police followed. Then, Ike's Press Secretary, James Hagerty, flew into Tokyo to make arangements for the President's visit. His car was surrounded by angry protestors and it was clear that the government could not control the situation. Eisenhower's visit was cancelled. It really seemed for a moment as though Japan was on the verge of a monumental political transformation.

There was genuine resistance among Japanese citizens to the presence of US bases on Japanese soil, their extraterritoriality, and the fact that they compromised Japan's neutrality and allied Japan squarely with America in the Cold War. So, the Ampo treaty was fairly unpopular with many Japanese. From the spring 1959 to the fall 1960, some 16 million citizens took to the streets to protest the treaty. Originally, radical students and labor unions took the lead, but by May 1960, citizens from all walks of life joined the marches on the Diet Building. People signed petitions, joined strikes and marches, carried placards and posters in protest. On May 19, when Kishi used the police to oust socialist and communist Diet members from the room in order to forcibly ram the treaty through, many Japanese citizens felt betrayed and felt that a trend toward reversing the democratic reforms of the early postwar years was being culminated. For others, it meant that the ideal of a pacifist, neutral and progressive Japan was no longer in reach. It was a climactic and traumatic moment in modern Japanese history. Along with May 19, June 15 is also remembered by protestors as the day that right-wing groups violently attacked the protestors. As one participant in the movement, China scholar Takeuchi Yoshimi, noted, "until the dictatorship is overthrown, it is useless to argue about whether one opposes or supports the Ampo treaty." As Wesley Sasaki-Uemura notes, however, the Ampo struggle did not happen completely spontaneously. Rather, it "was the culmination of years of activity among citizens groups trying to resist the state's drive to restore prewar structures and create alternate visions for postwar democracy. (See Wesley Sasaki-Uemura, Organizing the Spontaneous, p. 3 and also p. 26 for the Takeuchi comment.)

Sasaki-Uemura talks about 4 factors that account for the upsuge in citizen participation that had little to do directly with the Ampo itself. But these elements helped make the Ampo Movement possible:

1. THE SEPCTER OF WWII. With the war still fresh in everyone's mind, the costs and destructiveness were specters that people did not want to revist.

2. NEW MODES OF PARTICIPATION. New channels for involvement had arisen in the 1950s that came out of circle movements, poetry or art study groups, grassroots citizens organizations centered on cultural activite, etc., but not especially political groups at all. But they could be mobilized when they felt the need to speak out and be heard.

3. NEW CONSTITUENCIES. The energy and organizing skills of women, an element not nearly as prevalent in the prewar years. The Housewives Association, the Japan Mothers Conferece (Nihon Hahaoya Taikai), etc.

4. A NEW CITIZEN ETHOS. The legacy of the debates over subjectivity (shutaiseiron, see Dower, p. 157) that helped develop a citizen ethos that placed individual citizens as the subjects or agents of historical change, not an abstract Marxist category like the proletariat.

Yet, the bottom line was that Kishi resigned (over the Hagerty affair), and was replaced by Ikeda Hayato (former Education Minister during the 1933 Kyoto University Incident), a member of Kishi's faction, and Ikeda promptly announced his "income-doubling plan." The storm dissipated and many historians would argue that Japan retreated from this zenith of political engagement into a life of complacency, consumption and material betterment. It was a triumph for Japan's conservative leadership, especially the LDP, which oversaw the next 15 years of high-speed, double-digit economic growth. It also signalled the decline of an effective leftwing opposition movement in Japan involving students, union leaders, socialists, communists, and in this instance, housewives, salaried workers and a cross-section of ordinary Japanese people.


See some further comments from a 2010 Forum below by singer and actor Kato Tokiko, who was herself a student at the University of Tokyo in the late 1960s. Kato has been deeply involved with peace and ecology movements together with her late husband Fujimoto Toshio, a student movement leader who was jailed in the early 1970s and later founded the Daichi o mamoru kai (Association to Preserve the Earth).

“I was sixteen years old when the ANPO protest occurred, and I remember feeling a fierce sense of despair that the revolution we were fighting for did not end up happening,” she told the audience. “We had a vision for a different kind of world, and so the way that events played out—including the death of Michiko Kamba—were completely shocking.”

Kato then led a moment of silence to honor Kamba, who was killed by police exactly 50 years earlier when protesters surrounded the Diet to demand that the ANPO treaty not be implemented.

“History is not something that can be forgotten; it lives on in every one of our hearts—as do the souls of those who died in war or fighting for peace,” she told audience members, of whom several were visibly moved.

“An amazing energy was born from our movement—and it will continue to grow and transform without end.”

Also, this short article has a 10-minuted video in Japanese embedded that tells the Ampo story:

More Notes on Kishi Nobusuke:

There was a reason for the concentration of anger around Kishi; he had a history with which most people in Japan in 1960 did not want to identify. Born in 1896 to an elite former samurai family, Kishi entered government in the 1920s, and rose quickly through the ranks to become the minister of commerce and industry during the war. As a member of General and Prime Minister Tōjō Hideki’s cabinet, he had signed the declaration that opened the Pacific War. When the war ended in defeat, Kishi was purged along with other wartime leaders by order of SCAP. He was subsequently imprisoned as a suspected “class-A” war criminal at Sugamo Prison but never indicted or brought to trial, as cold-war concerns led U.S. authorities to abandon the prosecution of war crimes after 1948. The fact that a suspected war criminal would become prime minister in 1957, less than a decade after being released from prison, enraged those who wanted to believe Japan had turned a corner after the end of the war. His actions on May 19 only served to heighten people’s anger and fear, forcing them to face the uncomfortable possibility that Japan had not come so far from its wartime past....

In addition to rearmament, Kishi’s administration seemed intent on bringing back other aspects of the wartime state. In 1956, a major reform to education law reestablished centralized control over school curricula, and in 1958 Kishi attempted, but failed, to pass a reform to police law that would have given police wide powers to carry out preventative detention. Against this background, Kishi’s decision to pass the controversial new security treaty by having opposition members forcibly removed from the Diet sent a shockwave through the country. One leading progressive intellectual at the time, Tsurumi Shunsuke, declared that the struggle over Anpo was nothing less than a battle between two nations: that of prewar and that of postwar Japan.

And Also:

Another of the pardoned war criminals was Nobusuke Kishi, who went on to become Japan's prime minister in 1957 and helped spawn a family dynasty of historical prevaricators. Kishi forced passage of the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security, widely known as AMPO, which sanctioned retention of U.S. military bases in Japan. Popular opposition was so fierce that Kishi was forced to resign. Kishi had already angered the public by insisting that Japan's Constitution did not ban the development of nuclear weapons. This was heresy to a nation that overwhelmingly embraced the antimilitarist Article 9 of its U.S.-authored Peace Constitution, which stated, "the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation" and "land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained." Since the Korean War, U.S. leaders had been pressuring Japan to revoke Article 9 and play a larger role in regional defense. Kishi's government had deceived the public by concluding a "secret agreement" giving U.S. military vessels carrying nuclear weapons carte blanche to enter Japanese ports.

Kishi's younger brother Eisaku Sato became prime minister in 1964 and privately supported Japan starting its own nuclear weapons program. In 1967, he endorsed the "Three Non-Nuclear Principles," renouncing Japan's manufacture, possession, or introduction of nuclear weapons, a commitment that Sato later described to the U.S. ambassador as "nonsense" and persisted in violating. In 1971, his government concluded the treaty that allowed Okinawa to revert to Japan, but stipulated that the U.S. would retain its military bases on the island. In 1969, he had signed a secret protocol allowing the U.S. to reintroduce nuclear weapons into Okinawa, under emergency circumstances, following Okinawa's 1972 reversion to Japan. His receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1974, coming on the heels of Henry Kissinger's receiving the award the previous year, made further mockery of efforts to find peaceful solutions to global crises.

The lies and deceptions came full circle with the election of rightwinger Shinzo Abe, Kishi's grandson, in December 2012. Abe had previously served for one year before resigning in disgrace. He is a notorious denier of history, having questioned the veracity of Japanese atrocities toward China and threatened to rescind Japan's apology to women forced into prostitution to service Japanese troops.

Abe's LDP returned to power following three years of failed Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) rule. The defeat of the DPJ was a tragic blow to the reform hopes of the Japanese people. The DPJ's Yukio Hatoyama had been elected prime minister in September 2009, ending decades of almost uninterrupted LDP rule. He had promised to block the planned relocation of the large U.S. marine base within Okinawa from Futenma to Henoko and move it entirely outside Japan. Futenma and the other U.S. bases, which have been so important to American imperial efforts, are profoundly unpopular with the people of Okinawa, the small prefecture that houses 74 percent of the U.S. bases in Japan. Hatoyama's resistance was crushed by Nobel Laureate Barack Obama, precipitating the collapse of his government. When we met with Hatoyama, who has written enthusiastically about Untold History, we encountered a man who had tried to resist the ever-encroaching U.S. empire of bases and had been destroyed in the process. Obama, like all of his postwar predecessors, with the exception of John Kennedy, and, all-too-briefly, Jimmy Carter, made clear that maintaining the American empire took precedence over human decency and social justice and the will of the Okinawan people, who have struggled mightily against construction of a new marine base and the use of their island as a launching pad for all U.S Asia wars, beginning with Korea. Okinawa is now being readied to play a similar role in Obama's Asia "pivot," the U.S. plan to "contain" China in what is gearing up to be, if not a new cold war, an excuse for continued bloated levels of "defense" spending by the U.S. and its allies.


See also this short article by Vicki Bestor:





Victoria Lyon Bestor excerpted from

The 1960 revision of the US-Japan Security (AMPO) Treaty became an important focus of citizens' action. Reacting to Prime Minister Kishi's high-handed ramming of the AMPO Treaty's approval through the Diet, opposition from Diet members and leading liberal and leftist intellectuals promoted the formation of a citizens' faction mobilized into a sizable protest. Those efforts eventually led to the cancellation of President Eisenhower's proposed visit to Japan in June 1960 and eventually resulted in Prime Minister Kishi's downfall.

The aftermath of the 1960 AMPO riots further pushed discussions of promoting civil society to the periphery. However the treaty riots also demonstrated the potential for citizens' action which began to take hold as official policy more intensely centralized emphasis on market led growth, industrial development, and expansion of the corporate sector at the expense of grass-roots needs and initiatives.

The Korean War was enormously successful in rebuilding Japan's infrastructure and setting the nation on the course that led to that economic growth and prosperity which Japan enjoyed through the end of the 1980s. While national prosperity through the 1960s and 70s was enormous, little emphasis was placed on the individual nor was attention given to the needs of neighborhoods or rural communities. As the wealth of Japanese corporations became more conspicuous, local interests began to express the need for spreading the wealth and the creation of accepted minimum standards by which people should live, a "civil minimum," as articulated by leftist political theorist Matsushita Keiichi. As the sense that individual and local needs were getting short shrift in the priorities of the nation, in addition to local government efforts to articulate minimum social needs, "citizens' movements" grew focused on specific issues.

By the mid-1960s the environmental hazards produced by unbridled industrial growth began to create a ground swell of locally-based citizens' movements.

During the 1950s the average Japanese was trying to recover from the war and the prospect of industrial growth seemed to present future opportunities tantalizing enough to quiet protest, despite the lack of much benefit trickling down to the average citizen. A decade later serious and widespread incidents of industrial pollution such as the mercury poisoning that became known as Minamata disease and severe lung diseases in the industrial city of Yokkaichi led to action. The urban middle class joined with rural residents who began to demand cleaner industry and to lend support to the victims of environment degradation.

The interest of a broad range of middle-class professionals, doctors, scientists, lawyers, school children and teachers, and the media mobilized public interest and support both to aid the victims in their long legal battles with the polluters and to demand that preventative measures be taken to insure that industry behave more responsibly. The continued and intense focus of the media was particularly important in both holding domestic Japanese attention on the problem and bringing the issue into the international spotlight.

Other movements expanded simultaneously, including the anti-nuclear movement and a range of vigorous and diverse consumer movements, mobilizing housewives. These movements focused broader attention on consumer needs, on the safety of foods, on environmental hazards as they relate more broadly to the general populace and most importantly on the excesses of corporate Japan and its disregard of the consumer.

Contemporary citizens' movements and popular protests stimulated interest in the history of popular rights movements during the Meiji period including challenges to the centralized authority of the Meiji State. This contributed to an intellectual climate in which a popular version of civil society could be seen in the past as well as in the present-day political, environmental, and consumer movements.

However, as prosperity spread throughout the Japanese populace and economic growth seemed unending, a sort of complacency settled over much of the Japanese middle class. The good life seemed within reach and many Japanese concentrated their energies on better educating their children to get top jobs, investing in the booming real estate market, saving, and increasingly on conspicuous consumption. Indeed such an enormous percentage of Japanese thought of themselves as firmly middle class that they were called "the New Middle Mass." While consumer action, civil militancy, and social involvement continued, for the most part it constituted smaller, more factionalized or specialized movements. However the popularity of civic involvement experienced a resurgence in the mid to late 1980s and has grown dramatically since then.


For the whole paper, please see:

Or, see also: "Toward a Cultural Biography of Civil Society in Japan," in Roger Goodman's edited volume Family and Social Policy in Japan: Anthropological Approaches, Cambridge University Press, 2002 (pp. 29-53).


Taken from: Noriko Aso's online materials at:


Here is a Wikipedia article on Kishi Nobusuke, the P.M. who engineered the revision of the US-Japan Security Treaty.: