Japanese student movements of the 1960s and 2010s: comparing Zenkyoto and SEALDs
by Emily Tanaka
Abstract – Zenkyoto in the 1960s and SEALDs in 2015 are among the largest student-led movements that have occurred in Japan. This research paper seeks to explore the connections between both eras and to identify effective tactics for youth social and political engagement in Japan’s unique post-war climate by analyzing and comparing its strategies and its circumstances. The seemingly contradictory desire of today’s Japanese youth to engage in politics without activism reflects the enduring fear of radicalization and violent conflicts with police. SEALDs attempted to address these fears by pioneering digital spaces for members to connect and by making fashionable branding core to their growth. Japanese youth social movements are ultimately driven less by identitybased challenges, but rather circumstantial issues borne from the desire for democratization following World War II. As Japan pursues globalization, it will be key for youth to step out of their comfort zone for more exposure to the world.