Young precariat at the forefront: anti-nuclear rallies in post-Fukushima Japan
ABSTRACT Japan suffered a catastrophic disaster on March 11, 2011. The earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear radiation leakage from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant have devastated the northeastern part of the country and threatened the entire country and beyond with the risk of radiation. Nowadays, movements against nuclear power plants are emerging across the country. The crisis indeed provides a chance for Japan to forge a new energy policy. However, the activists’ claims are not narrowly limited to such energy issues. They call for a fundamentally fairer society and propose alternative ways of life, regarding nuclear power plants as symbols supporting the economic development that Japan enjoyed over the post–World War II period. As an ethnography, this paper documents the 60,000-citizen Goodbye Nuclear Power Plants (Sayonara Genpatsu) rally that mobilized in central Tokyo on September 19, 2011, as well as the Occupy Tokyo action on October 15, 2011, presenting the real voices of the rally participants against nuclear power. In particular, I will focus on the voices of young precariat participants, the major actors in the anti-nuclear rally, who were generated from and revealed as the negative result of Japan’s neoliberal economic policy, held since the 2000s. Further, I argue that their mounting anger might be a trigger for new post-neoliberal politics in post-Fukushima Japan.
Keywords: precariat, anti-nuclear rallies, voices, post-neoliberal politics, post-Fukushima Japan
Akihiro Ogawa is an associate professor of Japanese studies at Stockholm University, Sweden. He is a social anthropologist by training, and his primary research interests are civil society and social movements in Japan and East Asia. His recent publications include The Failure of Civil Society?: The Third Sector and the State in Contemporary Japan (SUNY Press, 2009), winner of the 2010 Japan NPO Research Association Book Award, and “Peace, a Contested Identity: Japan’s Constitutional Revision and Grassroots Peace Movements” (2011) (Peace & Change 36 : 373-399).