Post-Anpo Apostasy

During my search for a short article on Anpo (the anti U.S.-Japan Security Treaty movement in 1960), Konrad mentioned that he would be interested in hearing about leftist intellectuals who recanted their radical politics after the defeat of the movement.

I was looking at a chapter in Yoshikuni Igarashi’s Bodies of Memory titled “From the Anti-Security Treaty Movement to the Tokyo Olympics: Transforming the Body, the Metropolis, and Memory,” as a possible article to use in class.

This article mentions Shimizu Ikutaro, whom Igarashi describes as “an intellectual who was deeply committed to the anti-treaty movement.” He was a loud voice in the movement for sure, and Igarashi explores the issues of memory and the body in Shimizu’s discussion of Zengakuren (the radical wing of the student movement) and the physical nature of their tactics during Anpo.

Shimizu is, I believe, known as an anpo intellectual who recanted. Here, on a website run by Professor Okubo Takaji of Waseda University, are some essays about Shimizu, in Japanese.

And here is what Harry Harootunian, in “Beyond Containment: The Postwar Genealogy of Fascism and TOSAKA Jun’s Prewar Critique of Liberalism” (printed online here), has to say about Shimizu and why he repudiated the left after Anpo:

SHIMIZU condemned [prewar leftist] intellectuals who later recalled their experience of conversion as testimonials of bad faith, since neither were their commitments as strong as they wished later witnesses to believe nor were the speculative modes of the Japanese people illuminated by conversion so intensely antimodern. Here, SHIMIZU was apparently speaking the from personal experience of his own conversion. His late writings, “Doubting the Postwar” and “Auguste COMTE” (published in the 1970s) rejected the category of the “postwar,” which he equated with all of those efforts to repeat the Enlightenment that common sense had already “denied.” What SHIMIZU meant by common sense might have conceivably revealed only an instance of his own bad faith and how he had successfully changed with the seasons. Yet, he explained that intellectuals in Japan were exceedingly short on common sense, that is, a knowledge common to a wide number of people […]

Here Harootunian draws our attention to the way Shimizu sees Enlightenment thought as fomenting a kind of political activism that is antithetical to the people. But focusing on the undifferentiated — what Harootunian calls a “classless” — image of “the people” led to Shimizu’s denunciation of Marxism and the Japanese left:

Intellectuals are blinded from the common sense of the masses and are not able to approach them. But he, SHIMIZU declared, had escaped this blindness, this Enlightenment contagion that had plunged Japan into darkness, because he had been able to manage an identity with the masses. When the conception of common sense was linked to his idea of presentism (the curse of shared values, political and public cultures, all those interpretative strategies confidently based upon a putative average), he had merely found a way to justify the way things are by appealing to a fixed fund of experience/knowledge which seemingly had remained the same since the beginning of the race.

Here Harootunian depicts Shimizu as an intellectual lured by “presentism,” a kind of culturalist chauvinism that develops when a refusal of Western thinking (in this case Enlightenment) is projected to imagine “the people” as a “race” untouched by the evil ways of industrial capitalism. At least that is what Harootunian here is arguing.

I have never read Shimizu so I don’t know what to make of this passage, but I’m not 100% convinced of the argument that presentist thought is more likely to lead to an essentialist and transhistorical position. But in contrast to Tosaka Jun, I guess it sort of makes sense why Shimizu recanted.

Are there others who recanted after Anpo? Now I’m curious too.


  1. Great stuff, thanks Tak. Shimizu is definitely an example and was active as a progressive and in the Peace/Neutralist movements before “turning” during the Kishi administration.

    This is actually a pet project of mine (my interest in “tenko” issues goes along with my general interest in treason and betrayal in modern East Asia) and I hope to have a full article length piece on this at some point – though I’m still working through my approach, let alone the huge amount of reading in Japanese works I want to do for this…

    The essay by Victor Koschmann in Gordon ed. Postwar Japan As History has some great discussion of this and the turn to conservatism. Of course, depending on the intellectual in question, in some ways there wasn’t always a clear turn since there were elements of clear continuity which are important and interesting to discuss.

    Koschmann article is really great crash course on postwar intellectuals and was a starting point for me to get the lay of the land before getting into the huge Japanese literature on this. I was so overwhelmed at the time that in addition to notes, I made up a list of most of the people he discusses with quick reminders of what role they played in his story (I posted the raw list at for the curious) I have also gotten some great pointers from a Japanese professor who has many tales of personal betrayal (he was a mid-level student leader in some of the protests) from those above him. I’m working on a list and don’t have the details yet so forgive any mistakes but to look into a few potentials whose background and works I hope to look at: 西部邁, 香山健一, 佐藤誠三郎 as well as a number of other major leaders now active in the new textbook movement and its affiliate orgs. Perhaps the most interesting example from the historiographical perspective is the big hitter and a leader of “実証主義” history 伊藤隆, whose influence pervades the academy. He is, of course, also involved in the textbook fiasco. Nothing like the mask of empiricism over good old nationalism.

    I’m afraid I didn’t care much for that chapter by Igarashi, although I’m very sympathetic to that kind of approach. It was one of many places in that book that I was left somewhat dissapointed. He really had to stretch his argument (as when, in that chapter he tries to maintain his body theme by focusing on the physical injuries of the protesters, if I remember correctly) so much it just seemed to border on silly or irrelevant in places. I think his best work in that book was on the Volleyball team during the Olympics, which I really enjoyed.

  2. I totally forgot about the Koschmann piece. I read it so long ago, way before I had any inkling about Japanese intellectual history. It is a fantastic piece and I’ve used it in so many of my seminar papers of yore. Thanks for reminding me of the reference!

    Your list of Japanese intellectuals from the Koschmann essay is quite impressive. Are you planning to read every one??? I didn’t know that these very post-anpo recanters are involved in the revisionist history textbook movement. It makes sense, though, if one sees one of the divisive clefts in anpo had to do with the issue of how to think about Japanese nationalism vis-a-vis the U.S.

    By the way, I looked up 伊藤隆 on the Japanese wikipedia, and it not only came up with the historian, but also a kickboxer with the same name!

    What is it with FIAW? All links lead to Japanese spectator sports!

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