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  • Japan at the Crossroads: Conflict and Compromise after Anpo by Nick Kapur
  • Simon Avenell (bio)
Japan at the Crossroads: Conflict and Compromise after Anpo. By Nick Kapur. Harvard University Press, Cambridge MA, 2018. 325 pages. $39.95.

As the title of this impressive book suggests, Nick Kapur wants to reposition the massive Anpo protests of 1960 as a critical "inflection point" in postwar Japanese history, when earlier developments were "accelerated" or "rerouted" to alternative "trajectories" thanks to the "gravitational force of the crisis" (p. 271). The book presents a great deal of evidence for the victory of compromise, the weakening of democracy, and the revitalization of the far right after Anpo, but Kapur also recognizes the creative energy of this moment, for example in "new forms of literary and artistic expression," greater "mutuality" in U.S.-Japan relations, new forms of social activism, and practices of "tolerance and patience" in politics. Indeed, for Kapur such changes also mark Anpo and its aftermath as a "kind of revolutionary moment"—albeit revolution with a small "r" (p.7).

This book is destined to become the first point of contact for anyone wanting to understand the antecedents, the course, and the consequences [End Page 244] of the Anpo protests through a comprehensive and contemporary lens. The only comparable English-language study is George R. Packard III's Protest in Tokyo (1966), which is very outdated and, in many ways, now more of a primary than a secondary source on the incident.1 There are more recent studies of Anpo such as Wesley Sasaki-Uemura's Organizing the Spontaneous (2001) and a single chapter in my Making Japanese Citizens (2010),2 although in both cases the focus is primarily on the new citizen movements involved in the crisis, leaving much untold about the involvement of other groups such as labor, politicians, right wingers, and artists. Missing in existing research too is any integrative analysis of the multifarious outcomes of Anpo for Japanese society, politics, and culture in the ensuing years. In other words, until now we have not had an English-language work addressing the significance of Anpo in the broader sweep of Japan's postwar history. With its lively and lucid prose, Kapur's meticulously researched book fills this lacuna, deftly guiding the reader on a nuanced and wide-reaching journey through the many facets and outcomes of the Anpo crisis—both positive and negative.

Pivoting around the central narrative of the Anpo protests, chapters in the book analyze the impact of the incident on the government, the opposition, labor, students, intellectuals, civic movements, artists, writers, the mass media, and the right. While providing ample contextualization of the antecedents and the aftermath, Kapur's synchronic approach helps to drive home just how widespread and deeply interconnected the phenomena of Anpo were. As he explains, analyzing the protests "across a wide variety of fields" reveals how "foreign policy and domestic politics intersect and overlap, and how political, social, and cultural change are inextricable from each other" (p. 271). The introductory chapter is without doubt the best English-language account of the Anpo crisis I have read as it manages to capture the nuance, complexity, and turmoil of the moment without becoming bogged down in the plethora of Anpo ephemera or in wooden scholarly debates. Kapur has the unique ability to write simultaneously for multiple audiences. On the one hand, experts in the field will be intrigued by the insightful analysis and new empirical discoveries throughout the book while, on the other hand, nonexperts will enjoy Kapur's clear explication of the events and their significance. For this reason, I could also imagine the book fitting quite nicely into undergraduate courses on modern Japan.

What then does Kapur have to say about "conflict" and "compromise" after Anpo? The first great compromise Kapur posits is that of the conservative [End Page 245] Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) government, led after the crisis by Prime Minister Ikeda Hayato. In the face of public opinion averse to extremism on both the left and right and desiring the "status quo" (p. 264), Kapur says, Ikeda and his allies in the LDP seized the opportunity to remake the party...


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pp. 244-248
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