Spirit of Social Protest Blooms in Japan’s Hydrangea Revolution

Whilst Japan has a reputation for being a harmonious nation where people passively accept the governmental line, the past century has seen vociferous social activism.  Born of frustration at lack of clarity from government,  grassroots activism has been historically significant in shaping Japan’s environmental policies.

s with opposition to the US Security Treaty, or the case of Minamata disease, where the Chisso Corporation allowed mercury to pass into the water system, maiming and killing many, authorities have been complicit in misleading the people and acting against their best interests, setting the stage for widespread anger and protest.

In recent decades, wide scale social protest has been dormant, but, in the wake of the nuclear disaster in Fukushima, a current is stirring in Japan, individuals are mobilising, and borne of a collective anger at a government that has in the most terrifying of situations, lied, bungled and even ignored them,  a significant anti-nuclear movement is rising.

[quote align=”center” color=”#b64736″]These groups have dubbed themselves the “Hydrangea Revolution,” after the flower which is formed of many tiny blooms. Individually, these people would be powerless, but collectively, they are a burst of protest that is difficult to ignore.[/quote]

In recent weeks, there have been regular gatherings of up to tens of thousands of people, massing together in the stultifying humidity of Japan’s rainy season, with the largest drawing crowds ranging from 75,000 to 170,000, depending on whether you chose to believe police or organizers. July 29th saw 10,000 individuals form a chain around the Japanese Diet, the national centre of governmental power, symbolically representing the growing percentage of the population who have come to passionately oppose the promulgation of nuclear power in Japan.

Former prime minister, Yukio Hatoyama has joined the protests, an almost unprecedented display of dissent from a mainstream politician to nuclear power in a country which has had only two ruling parties post-war, the first ruling for around 50 years, both of them strong proponents of nuclear fuel to feed the needs of this natural resource poor nation. Minority factions such as the Communist Party have been long running supporters of the anti-nuclear movement, and an increasing number of regional politicians have taking an active anti-nuclear stance, however it remains to be seen if one will be strong enough to capture the collective imagination of the Hydrangea Revolution.

Ultimately, to oppose entrenched nuclear power supply systems is a direct move against Japan’s resolutely economically rationalist governmental policies, and one that many politicians and their backers will widely discourage. Whilst the Democratic Party government of current Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda has been shocked at the scale of the public dissent, Noda has argued that the conservative majority will remain in line with party rhetoric which puts economic concerns over fears over the safety of nuclear power.

Even if the Hydrangea Revolution is unsuccessful in overriding pro-nuclear policies, collectivist activity has already publically and vocally challenged the status quo, prompting a dialogue on the safety of nuclear power generation as a viable fuel source that has already reverberated around the world. Should this movement continue to blossom, Japanese oligarchs may once again be forced to re-examine their policy of prioritising the fiscally focused ideologies of the elites over the anger and fear of a nation dreading another Fukushima.

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