SEALDs (Students Emergency Action for Liberal Democracy): Research Note on Contemporary Youth Politics in Japan
The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol. 13, Issue. 37, No. 1, September 14, 2015
David H. Slater, Robin O’Day, Satsuki Uno, Love Kindstrand, Chiharu Takano
Recently, young people have been out on the Tokyo streets and in the mass media in opposition to Prime Minister Abe’s efforts to pass the State Secrecy Acts, the “reinterpretation” of Article 9 of the Constitutions and the Security Bills. None have garnered more interest or exerted more influence than SEALDs, Students Emergency Action for Liberal Democracy. They are worthy of attention for various reasons, but we should note at the start they are the first college-based social movement in 50 years to have drawn such attention in their efforts to directly address the Japanese government’s policy. They are speaking out in favor of constitutional democracy, due process and respect for popular opinion; for peace in Asia and social equality within Japan.
In gaining prominence, they have broken out beyond the historical specter of ANPO, freeing themselves as youth activists from the image (deserved or not) of dangerous and even anti-social radicalism that has contributed to the negative image of all youth activists, effectively undermining similar opposition in the past. Unlike the perceived extremism of ANPO, SEALDs has created a position for themselves as “regular” college students who oppose the extremism of the Abe regime to create a politics that is particularly relevant to young people, a politics that is as distant from the unappealing party politics of the older generation (dasai ojisan
) as it is from the dasai
(unappealing) and kowaii
(threatening) image of radical left political activists (or at least how they have been represented in the mainstream media), they have created a politics that is attuned and relevant to many young people in both content and media form. And in doing so, they have gone far beyond their initial focus as college or youth: SEALDs has given voice to what opinion polls suggest a majority of Japanese find objectionable
—the Abe regime’s manipulation of the constitutional system.