Japan being the first and only nation in history to have suffered nuclear bombing of her cities, it is not surprising that opposition to nuclear weapons is strong and widespread within the Japanese population. It is widely assumed that anti-nuclear sentiment reached its height in the 1950s and 1960s, and declined thereafter. But it is worth noting that as late as 1982 anti-nuclear organisations in Japan were able to send a petition with 80 million signatures to the Second Special Session on Disarmament of the United Nations, and in the same year an anti-nuclear rally in Tokyo attracted over 400,000 participants (Hook et al., 2001, p. 327).
NUCLEAR ISSUES have thus loomed large in Japanese politics. Japan is unique among top economic powers in having renounced possession of nuclear weapons, although in a sense her position is compromised by being party to a set of security arrangements with the United States that are premised on nuclear deterrence. In international fora, Japanese governments often show ambivalence on nuclear disarmament issues because an uncompromising anti-nuclear stance might be seen to conflict with commitment to the Japan-US Security Treaty.
During the Occupation, most open discussion of nuclear issues was suppressed, so that it was impossible to organise an anti-nuclear movement. But when the Occupation ended in 1952, the August issue of the Asahi Graph was devoted to the nuclear question. Around the same time a woman called Maruki Iri set up an exhibition about the effects of nuclear bombing. Concern rapidly mounted.
In March 1954 a Japanese fishing boat, the Lucky Dragon No. 5 (Daigo fukuryū maru), was showered with radioactive ash from a US nuclear test at Bikini atoll in the Pacific, and one of the crew members, Kuboyama Aikichi, subsequently died. Concern about the general issue and about pollution of fish stocks by radioactivity led a group of Tokyo housewives to organise an anti-nuclear petition, which was ultimately signed by over 33 million people. This, in turn, led in September 1955 to the formation of the Japan Council against Atomic and Hydrogen Weapons (Gensuikyō). In the late 1950s Gensuikyō served as the focus for the movement against nuclear weapons, and held rallies at Hiroshima on 6 August each year.
In the charged domestic and international atmosphere of the time, pacifist and anti-nuclear movements could not long remain unentangled in partisan politics. When Gensuikyō was first set up, it included representatives of all major parties. By the late 1950s, however, it was moving steadily towards the left, and by 1960 those on the conservative side of the political fence had mostly gone. In 1961 a small group close to the newly founded DEMOCRATIC SOCIALIST PARTY (Minshatō) broke away and founded its own organisation. The years 1961-2 saw a vicious conflict develop within Gensuikyō between the JAPAN SOCIALIST PARTY (JSP, Nihon Shakaitō) and the JAPAN COMMUNIST PARTY (JCP, Nihon Kyosantō) for control of the organisation.
The main issue was nuclear testing. France had tested a nuclear weapon in 1960, becom