Naoko Koda has delivered a striking interpretation of post-1945 US–Japan relations by documenting the authority of Japanese student radicals connected to Zengakuren as a flashpoint in the global Cold War. This is a story of the student Left that contested Cold War liberalism that pivoted around the wrath of anti-Communism, militarization, and colonialism to expose the underlying imperialism of the US–Japan alliance. Zengakuren prefigured the global 1968 student revolt in powerful ways. I recommend this book to all those who are interested in rethinking the very notions of peace and democracy that still underwrite US–Japan security arrangements to maintain a massive military presence, especially in Okinawa. It demands a wide readership.
Too often Japan is still seen in the West as a land without politics and even more often as a land without a Left. Naoko Koda’s book is a sound education in the error of this notion. Her lucidly written, multi-decade history of the Japanese student organization, Zengakuren, reminds us just how much the Japanese Left was formed in opposition to US militarism and adds a go-to text to the literature of the global sixties.