Why did the Japanese Antinuclear Movement Fail to Contribute to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW)?

The Establishment and Splits of the Japanese Antinuclear Movement

Seiichi Koike, Hiroshima University [About | Email], Jincao Wang, Kumamoto University, [About | Email]

Volume 23, Issue 2 (Discussion Paper 1 in 2023). First published in ejcjs on 17 August 2023.

This work was supported by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science [19H04422]


As the only nation to have suffered an attack with nuclear weapons, Japan would be expected to have contributed greatly to the prohibition of nuclear weapons worldwide. However, Japan chose not to sign the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) in 2021. Apart from establishing the fact that Japan enjoyed the benefits of the American nuclear umbrella after the war, we also discuss the issue by analysing the establishment and splits of post-war Japanese anti-nuclear movement. In conclusion, in the Cold War environment, as the confrontation between humanitarianism to increase supporters during the Anti-Hydrogen Bombs Signature Campaign (Haba) and the political aims of anti-Americanism and anti-imperialism led by the Japan Communist Party (Suji) was included in the antinuclear movement, it not only led to the self-destruction of the movement but also to a Japanese political situation that failed to contribute to the TPNW.

Keywords: Japan Communist Party, antinuclear movement, Gensuikyo, hibakusha.


With the contents of a comprehensive set of prohibitions on participating in any nuclear weapon activities, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) was adopted on July 7, 2017, and entered into force on January 22, 2021. However, as the only nation to have suffered from an attack with nuclear weapons, and a country that enjoyed the benefits of the American nuclear umbrella after the war, Japan chose not to sign the treaty. [1]
On the one hand, we read in the text of the TPNW, that it is ‘Mindful of the unacceptable suffering of and harm caused to the victims of the use of nuclear weapons (hibakusha), as well as of those affected by the testing of nuclear weapons.’ [2] Obviously, this principle was also widely adduced by Japanese anti-nuclear movements in the past, especially the national antinuclear petition initiated by women in Tokyo in 1954 and the first World Conference Against A&H Bombs in Hiroshima in 1955. [3] On the other hand, during the conclusion of the treaty, in contrast with the efforts made by Setsuko Thurlow, an atomic bombing survivor in Hiroshima and the leading figure of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), the Japanese anti-nuclear movement and the Japan Council against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs (Gensuikyo), a Japanese NGO established in 1955 to ban nuclear weapons worldwide, were almost uninvolved. Why did the Japanese anti-nuclear movement fail to contribute to TPNW? In this paper, we answer this question by analysing the establishment and splits of the postwar Japanese anti-nuclear movement.
Following Japan’s defeat and occupation by the Allies, the International Military Tribunal for the Far East tried the leaders of the Empire of Japan during the Second World War to eliminate militarism in Japan. As quoted by the new Constitution of Japan on November 3, 1946, ‘the Japanese people, desire peace for all time for all time and are deeply conscious of the high ideals controlling human relationship, and we have determined to preserve our security and existence, trusting in the justice and faith of the peace-loving peoples of the world… the right of belligerency of the state will not be recognised,’ [4] Japan sought to be a democratic country by addressing the issues of capitalism and the sovereignty of the people after the war. However, unlike West Germany, the Japanese Communist Party (JCP) was not banned despite its militancy and left-wing sectarianism.
Under these circumstances, the Daigo Fukuryu Maru (No. 5 Lucky Dragon) incident, the third nuclear incident involving Japan after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, occurred. On March 1, 1954, a Japanese tuna fishing boat named Daigo Fukuryu Maru was contaminated outside the danger zone that the US government had declared in advance of the nuclear fallout from the U.S. Castle Bravo nuclear test at Bikini Atoll. Consequently, the boat’s chief radioman, Kuboyama Aikichi, died on September 23 from radiation sickness.
After this incident, a signature that was mainly launched by Tokyo (Suginami Ward) housewives drove an appeal for a ban on hydrogen bombs, which began spreading in April 1954. According to the ‘Suginami Appeal’ issued on May 9, 1954, people of the entire nation should appeal to the whole world for a ban on hydrogen bombs through their signatures (Maruhama, 2011). In contrast with the peaceful movements before, the campaign in Suginami highlighted the meaning of ‘peace’ and ‘mass participation’ instead of political purposes such as anti-government or anti-occupying forces (Imabori 1965).

Anti-Hydrogen Bomb Signature Campaign, Anti-Atomic and Hydrogen Bomb Campaign, Antinuclear Movement

Resolutions against nuclear weapons

After the Lucky Dragon No. 5 Incident was reported by Yomiuri, the city council of Yaizu City, where the home port of the boat was located, passed a resolution against nuclear weapons on March 27. This gave an impetus to similar resolutions passed by other local councils and even at the central level, including the Resolution on International Nuclear Management (April 1) by the House of Representatives and the Resolution on International Nuclear Management and Against Nuclear Weapons by the House of Councilors (April 5). [5] However, as a member of the Western Bloc, which aimed for economic revival by relying on US security during the Cold War, it was difficult for the Japanese government to demand the cessation of nuclear testing in the US. [6]
On the other hand, according to the proposal of the 6th Hiroshima Conference of Women’s Council (April 21), the Hiroshima Conference against A and H Bombs was held on May 15, in which a resolution to protect victims suffering from nuclear weapons was passed. Later, resolutions including one calling for national medical expense support for radiation victims were passed by the city council and the prefectural assembly of Hiroshima on May 25 and 28, respectively. On June 4, the mayor of Hiroshima City and the governor of Hiroshima Prefecture joined the signature campaign. With the cooperation of the local government and the public, a campaign against H Bombs seeking to collect one million signatures was launched by a coalition of peace groups, meeting their target on August 20. Consequently, the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare agreed to include radiation-victim-related expenses in the national budget from 1955. Moreover, as the goal of the signature campaign expanded to include anti-atomic and hydrogen bombs, the Japan Council against A and H Bombs (Gensuikyo) was founded on September 19, 1955, following the opening of the first World Conference Against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs in Hiroshima in the same year. [7]
Actions of the Japanese Communist Party (JCP)
After the Lucky Dragon No. 5 Incident, the JCP criticised it as ‘the third attack on Japan with nuclear weapons’ in the daily organ Akahata, and addressed the legitimacy of the peaceful offensive of the Soviet Union and the Stockholm Appeal, which was an initiative launched by the World Peace Council in 1950 to prevent atomic war. Regarding this response, Yaizu City commended the JCP for its efforts to ‘advocate the importance of banning the nuclear weapons to the scared citizens around the Lucky Dragon No. 5 by their quick action’ (Asahi Shimbun 1954b). Similarly, as quoted by the secretary general of the Suginami Council of the Anti-Hydrogen Bombs Signature Campaign, ‘if you look around the parties in Japan, it is obvious that the Liberal Party and the JCP were the ones who were most positively devoted to the signature campaign… Especially due to the JCP’s efforts to cooperate with a various of citizen groups, the national movement was promoted smoothly’ (Kobayashi 1995, pp.79).
In fact, after Joseph Stalin’s death, the JCP gradually transformed from a militant line to a peaceful line in 1954. As a result, the protection of the Constitution, anti-rearmament and anti-American military bases, and the establishment of a broad united front were accepted as principles by the JCP. Thus, the Lucky Dragon No. 5 Incident and the Anti-Hydrogen Bomb Signature Campaign were good opportunities for them to gain greater influence in other organisations.
During the World Conference against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs in Hiroshima, the JCP-controlled Japan Peace Committee gathered peace activists worldwide through the World Peace Council (Nagashima 2017). On one hand, at the 6th National Conference in 1955, the JCP addressed the importance of the peaceful path instead of militancy through parliamentary means and the united front (Emmerson 1972). On the other hand, communist activists and JCP members who returned from China in 1958 controlled both the executive office and local branches of the Japan Council against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs (JCAHB).

The World Conference against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs and the two directions

On August 6, 1955, after the 10th Hiroshima Peace Ceremony was held, the first World Conference against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs opened in Hiroshima Kokaido (International Conference Center Hiroshima from 1989) with a congratulatory speech by Prime Minister Hatoyama Ichiro. Survivors of the atomic bombs shared their experiences with the world during this conference, by which the activities supporting atomic bomb survivors were affiliated with the antinuclear movement.
However, as mentioned by Fujii Heiichi, the first director general of the Japan Confederation of A and H-Bomb Sufferer Organizations, which actively sought relief measures for atomic bomb survivors, people in the movement began to separate into three groups after the conference: one calling for banning atomic weapons (kinshi ha), which called for a ban on the A and H bombs; one opposed to bases (kichi ha), against the expansion of US military bases; and one demanding relief measures (kyuen ha), which addressed the priority of relief to the A-bomb survivors (Funahashi 1996).
Supporters (Haba) and political aims (Suji) of the antinuclear movement
During the 1955 World Conference, the issue of whether to seek a broader base of support or to prioritise the prohibition of atomic and hydrogen bombs became a matter of controversy. In other words, the former was founded on the humanitarianism of the anti-hydrogen bomb signature campaign (haba), while the latter addressed the possibility of unity among all anti-American powers (suji). For example, the de facto controller of the executive office of the JCAHB, the JCP, Japan Peace Committee, and the group seeking to ban atomic weapons (kinshi ha) suggested that the three groups (kinshi ha, kichi ha, and kyuen ha) should and could unify in terms of their similar political stance toward America, the pro-American Japanese government, and the antinuclear movement (Imahori 1960).
On the other hand, to extend the base of supporters, Hiroshima and Nagasaki agreed to submit a petition to Parliament and the Government seeking relief for nuclear weapons victims from 1951 and lay down the outline of a related bill in November 1956. Subsequently, with the support of public opinion, more petitions led by the two cities were submitted. Consequently, in April 1957, the A-bomb Survivors Medical Treatment Law, which was based on a petition from Hiroshima and Nagasaki to Parliament in January, was established.
Due to the efforts of the broad base of supporters during the antinuclear movement, atomic bomb survivors (hibakusha), who suffered great hardship and radiation sickness after the war, gained more attention and help from society. Meanwhile, as mentioned by the JCAHB, while the antinuclear movement initially helped atomic bomb survivors, their objective significance should not be ignored.[8] In other words, the confrontation between humanitarianism to increase supporters and the political aims of anti-Americanism and anti-imperialism were included in the antinuclear movement.
Two directions
As mentioned above, the confrontation between ‘Haba’ and ‘Suji’ resulted in two directions of the antinuclear movement. As a nonpartisan movement based on humanitarianism, it successfully collected more than 35 million signatures. In fact, more than half of them were from prefectural units because of the efforts of local parliaments, the National Federation of Regional Women’s Organizations (Chifuren), and the Japan Seinendan Council (Nisseikyo). In particular, petitions by local parliaments, which broke away from their conservatism before the war, played an essential role in the passage of the A-bomb Survivors’ Medical Treatment Law. At the National Conference of Chairpersons of City Councils against the A&H Bombs on October 8, 1956, more than 70% of the chairpersons of the nationwide city councils passed a resolution to make the antinuclear movement ‘a truly national movement.’ Based on this resolution, the government was requested to attain a better understanding of the current situation of A&H bomb survivors and make laws to support their medical treatment, health management, and life security (Kobayashi 1995). Moreover, during the preparation of the Declaration of the National Conference of Chairpersons of City Councils against A&H Bombs, to avoid the misunderstanding that they were led only by the reformists, the draft was changed from stating that ‘the movement was powered by the organisations including the Japan council against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs, World Peace Council and labour unions’ to state that ‘as the representatives of the local residents, the local councils should play a more important role in the movement’ (Kobayashi 1995, pp.313). Consequently, the local councils considered themselves de facto leaders of the antinuclear signature campaign. In fact, unlike those leaders who emphasised charisma before the war, post-war local leaders in Japan considered themselves more anti-communist and middle class (Fujiwara 1958). Therefore, it was possible for them to develop the antinuclear movement into a widely supported, nonpartisan movement by cooperating with Chifuren and Nisseikyo.
However, because of the World Conference in Hiroshima, the relationship between Gensuikyo and the World Peace Council was strongly enhanced. As the chairman of Gensuikyo, Yasui Kaoru was awarded the International Lenin Peace Prize, a prize mainly awarded to supporters of Communism and the Soviet Union. As mentioned above, through the JCP and World-Peace-Council-controlled Japan Peace Committee, stances of the Eastern Bloc during the Cold War were brought into the antinuclear movement. In other words, with the support of socialist countries, such as the Soviet Union and China, the movement became more anti-American and anti-imperialist.

Breakup of the antinuclear movement

Politicalisation of the antinuclear movement

By reviewing the appeals of the World Conference against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs from 1955 to 1958, [9] obviously, the conflict between the ‘Haba’ and ‘Suji’ mentioned above was becoming more intense. In particularly, after the 3rd Conference in 1957, the group opposing atomic weapons (kinshi ha) introduced the concept of ‘the enemy of peace,’ by which to convey that the revision to the US-Japan Security Treaty should be strongly opposed. Meanwhile, people who emphasised humanitarianism as the essence of the movement took a negative view, making it a political campaign.
Before the revision of the US-Japan Security Treaty, the Japan Council against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs (Gensuikyo) was the leading group in the National Conference for Joint Struggle against Security Treaty Revisions (Aruga 1985), an organisation mainly supported by Sohyo (the Japanese General Council of Labor Unions), the Japan Socialist Party (JSP), and the JCP, whose aim was to oppose the treaty revisions. During the fifth national conference, on December 16, 1958, the Gensuikyo had already clarified their opposition to these revisions. Among the speakers, the director of the Gensuikyo, Kumakura Hiroyasu, highly evaluated the emphatic opinions towards the revisions put forward by Fukuoka and Niigata local Gensuikyo. Similarly, as the representative from the JCP, Kamiyama Shigeo insisted that the USSR should not be criticised for its nuclear tests because of its ‘peaceful attitude and purpose.’ To the contrary, negotiations on opposition to treaty revisions should be prioritised (Kobayashi 1996). As a result, the politicalised antinuclear movement was absorbed into the Campaign against the US-Japan Security Treaty (Anpo protests). Due to the non-partisan character of the movement, instead of blatant political intervention, the JCP-leaning intellectuals under the Japan Peace Committee propounded kinshi ha and developed the antinuclear movement into the centre of the World Conference so as to control the discussion and the movement as a whole. This was meaningful to the JCP, which was seeking more seats in Parliament in a peaceful way.
After the enactment of the Subversive Activities Prevention Act on July 7, 1952, to understand the actions and aims of the JCP correctly, the government enhanced its supervision through the newly established Public Security Intelligence Agency. According to the government and the LDP, based on the spirit of parliamentary democracy, the JCP should not be considered a political party but as a target of the Subversive Activities Prevention Act, or the extreme left, as it had almost no seats in Parliament (one in the House of Representatives, one in the House of Councilors). In the report by the Public Security Intelligence Agency in 1959, the purpose of the JCP was concluded as being such that ‘with the cooperation of the Japan Peace Committee and Gensuikyo, they aim to combine the issue of treaty revisions with all of other movements including nuclear test ban, promotion of democracy, improvement of Sino-Japanese relations, anti-military bases, etc., by which to force the government to change the related policies’ (Kameyama 1978, pp.46).
The issue of subsidy reductions by the Hiroshima Prefecture Assembly
Before the revision of the US-Japan Security Treaty in 1960, the fifth World Conference on Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs was planned to be held in Hiroshima City in August 1959. However, during the regular meeting of the Hiroshima Prefecture Assembly in June, the proposal of a preparation subsidy for the conference put forward by the Hiroshima Gensuikyo was denied, which led to a full reduction in the subsidy (Oshima 2010).
As mentioned above, because of the position of Japan Gensuikyo as a leading group in the National Conference for Joint Struggle against Security Treaty Revisions, the antinuclear movement was also considered a part of the Anpo protests. At this point, the relief groups (kyuen ha) in Hiroshima and Nagasaki were skeptical of the movement led by the group opposing atomic weapons (kinshi ha). According to the deputy of Hiroshima Gensuikyo Moritaki Ichiro (kyuen ha), it would be difficult to continue to support the hibakusha if the Anpo issue were combined with political conflicts between the conservatives and progressives. Under these circumstances, the LDP won the national local elections in Hiroshima Prefecture in a landslide, securing the positions of chairperson and vice-chairperson of the Prefecture Assembly, chairpersons of all committees, and more than two-thirds of the seats in the local council. These conservative victories were also observed in other prefectures and even at the central level. In July 1959, the Conference of the Seven Main Posts of the LDP (nanayaku kaigi) supported the decision of the Hiroshima Prefecture Assembly and stated that subsidies to all local Gensuikyo in Japan were to be cut. [10] According to the LDP, since Japan Gensuikyo was engaging in the ‘fake peace movement,' the government was going to take the measure of establishing the 'second Gensuikyo.’ [11] Similarly, the National Association of Chairpersons of the Prefectural Assembly declared that ‘the antinuclear movement should be a pure peaceful activity to fulfill its mission.’ [12] As a result, before the Fifth World Conference against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs, which was supposed to have more than 25,000 participants, including international representatives, a split of ‘haba’ and ‘anti-communist’ had been observed inside the Gensuikyo. [13]
The fifth World Conference against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs
Generally, the Fifth World Conference against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs was turbulent. On the one hand, due to its statement ignoring Chinese nuclear armament in opposition to Western Europe, six representatives from the US, the UK, and West Germany withdrew from the meeting. [14] On the other hand, this conference was also in an uproar by the confrontation between Zengakuren (the All-Japan Federation of Student Self-Government Associations) and the right wing. [15]
Although the policies of being public and respecting minority opinions were confirmed in the speech by Chairman Yasui Kaoru, the drafting committee and steering committee still decided that details of the meeting should be undisclosed, as initially suggested by communist executive directors Fukushima Yoichi and Hatanaka Masaharu. As mentioned in the symposium of the journalists from Chugoku Shimbun, ‘In fact, the minority opinion in the steering committee was not respected… Under the atmosphere of unanimity, the female participants could not fully express their opinion. Thus, it was a kind of suppression of speech.’ [16]
As an organisation with more than 400,000 members, an intense debate on whether to participate in the conference was generated inside the Hiroshima Chifuren (Hishima Federation of Regional Women’s Organization) because the participation of its members, who were also board members of the women’s section of the LDP, might damage the principle of neutrality. Consequently, participation with strict neutrality was decided. However, it was difficult for them at the preliminary meeting, in which the discussion agendas were to be determined from August 1 to 3. Foreign representatives, labour unions, and peace organisations in Japan strongly opposed treaty revisions. As pointed out by Executive Director Hatanaka Masaharu, to make the movement more meaningful, it was necessary to combine it with political issues. In contrast, Nakamura Iku from Chifuren claimed that the issue of treaty revisions should not be adopted at the conference because the majority of the women were still not familiar with it. Other leaders of the women’s groups, including Kawasaki Natsu and Fushida Fuki, also participated in this proposal. Consequently, as observed by the journalists in the public gallery, ‘the confrontation may in the end lead to the split of the Gensuikyo.’ [17]
The foundation of the National Council for Peace and Against Nuclear Weapons (Kakkin)
On November 25, 1959, a joint statement by Japan Gensuikyo and the World Peace Council was published in the 15th Bulletin of the Japan Council against A&H Bombs. This statement not only reported the details of the national rallies against the treaty revisions and nuclear armament but also included a talk by Executive Director Kuroda Hidetoshi, who claimed that the treaty revisions should be destroyed (Kobayashi 1996). Moreover, in the preliminary meeting of the Sixth World Conference against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs on August 2, 1960, Chinese deputy Liu Ningyi and Kazami Akira from the JCP emphasised the principle of opposing American imperialism, describing the US-Japan Security Treaty as a suppression of the Asian nationalist movement (Kobayashi 1996). Consequently, American imperialism and Japanese monopoly capital were criticised as the two main enemies by other communist deputies.
However, different voices were strongly expressed during the breakout sessions. The Nagasaki Gensuikyo mentioned that the Japan Gensuikyo officials used the power and reputation of groups and parties to achieve their political targets. Similarly, the Hiroshima Gensuikyo and some atomic bomb survivors also doubted whether the real aim of the conference was to ban nuclear bombs and support the hibakusha.
As a result, the Kakkin (National Council for Peace and Against Nuclear Weapons), which was considered the ‘second Gensuikyo’ was founded on November 15, 1961, with the three principles of ‘opposing nuclear armament in any country, an anti-nuclear movement without any political interference, and humanitarianism.’ As it was originated from All-Japan Trade Union (Zenro, Japan Confederation of Labour since 1964) which was supported by the anti-communist Minsha-to (Democratic Socialist Party), the foundation of the Kakkin was an antithesis of the opinions by the JCP and the kinshi ha in the anti-nuclear movement (Matsushita 1962).
The second split
On June 10, 1961, Chifuren and Nisseikyo began criticising the JCP’s leadership in Gensuikyo by addressing the principle of opposing all nuclear tests by any country.[18] Moreover, during the 8th World Conference on August 12, they even called for a no-confidence motion against the executives of the JSP and Sohyo (General Council of Trade Unions of Japan), which led the split inside the Gensuikyo to go public. However, due to the JCP’s influence, Gensuikyo gave a favourable response to the declaration of the USSR on restarting nuclear testing on August 31, 1961. That is to say, although it held few seats in Parliament, the JCP substantially dominated the Gensuikyo.
As a result, although the Hiroshima Gensuikyo was given carte blanche to hold the 9th world conference on 1963, to break the leadership of the JCP, the JSP and Sohyo held the ‘National Assembly to Protect the Nuclear Movement’ by appointing new board members in Hiroshima City. On March 9, 1964, the Hiroshima Gensuikyo published a statement that ‘all nuclear armaments and tests in all countries should be strongly opposed.’ Accordingly, a liaison conference of the three prefectures that suffered from nuclear weapons was established by the Gensuikyo in Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and Shizuoka on March 27. On February 1, 1965, when the Japan Congress against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs (Gensuikin) was established with the absence of the JSP and Sokyo, Japan Gensuikyo was finally controlled by the JCP.


As discussed above, the confrontation between humanitarianism to increase supporters during the Anti-Hydrogen Bombs Signature Campaign (Haba) and the political aims of anti-Americanism and anti-imperialism led by the communist kinshi ha (Suji) was included in the antinuclear movement in Japan.
With its executive office controlled by the kinshi ha, the Japan Gensuikyo changed its stance balancing Haba and Suji due to the revisions of the US-Japan Security Treaty. As a result, instead of Haba, Suji was given priority in the antinuclear movement, which led to the second split because its opposition to the principle of ‘opposing all nuclear tests by all countries.’ At this point, the representative of kyuen ha, the executive director of the Hiroshima Gensuikyo Tanabe Koichiro (1963, pp.65), stated the following:

During the antinuclear movement and the eight world conferences, with the support from the JCP, Japan Peace Committee changed the movement into a political activity to cooperate the Cominform and to make the nuclear tests by the USSR as ‘peaceful power,’ which was against the Japanese people’s wish for peace. In other words, the efforts made by the kinshi ha to change the Japan Gensuikyo into a battlefield for the political parties to fight for the initiative directly led to the split.

 As the only nation ever to have suffered from an attack with nuclear weapons, Japan could and should have been able to appeal to the world against nuclear weapons. Originally, there was no division between conservatives and reformers in the antinuclear movement. Despite being under the nuclear umbrella of the US and obeying the Three Non-Nuclear Principles, [19] the antinuclear position is still approved by the current conservative government. However, during the Cold War, due to the strong anti-communist mindset, it was easy to understand why the Japanese people lost interest in the Japan Gensuikyo and the antinuclear movement dominated by the JCP, which opposed the fundamental principle of being ‘against all nuclear tests in all countries.’
This could also be observed in the polls by Asahi Shimbun. In 1953, 73% of the population opposed the use of nuclear weapons. Among the reasons, 12% chose ‘the tragedy of Hiroshima and Nagasaki should not be repeated,’ while 55% considered nuclear weapons as inhumane. Thus, as analysed by Asahi Shimbun, antinuclear weapons became national public opinion in Japan because people opposed nuclear weapons from a humanitarian standpoint instead of for private benefit. [20] Similarly, when asked about the atomic bomb memory in 1975, 83% of Japanese people answered that it could (or would) not be forgotten, and 77% approved the Three Non-Nuclear Principles. However, in the case of the antinuclear movement, 50% chose no interest (41% answered yes). Based on these data, Asahi Shimbun pointed out that, on the one hand, due to the cruel memory of the atomic bombings, people’s negative opinion toward nuclear weapons was still strong. On the other hand, as an increasing number of people showed no interest in the antinuclear movement, it wore thin over time. [21] Moreover, in a poll of people’s opinions on nuclear weapons by Asahi Shimbun in 1981, the antinuclear movement-related question was omitted.
In conclusion, despite advocating against nuclear weapons as a national movement, the antinuclear movement in Japan failed to develop into a movement rooted in humanism. Consequently, it not only led to the self-destruction of the movement but also to the Japanese political situation, which failed to contribute to the TPNW in the world.


1. ‘Diplomatic Bluebook 2018’ https://www.mofa.go.jp/files/000401236.pdf.

2. ‘Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons,’ Office for Disarmament Affairs, United Nations, publication date: July 2017. https://treaties.un.org/doc/Treaties/2017/07/20170707%2003-42%20PM/Ch_XXVI_9.pdf.

3. The major studies of this issue in Japan include Ubuki (2014), Fujihara (1991), and Arakawa (2008). Among them, Ubuki (2014) tried to combine the theories of Japanese Communist Party (Kinshiha) and Hiroshima (Kyuenha) by giving the history of the issue, but neglecting an evaluation of the essential facts. Fujihara (1991) considered the Japanese peace campaign led by the communists in early 1950s as the event leading to anti-nuclear movement, but failed to explore more details of the ‘scientists’ who initiated the movement. Similar, by addressing the importance of the peace campaign in Japan, Arakawa (2008) concluded that the Gensuikyo led by the communist party and anti-nuclear movements should be supported. Moreover, Wittner (1995, 1997, 2003) argued that the communist dominance led to the decline of the movement by considering the influence of the world communism.

4. Prime Minister’s Office of Japan https://japan.kantei.go.jp/constitution_and_government_of_japan/constitution_e.html.

5. As those resolutions might lead to anti-American sentiment, the effect of them was doubted by Asahi Shimbun (Asahi Shimbun, March 18, 1954; April 3, 1954).

6. The speech by the Minister of Foreign Affairs Katsuo Okazaki to the America-Japan Society on April 9, 1954, which claimed not to demand the cessation of American hydrogen-bomb tests, was criticised by the Japanese Parliament (Yomiuri Shimbun, 10 April 1954).

7. The Japan Council against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs, http://www.antiatom.org/english/profile/.

8. ‘Bills in the Standing Committee, January 28: Materials of the movement, Japan Council against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs,’ [Sakuma Kiyoshi related documents] SK003, Hiroshima University Archives.

9. ‘Antinuclear’ in 1955, ‘Antinuclear and Disarmament’ in 1956, ‘Confrontation with the Nuclear War System’ in 1957, ‘Ban on the Nuclear Armament’ in 1958.

10. Chugoku Shimbun, July 22, 1959. The seven posts including Secretary-General, Chairperson of the General Council, Chairperson of the Election Strategy Committee, Chairperson of Party Organization and the Campaign Headquarters, Chairperson of the Public Relations Headquarters, Chairperson of the Diet Affairs Committee, and Chairperson of the Policy Research Council.

11. Mainichi Shimbun, July 24, 1959.

12. Chugoku Shimbun, July 22 and 23, 1959.

13. Chugoku Shimbun, July 28, 1959.

14. Chugoku Shimbun, August 6, 1954.

15. Chugoku Shimbun, July 30, 1959.

16. Chugoku Shimbun, August 10, 1959. In addition, the report by the Minister of Justice Ino Hiroya, which considered the JCP the de facto leader of the conference, was also reported by Asahi Shimbun (August 7, 1959) and Yomiuri Shimbun (August 7, 1959).

17. ‘Details of the 6th World Conference against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs,’ [Omuta related documents] OM011440060200, Hiroshima University Archives.

18. These two organisations finally withdrew from the Gensuikyo in April 1964.

19. Japan shall neither possess nor manufacture nuclear weapons, nor shall it permit their introduction into Japanese territory. These principles were outlined by Prime Minister Sato Eisaku in 1967.

20. Asahi Shimbun, February 11, 1953.

21. Asahi Shimbun, July 23, 1975.


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———1959b. Jyunsuina heiwa undo he [To be a real peace movement]. 22 July.
———1959c. Seijishoku wo nugue todohuken gichokai de ketsugi [Resolution by the National Association of Chairpersons of Prefectural Assemblies]. 23 July.
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About the Authors

Seiichi Koike is a professor in the Graduate School of Humanities and Social Science, Hiroshima University. His research fields are in archive studies and Japanese history and politics.

Jincao Wang is a lecturer and faculty member in the Center for International Education, Kumamoto University. His main research interests are Japanese media and politics.

Email the author—Seiichi Koike

Email the author—Jincao Wang

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