Above: Zenkyoto student protestors, 1968. Photograph by Michiko Sasaki (佐々木美智子).  Source.

“Struggles are waged against student fee increases at Keio University in 1964, Waseda University in 1965 and Chuo University in 1966.

In 1968, the medical department at Tokyo University enter an indefinite strike against the "Doctor Registration law” (which would have extended the internship period of graduates by 2 years and introduced strict hierarchies in the workplace). A Student-body Struggle Committee (Zenkyoto) is assembled, an indefinite strike is declared and barricades set up by 10 academic departments. The next year in 1969, 8500 riot police attack the striking students, and the barricades at Yasuda lecture hall, among others, are cleared by force. More than 600 people are arrested inside Tokyo university. The University entrance exams of the same year for Tokyo University are cancelled as a result.

At Japan’s largest private university at the time, Nippon University (Nichidai), instructor tax evasion in connection with unfair student entrance policies, as well as the discovery of over 2 billion yen (roughly 100 million dollars) of fees that have gone unaccounted for, sparks student struggle. In 1968, after an armed confrontation between right-wing/athletics students, an indefinite barricade strike is launched across the university. Over 35,000 people and students attend a mass negotiation session that the university director is forced to attend.

The student movements and the Zenkyoto came to be symbolized by these twin struggles at Todai and Nichidai University, and the movement spread to over 300 universities and high schools across the country. Blockades using barricades and student strikes continued up until the dawn of the 1970s, connecting with the anti-war movement, the anti-AMPO movement and the struggle in Okinawa which were peaking in the same period. These movements would take to the streets in columns.

The decisive difference between the Zengakuren and the Zenkyoto during the anti-AMPO struggles of the 1960s lies in the question of organization.

The Zengakuren is organized as its abbreviated name implies, an “All-Japan Federation of Students’ Self-Governing Associations”, being supported by a vertical organization beginning at the university level, down to department, to class, to individual (automatic membership for all students). In this sense, the Zengakuren was created in accord with the character of the “Potsdam Self-governing Associations” i.e. the top-down democratization brought about by the American occupying forces.

On the other hand, the Zenkyoto was premised on an extremely broad, free participation, quite the opposite of the self-governing associations, the Zengakuren or the party sectarians, and endeavored to be a mass movement based on direct democracy. From the start the Zenkyoto was a pluralist organization with a deeply parliamentarist character, centered around particular struggles. The majority of its constituents were known as ‘non-sect radicals’, i.e. those who did not affiliate with particular political sects.“

- "1968 in Japan: the student movement and workers’ struggles," International Communist Current, posted September 30, 2008. Source.