Aesthetics Wiki

Controversial Political Content
Japanese New Left contains references to and descriptions of controversial political ideologies as they are relevant to the subject of the page, which may be distressing for some people. User discretion is advised. This page exists for the purpose of documentation. The administrators and moderators do not necessarily endorse the philosophy associated with the aesthetic.

The New Left in Japan refers to the a radical movement that split from the "Old Left" of the Japanese Communist Party. It originated from Japanese university student associations known as Zengakuren. The movement formed as a part of a worldwide New Left movement that consisted of the civil rights movement and opposition to the Vietnam War. It culminated in the Protests of 1968 that formed in Japan as the 1968–1969 Japanese university protests. However, the Japanese New Left developed a much more defined aesthetic than the movement did elsewhere. They utilized communist symbology like other movements, but also developed their own unique fashion, writing, and even architecture.

Despite the many protests conducted by the new left, the movement did not see much success. The movement became increasingly desperate and used more violent means, but this only caused the public to lose opinion for them. This led to the "Shirake generation" that were defined by political apathy and individualism.


Many New Left elements have the prefix "Geba", which comes from "Gebaruto", which in turn comes from the German word "Gewalt", meaning violence or struggle.

Kanda Quartier latin19680621

The Socialist Student Union with Gebaji protest signs, wearing Gebaheru, and holding Gebabō. Note the romaji of "ASPAC" to refer to the Asian and Pacific Council.

The large kanji used by the New Left to write socialist slogans is known as "Gebaji". Gebaji was used on protest signs, leaflets, and flags. The font was created as a method of writing Kanji that was not individually recognizable to someones handwriting and could be clearly read at a distance even if written unneatly. Katakana, simplified kanji, and sometimes romaji of English acronyms/initialisms were all used whenever possible to reduce the amount of strokes. The font was notable for being very angular, taking influence from Communist Chinese "Big-character poster", which gives Gebaji a very distinct look, especially to people who are used to normal Kanji.

The most iconic symbol of the New Left movement was the construction helmets they wore, called "Gebaheru". The use of the helmets originated from the miners who wore helmets in order to protect themselves from police in the Miike Struggle.[1] The different colored helmets and the kanji/gebaji and symbols written on them denoted the various groups of the movement. For example, the Women's Liberation Coalition was represented by a pink helmet with a ♀ mark. Anarchist groups wore black helmets which were called "Kuroheru", while most communist groups wore red helmets.

Protestors of the movement were commonly seen wielding long bamboo or wooden sticks known as "Gebabō". As the movement increased in violence, the Gebabō evolved from wooden sticks to metal rods.

A unique visual of the new left are the huge fortresses built using timber and other materials. The forts were built in order to block the construction of Narita airport during the Sanrizuka Struggle. They were covered in gebaji socialist flags and banners.[2]


Japan 1971 Concert

Youth at a concert in Japan, 1971

The fashion comprises of the Folk Punk and Hippie styles that were popular with the youth of the time, featuring denim jackets and jeans. Outside of this normal apparel, Gebaheru (detailed above) and facial coverings were worn for protection.


The New Left is associated with folk and punk rock of the 1970s in Japan.


  • Zunou Keisatsu
    • Folk and punk band that directly wrote songs about communism and the movement.[3] The lead singer PANTA was friends with Fusako Shigenobu, founder of the Japanese Red Army.
  • Les Rallizes Dénudés
    • An underground band that had connections to the New Left movement. The founding bassist Moriaki Wakabayashi left the band to hijack a plane to North Korea, where he now resides.


  • The Internationale was a common song sung by the protestors.
  • Our Failure by Doji Morita has been said to have resonated with the Shirake generation that followed the movement

The cover of the single Power to the People by John Lennon features him wearing a white Gebaheru with the character "叛", meaning "Rebellion". This helmet is a symbol of the New Left faction "The Bund".



From the era of united struggle to the Red Army faction and movement of "Shirake"
New Left in Japan