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When Greens Japan emerged as a national political organization in July 2012, the timing for success seemed perfect. Sixteen months had passed since the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster of March 2011. The Japanese public was saturated with news of government incompetence linked to the triple disaster, fed up with mainstream politics, and, to a greater degree than ever before, eager for a transition from nuclear power to renewable energy.

The Greens promised exactly that kind of change. A grassroots party affiliated with a global network that is particularly strong in Europe, its platform centers on environmental sustainability, social justice, and the rapid abolition of nuclear power.

Nearly four years later, though, the Greens have dropped out of newspaper headlines and, it seems, national politics. What happened? Answers in my recent story for…