New History Textbook for Middle School Students Chapter 6
Chapter 6: Postwar Japan and the World – The Second Half of the Showa Period and the Heisei Period
Section 1 – The occupation and the Cold War
Topic 84 – Occupied Japan
How did the occupation of Japan proceed?
The occupation of Japan and postwar reforms
In late-August 1945 (Showa 20), Japan was occupied by Allied forces, the bulk of which were US soldiers. The objective of the American-led occupation was to transform Japan’s national polity such that Japan would never again pose a threat to the United States.
The Japanese government remained in place, but had to follow the orders of the occupation army, led by the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers (SCAP), General Douglas MacArthur. This system was called “indirect rule”.1 The US occupation did not bring freedom of expression to Japan. While the government of prewar Japan utilized censorship, the occupation regime imposed very strict censorship, prohibiting thirty designated categories of speech.
*1=On the other hand, some parts of Japan, including Okinawa and the Bonin Islands, were placed under the direct administration of the American military.
Nonetheless, SCAP upheld the democratization of Japanese society as one of the fundamental policies of the occupation and issued the Five Fundamental Reform Directives to achieve this aim. In accordance with the directives, the Japanese government implemented a sweeping program of democratization, including women’s suffrage, legalization of labor unions, overhaul of the education system, breakup of the business conglomerates (zaibatsu), and transfer of land ownership from landlords to tenants.
Major Postwar Reforms
The Five Fundamental Reform Directives (October 1945) (1.) Women’s suffrage
(2.) Legalization of labor unions
(3.) Liberalization of the education system
(4.) Abolition of the instruments of political repression
(5.) Democratization of the economy
Economic Reforms -Breakup of business conglomerates
-Labor Standards Law
Educational Reforms -Fundamental Law of Education
-School Education Law
Political Reforms -New Election Law
-Constitution of Japan
Territorial losses, demobilization, and repatriation
The Potsdam Declaration limited Japanese sovereignty to the main islands of Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu, as well as smaller islands in their vicinity. Consequently, Japan lost all the territories that it had occupied or annexed since the time of the First Sino-Japanese War, including Korea and Taiwan. The Northern Territories, also known as the South Kuril Islands, were illegally seized by the Soviet Union.
Under the terms of the Potsdam Declaration, the Japanese military was dissolved. Japanese soldiers stationed overseas were disarmed and began to be returned to Japan. Japanese civilians living abroad were also repatriated. Amid the chaotic conditions prevailing in postwar Japan, the process of demobilizing Japanese soldiers and repatriating civilians was fraught with difficulty. Many Japanese orphans were left behind in China, and the Soviet Union illegally interned hundreds of thousands of former Japanese soldiers in Siberia.2
*2=Of those interned by the Soviet Union, over sixty thousand former Japanese soldiers died in Siberia through a combination of harsh working conditions, starvation, and exposure to cold.
The Tokyo Trials
In 1946 (Showa 21), the US occupation opened the Tokyo Trials, officially referred to as the International Military Tribunal for the Far East (IMTFE), in order to try Japan’s wartime military and political leaders for war crimes such as “crimes against peace”. Twenty-five individuals were convicted, seven of whom were sentenced to death. In addition, SCAP purged those who had supported the Japanese government during the war. About 200,000 leading figures from all walks of life were banned from public service.
The enactment of the Constitution of Japan
SCAP demanded the transformation of Japan’s political structure through amendment of the Meiji Constitution. Because Japan had already established regular constitutional politics during the Taisho period, Japanese leaders felt that a few modifications to the Meiji Constitution would be sufficient to complete the democratization process. And yet, in February 1946, SCAP insisted that the Japanese government completely revamp the national constitution on the basis of an English-language draft that the occupation authorities had drawn up in one week.
Japan’s political leaders were stunned by some of the provisions contained within the draft constitution, especially the article renouncing Japan’s right to go to war. Even so, they reluctantly accepted it for fear that the Emperor’s status would be jeopardized if they did not. Following deliberation in the Diet, the new Constitution of Japan3 was promulgated on November 3.
*3=The Constitution of Japan recognizes the Emperor as “the symbol of the State and of the unity of the People”. It affirms the sovereignty of the people, designates the Diet as the highest institution of state power, and expressly states that the cabinet shall be responsible to the Diet and primarily composed of Diet members. The constitution also guarantees the fundamental human rights of the Japanese people. The Constitution of Japan is especially notable for its pacifist character. Though there are other national constitutions that also disavow war as a means of settling international disputes, only Japan’s constitution forbids the establishment of “land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential” and formally renounces the country’s right of belligerency.
Topic 84 Recap Challenge! – Select one of the policies implemented by the Japanese government to promote democratization and do further research on the nature of the reform.
The US occupation purged Japanese people falling into seven categories of “undesirable elements”. The purge eventually extended to politics, business, and journalism. It also affected schools, where 120,000 teachers lost their jobs.
Category Number Purged
Category A – War Criminals 3,422
Category B – Career Soldiers 122,235
Category C – Leaders of Ultranationalist Groups 3,438
Category D – Members of the Imperial Rule Assistance Association 34,396
Category E – Directors of Finance and Development Agencies 433
Category F – Administrative Leaders of Occupied Territories 89
Category G – Other Militarists 45,993
Source: Nihonshi Shiryo 5 Gendai [Documents on the History of Japan: Volume 5 The Postwar Period]
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Censorship under the Occupation and the Tokyo Trials
The occupation authorities enforced strict censorship to silence criticism of the Allied forces. Meanwhile, the unfolding of the Tokyo Trials had a major impact on how the Japanese people view their history.
The continuation of the war during the occupation
In September 1945 (Showa 20), Japan was occupied by the United States and placed under the administration of the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers (SCAP). For the next six years and eight months, until Japan regained its independence in April 1952 (Showa 27), Japan was divested of its sovereignty and its right to conduct international diplomacy. Few postwar occupations in world history have lasted so long.
In war, the victor nation imposes its will on the defeated nation at the point of a bayonet. Thus, though battlefield combat may have ended on August 15, 1945, the fight to make Japan submit to the agenda of the Allied Powers continued over the course of the occupation. In this sense, the war did not truly end until the day Japan regained its independence.
The purpose of the US-led occupation was to remake Japan’s national structures so that Japan could never again challenge the United States in a contest of arms. For this reason, the US pushed for far-reaching reforms during the occupation, including a constitutional draft written in English and submitted to the Japanese government. This was the true motivation behind all the occupation policies introduced in the name of “democratization”.
Implanting a war guilt complex
Changing the constitution of a country under occupation is illegal under international laws of war. Nonetheless, the Japanese government of the time approved the US draft, presented it as a government amendment to the Meiji Constitution, and passed it through the Meiji Constitution’s amendment procedure. Successive Japanese governments up to the present day have continued to recognize it as Japan’s legal constitution.
The governments of prewar and wartime Japan had instituted controls on speech and expression. Nonetheless, the occupation forces immediately instituted stringent censorship on all newspapers, magazines, and radio broadcasts. Any criticism of the Allied Powers or defense of Japan’s position was censored, and it was even forbidden to publish reports about wartime air
raids or the atomic bombings. During the occupation years, passages in school textbooks relating to Japan’s military and emperor were blacked out with ink.
SCAP also undertook a psywar operation called the War Guilt Information Program with the aim of making the Japanese people feel remorse for having provoked an immoral “war of aggression”. In the first stage of this operation, SCAP banned the use of the term “Greater East Asian War” and via newspapers and radio disseminated a mix of fact and fiction about Japan’s wartime atrocities that shocked the sensibilities of the Japanese people.
The Tokyo Trials and international law
The Tokyo Trials, which began in May 1946 (Showa 21) and concluded two and a half years later, passed judgment on Japan’s wartime political and military leaders for war crimes. All the accused were found guilty, and seven of them, including Tojo Hideki, were executed by hanging.
The Tokyo Trials have been criticized as “victors’ justice”, as all of the justices and prosecutors were from the victorious Allied side and only the war crimes of the defeated Japanese were investigated. Moreover, many have argued that “crimes against peace” were not legally defined until after the war. In that case, the charges laid against Japan’s wartime leaders would have been a violation of the modern legal principle that no law may be applied retroactively.
Justice Radhabinod Pal, who represented India in the IMTFE, disputed the tribunal’s legitimacy under international law and declared all the defendants to be innocent. However, SCAP refused to make his written dissent publicly available.
The reflections of General MacArthur
The architect of the Tokyo Trials was General Douglas MacArthur, who is believed to have strongly pushed for the establishment of the IMTFE while serving as head of the occupation regime. Nonetheless, from the beginning he had doubts about whether peace could really be maintained by trying Japan’s former leaders for the newly invented concept of “crimes against peace”.
In October 1950 (Showa 25), during a meeting with President Truman concerning the war in Korea that had broken out in June, MacArthur expressed reservations about the IMTFE and remarked that putting a country’s leaders on trial for “crimes against peace” did nothing to deter future wars.
In spite of such criticisms and reservations about the validity of the trials, Japan’s government officially states that it “accepts the judgment of the IMTFE and believes that it is in no position to raise any objections.”
The Press Code of the US Occupation: The Thirty Prohibited Categories of Speech
(1.) Criticism of the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers or the General Headquarters of the Allied Army
(2.) Criticism of the International Military Tribunal for the Far East
(3.) Criticism of SCAP’s role in drafting the Constitution of Japan
(4.) References to censorship
(5.) Criticism of the United States
(6.) Criticism of the Soviet Union
(7.) Criticism of Great Britain
(8.) Criticism of Koreans
(9.) Criticism of China
(10.) Criticism of the other Allied Powers
(11.) Criticism of the Allied Powers in general without reference to a specific country
(12.) Criticism of the treatment of Japanese civilians in Manchuria
(13.) Criticism of the pre-war policies of the Allied Powers
(14.) References to a third world war
(15.) References to the Cold War
(16.) Pro-war propaganda
(17.) Propaganda portraying Japan as “the land of the deities”
(18.) Militarist propaganda
(19.) Nationalist propaganda
(20.) Pan-Asianist propaganda
(21.) Other propaganda
(22.) Justification or defense of war criminals
(23.) Commentary on fraternization between Allied soldiers and Japanese women
(24.) Commentary on black market activities
(25.) Criticism of the Allied soldiers occupying Japan
(26.) Exaggeration of starvation among Japanese citizens
(27.) Incitement of violence or unrest
(28.) Fallacious reporting
(29.) Inappropriate references to SCAP or local military administrations
(30.) Leaking of classified information
Topic 85 – The shift in occupation policy and the Korean War
Why did the United States change its policy towards occupied Japan?
The United Nations and the start of the Cold War
Mindful of the destruction resulting from two world wars, the Allied Powers formed the United Nations in October 1945 (Showa 20) as an international organization dedicated to preventing further warfare. And yet, the specter of war did not disappear. On the contrary, after having occupied Eastern Europe, the USSR began to infiltrate Western Europe through the activities of communist parties in various countries. To contain the expansion of communist influence, the United States proposed the Marshall Plan, a massive infusion of economic aid to Western Europe. In 1949, the USA founded a new military alliance, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), to counter the USSR.
The USSR responded by developing its own atomic bomb in 1949, and, in 1955, establishing a rival military alliance called the Warsaw Pact with its allies in Eastern Europe. Germany was partitioned into West Germany and East Germany. The world had now entered into the era of the Cold War,1 a global power struggle between the US-led capitalist bloc and the Soviet-aligned communist bloc.
*1=The intense rivalry between the USA and the USSR was referred to as the Cold War, because it did not result in a direct armed conflict. However, the “Cold” War did turn hot on a number of occasions in Asia, most notably the Korean and Vietnam Wars.
The United Nations (UN) is the international organization founded by the Allied Powers near the end of World War II. During the war, the Allied Powers often referred to themselves as the “United Nations” in official documents, and in many languages, including Chinese, the two terms are identical. At the conclusion of the fighting, the victorious Allied Powers wanted to preserve their positions of dominance over the international system in the postwar world, and the UN’s institutions were designed partly with this intention in mind. The UN Charter still contains the “enemy clauses” that call for the containment of Japan, Germany, and the other former Axis Powers that opposed the Allies.
The UN is composed of six principal organs, including the Security Council, the General Assembly, and the Economic and Social Council, as well as a variety of affiliated specialized agencies.
The reverse course in occupation policy
In China, the alliance between the Communist Party and Nationalist Party broke down after the defeat of their common enemy, and the civil war resumed. In 1949, the Communist Party, led by Mao Zedong, emerged triumphant and established the People’s Republic of China. The Nationalists and their leader Chiang Kai-shek escaped to Taiwan. In the northern and southern halves of the Korean Peninsula, two mutually antagonistic nations were formed in 1948. The Republic of Korea (South Korea) was backed by the United States, while the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) was within the Soviet sphere. The Cold War had spread to East Asia.
Once the Cold War became an international reality, the United States came to see Japan as an important bulwark against the growth of communist power in Asia. For this reason, the US occupation authorities scrapped their policy of restraining Japan’s economic development and reversed course in favor of actively encouraging it in order to strengthen Japan’s status as a member of the pro-American capitalist camp.
The Korean War
In June 1950, North Korea, seeking to unite the Korean Peninsula by military means, abruptly invaded South Korea with Soviet support. North Korea seized control of most of the peninsula
for a brief time, but as the North Korean Army bore down on its final target of Pusan, the South Koreans joined with the UN Army, consisting mainly of US forces under General MacArthur, to launch a tremendous counterattack. They pursued the North Koreans almost to the Chinese border, at which point China entered the war on the North Korean side and drove back the UN forces. The combat raged back and forth across the peninsula, with neither side gaining the upper hand, until 1953 when an armistice was signed. This conflict is known as the Korean War.
To maintain order while American troops that had been posted to Japan were fighting in Korea, SCAP instructed the Japanese government in August 1950 to organize the National Police Reserve, later known as the Japan Self-Defense Forces. In addition, Japanese industries were suddenly needed to provide supplies to UN forces in Korea. The huge surge in orders for military equipment, known as “special procurements”, was instrumental in reviving sectors of the Japanese economy that had been destroyed during World War II.
Topic 85 Recap Challenge! – In what way did the United States shift its policy toward Japan during the occupation? Write a composition comparing the original policy with the revised policy.
Topic 86 – The recovery of Japanese independence and the Cold War
How did the Cold War between the USA and USSR progress?
The restoration of Japan’s sovereignty
The Korean War prompted the US to restore Japanese sovereignty sooner than expected, with the condition that American military bases remain in Japan. In September 1951 (Showa 26), at a peace conference held in San Francisco, Japan signed the San Francisco Peace Treaty with forty-seven other nations, most of which were aligned with the non-communist camp. At the same time, the US-Japan Security Treaty was also signed to guarantee the continued presence of American military personnel in Japan. When the San Francisco Peace Treaty came into effect on April 28, 1952 (Showa 27), Japan regained its status as an independent country. After the restoration of its independence, Japan paid reparations to the Asian countries that had been affected by the devastation of World War II.
Japan was unable to sign a formal peace treaty with the USSR, as the Soviet Army was still illegally occupying the Northern Territories.1 Nonetheless, the two sides did announce the Soviet-Japanese Joint Declaration in October 1956 (Showa 31), which officially ended the state
of war between them and restored normal diplomatic relations. With that, the USSR dropped its opposition to Japanese participation in the United Nations. In December of that year, Japan was admitted to the UN, becoming once again a full-fledged member of the international community.
*1=Since the end of World War II, the South Kuril Islands have been called the Northern Territories by Japan. The term is used to refer to the four islands of Habomai, Shikotan, Kunashir (Kunashiri), and Iturup (Etorofu).
Riding the momentum of the “special procurements boom”, the Japanese economy enjoyed a long period of strong growth, and economic conditions soon returned to prewar levels. By 1956 (Showa 31), the Japanese had adopted the motto, “Already, the ‘postwar’ is over.”
Japan’s Postwar Reparations and Economic Aid to Asian Countries
(figures recorded in billions of yen)
Country Year of Agreement Reparations Grant Aid Loans
(now Myanmar) 1955 72 18
1963 50.4 10.8
Thailand 1955 .4
Philippines 1956 198 90
Indonesia 1958 80.3 144
Laos 1959 1
Cambodia 1959 1.5
Vietnam 1960 14 5.9
South Korea 1965 108 72
Malaysia 1968 2.9
Singapore 1968 2.9
Micronesia 1969 1.8
Mongolia 1977 5
Total 364.3 183.5 340.7
The escalation of the Cold War
While Japan focused on national reconstruction after the end of the occupation, the Cold War between the USA and USSR intensified. Both sides created hydrogen bombs, which are even more powerful than atom bombs. Having deployed huge arrays of intercontinental ballistic missiles equipped with nuclear warheads, each nation was now capable of launching a direct attack strong enough to destroy the other. By utilizing their new rocket technologies, the Soviets successfully launched the world’s first artificial satellite into space in 1957. Not to be outdone, the USA also enthusiastically entered the “Space Race” to develop the most advanced aerospace capabilities.
In the Soviet Union, Stalin died in 1953 and was succeeded as First Secretary of the Communist Party by Nikita Khrushchev. Khrushchev condemned Stalin’s policies in a “secret speech” to the Communist Party Congress of 1956 and advocated “peaceful coexistence” with the United States.
This was regarded as a “thaw” in US-Soviet tensions, but the Cold War, which derived from fundamental differences between the American and Soviet systems, did not come to an end.
Revision of the US-Japan Security Treaty
In January 1960 (Showa 35), Kishi Nobusuke, who became prime minister of Japan in 1957 (Showa 32), signed a new treaty with the United States to revise the terms of the original US-Japan Security Treaty. The new treaty contained stronger security guarantees to Japan.
However, left-wing organizations such as the Japanese Socialist Party and Japanese Communist Party denounced the agreement on the grounds that it would entangle Japan in America’s wars. The Anti-Security Treaty Struggle quickly expanded into a mass movement involving labor unions, student groups, and citizens from every level of society. When Kishi’s Liberal Democratic Party tried to force the treaty revision through the Diet in May 1960, waves of protesters descended upon the Diet Building and surrounded it for days on end, resulting in many large-scale riots.2 Once the new treaty came into effect, Kishi resigned.
*2=Under the original US-Japan Security Treaty of 1951, American forces were granted military bases in Japan, but they were not obliged to defend Japan in case of attack. According to the new treaty, American forces would work together with the government of Japan to defend Japanese territory.
Topic 86 Recap Challenge! – Explain how the Korean War accelerated the restoration of Japan’s sovereignty.
Major Japanese Cabinets from the 1940s to the 1960s
Year of inauguration Prime Minister and accomplishments
1946 Yoshida Shigeru (First Yoshida Cabinet)
-Enactment of the Constitution of Japan (1946)
1948 Yoshida Shigeru (Second Yoshida Cabinet)
-San Francisco Peace Treaty (1951)
1954 Hatoyama Ichiro
-Soviet-Japanese Joint Declaration (1956)
1957 Kishi Nobusuke
-Revision of the US-Japan Security Treaty (1960)
Timeline of the Cold War
Year Event in the American Bloc Event in the Communist Bloc
1945 Foundation of the United Nations
1946 Former British Prime Minister Churchill’s Iron Curtain Speech criticizes the closed nature of the Soviet bloc Soviet occupation of Eastern Europe
1947 Truman Doctrine calls for the containment of communism, “Reverse course” in US policy towards occupied Japan Cominform founded to coordinate the activities of Europe’s communist parties
1948 Berlin Blockade imposed by the Soviet Union
1949 Formation of NATO Establishment of the People’s Republic of China
1950 Korean War begins with North Korean invasion of the South
1955 Foundation of the Warsaw Pact
1956 Khrushchev’s secret speech
1957 World’s first artificial satellite launched into space by USSR
1960 Revision of the US-Japan Security Treaty
1961 Construction of the Berlin Wall
1962 Cuban Missile Crisis
1965-75 Vietnam War
1966 Cultural Revolution begins in China
1972 US President Nixon visits China
1976 Establishment of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam
1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan
Section 2 – The ascent of Japan during the miracle years
Topic 87 – The Japanese economic miracle
How did the economic miracle change Japan?
Rapid economic growth
In 1960 (Showa 35), the Kishi Cabinet resigned and Ikeda Hayato became prime minister. Ikeda’s signature initiative was an ambitious plan to double national income within ten years. The policies on which Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party had been founded, including drafting a new national constitution and bolstering the defense budget, were henceforth put on the backburner.
Beginning in 1960, Japan’s economy experienced a period of rapid expansion on a scale that was unprecedented in world history. Gross national product (GNP) rose by ten percent annually over the next ten years, a remarkable rate of growth that was heralded internationally as the Japanese economic miracle.
In 1968 (Showa 43), Japan’s GNP ranked second among capitalist nations, surpassed only by the United States. Japanese companies like Sony, Honda, and Toyota became players on the international stage, but equally important were the countless employees of small and medium factories, whose inventiveness and ingenuity played crucial roles in the advancement of Japanese industry. It was also during this time that a network of expressways was constructed and the bullet train was introduced. Ordinary citizens could now afford electrical appliances and automobiles. The new prosperity even extended to farming villages, where rice crops were so plentiful that the government decided to cut back the acreage under cultivation. Rising income levels facilitated the growth of domestic markets.
Japan’s profile in the international community rose in tandem with its economy. The Summer Olympic Games were held in Tokyo in 1964 (Showa 39) and the World’s Fair came to Osaka in 1970 (Showa 45). Neither of these events had ever been held in Asia before.
Tackling new environmental issues
Rapid economic growth brought with it the problem of environmental pollution. By the late-1960s, smog, effluent, and other industrial byproducts were reported to be causing illnesses like Minamata disease and Yokkaichi asthma. The skies were increasingly clouded with
automobile exhaust and the rivers with household detergents. The people demanded a solution to the crisis.
In 1971 (Showa 46), the government responded by setting up the Environment Agency and instituting countermeasures against pollution. The situation began to improve, and before long Japan was the world leader in pollutant control techniques.
Achievements in diplomacy
Japan settled the outstanding issue of postwar reparations to Southeast Asia one country at a time. Furthermore, Japan ratified the Japan-Korea Treaty on Basic Relations in 1965 (Showa 40), offering South Korea $800 million in grants and loans in exchange for the normalization of diplomatic relations.
In US-administered Okinawa, heightened activity at US military bases due to the Vietnam War led the people to increase their demands for reunification with Japan. Prime Minister Sato Eisaku, insisting on his Three Non-Nuclear Principles, successfully negotiated the return of Okinawa to Japanese authority on the condition that no nuclear weapons be stored there. The retrocession of Okinawa took place in May 1972 (Showa 47).
Topic 87 Recap Challenge! – Examine a graph showing the changes in Japan’s GNP in the late-Showa period and describe the economic miracle using the phrases “income doubling” and “growth of domestic markets”.
Excerpt from the Japan-Korea Treaty on Basic Relations
“Article II – It is confirmed that all treaties or agreements concluded between the Empire of Japan and the Empire of Korea on or before August 22, 1910 are already null and void.
Article III – It is confirmed that the Government of the Republic of Korea is the only lawful Government in Korea as specified in the Resolution 195 (III) of the United Nations General Assembly.”
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How the Tokyo Olympics Showed the World Japan’s Hidden Strength
The Tokyo Olympics of 1964, the first Olympic Games to be held in Asia, showcased Japan’s miraculous recovery internationally and restored the pride and self-confidence of the Japanese people.
The road to the Tokyo Olympics
Before the outbreak of World War II, Japan’s achievements in sport had inspired the hopes and dreams of the Japanese people. In events like swimming and track and field, Japanese athletes accomplished incredible feats that stunned the world. The 1940 Summer Olympics were scheduled to take place in Tokyo, but, due to the on-going war with China, the Japanese government forfeited the games, which henceforth were known as “The Phantom Olympics”.
Even as the people of Japan worked strenuously to rebuild their country after World War II, they also aspired to rebuild their reputation for excellence in sports. While Japan enjoyed rapid economic growth, the government eagerly lobbied for the realization of the national dream to host Asia’s first Olympic Games. Finally, in October 1964 (Showa 39), the Summer Olympic Games opened in Tokyo.
The exploits of Japanese and world athletes
The Tokyo Olympics were attended by 5,588 athletes from 93 countries who competed in 20 different sports and 163 events. This was the first Olympics to have volleyball and judo as events. Ethiopian runner Abebe Bikila won his second straight Olympic marathon, and Czech gymnast Vera Caslavska, nicknamed “The Flower of the World”, mesmerized global audiences with her precise, elegant performances.
Japanese athletes also demonstrated their mettle. The women’s volleyball team, coached by Daimatsu Hirobumi, won the tournament by decisively defeating the Soviet team, their longtime rivals. Their victory electrified the Japanese people and earned the team international fame as “The Oriental Witches”.
Furthermore, Japan secured five gold medals in wrestling and three in judo. In men’s gymnastics, Japan won five gold medals, including a second consecutive team victory. The men’s gymnastics team would go on to earn gold at subsequent Olympic Games in Mexico City, Munich, and Montreal, achieving a spectacular total of five consecutive wins. Japan’s final medal count at the 1964 Olympics was sixteen gold, five silver, and eight bronze, putting it in third place behind only the USA and USSR. In the field of sports, Japan had proven that it could hold its own against the superpowers.
How the Tokyo Olympics changed Japan
The Olympics are the world’s largest sporting event. The cities that host them must have an excellent infrastructure network, including roads, railways, and airports, as well as sports stadiums and accommodations for athletes. In preparation for the 1964 Olympics, Japan undertook many transportation improvements, including the construction of new expressways, monorails, and the bullet train. National Stadium and Komazawa Olympic Park were opened, and the cityscape was completely renovated into neat rows of shops and houses. Japan’s careful planning and efficient management of the games garnered fulsome praise from the International Olympic Committee.
The Tokyo Olympics were the watershed event that brought to international attention the astonishing recovery that had saved Japan from the brink of wartime ruin in a short nineteen years. The world was left in awe at the hidden strength of the Japanese people, whose industriousness and solidarity had created this “economic miracle”. Now referring to themselves as “Japanese citizens on the global stage”, the people of Japan experienced a swell of pride and patriotic feelings for the first time in a generation. Thanks to the success of the Tokyo Olympics, the Japanese people finally regained the sense of self-confidence that had faded amid the defeat of 1945.
The Olympic and Paralympic Games are scheduled to return to Tokyo in 2020. The nation of Japan will have another opportunity to appear before the world as a model of strength, peace, and prosperity.
Topic 88 – Japan’s economic progress amidst the evolving Cold War
As the world was gripped by the Cold War, how did Japan manage to emerge as an “economic superpower”?
The next stage of the Cold War and the war in Vietnam
In a divided Germany, the communist East decided in 1961 (Showa 36) to erect the Berlin Wall between East and West Berlin in order to prevent its own citizens from defecting to capitalist West Germany. The following year, a Soviet bid to install nuclear missile bases in Cuba sparked the Cuban Missile Crisis. The USSR and USA approached the brink of war.1
*1=US President Kennedy maintained a firm stance against the Soviet missile deployment, which forced Soviet Chairman Nikita Khrushchev to back down and remove the missiles.
In 1965 (Showa 40), fearing that the entire Indochinese Peninsula would be taken over by communists, the United States sent troops to support the South Vietnamese Army against communist North Vietnam, backed by the Soviet Union and China. America’s military intervention was subject to increasing criticism both from other countries and from within the United States itself. US forces withdrew in 1973 (Showa 48), and North Vietnam conquered South Vietnam two years later, forming the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. The communist victory in the Vietnam War damaged America’s international prestige.
The normalization of Sino-Japanese relations
In the 1970s, US President Richard Nixon sought to end America’s involvement in the Vietnam War, while also exploiting growing Sino-Soviet animosity as a means to contain the USSR. In pursuit of his goals, Nixon approached the People’s Republic of China and proposed that the two countries restore normal diplomatic relations. Encouraged by this progress, Prime Minister Tanaka Kakuei made an official trip to China in September 1972 (Showa 47) and signed the Japan-China Joint Communiqué normalizing relations with China.2 On the other hand, another outcome of the rapprochement between Japan and the People’s Republic of China was the termination of Japan’s official ties with the Republic of China on Taiwan.
*2=In the Japan-China Joint Communiqué, China renounced all its claims to war reparations from Japan, and both sides confirmed that they would resolve their future disagreements without “the use or threat of force.”
Soon after, in 1978 (Showa 53), the Treaty of Peace and Friendship between Japan and the People’s Republic of China was concluded.
From oil crises to economic superpower
In the 1970s, oil-producing nations in the Middle East imposed tight restrictions on petroleum exports. Japan, which relied on Middle Eastern oil for the majority of its energy needs, suffered a serious blow from the two oil crises of 1973 (Showa 48) and 1979 (Showa 54).
However, the crises led to improvements in Japan’s energy efficiency, such as technologies that significantly decreased the power consumption of household appliances, and thus ultimately served to strengthen the Japanese economy. Not only had Japan become an economic superpower, second only to the USA, but now it was also a “technological superpower”.
Showa to Heisei
On January 7, 1989 (Showa 64), Emperor Hirohito passed away, marking the end of the tumultuous Showa period that had lasted for more than sixty years. Crown Prince Akihito ascended to the throne. With his reign, a new era name was chosen, Heisei, literally meaning “the achievement of world peace”.
Topic 88 Recap Challenge! – Explain what sorts of technological developments helped Japan to overcome the oil crises and put its economy on a more solid footing.
The Oil Crises
In 1973, war broke out between Israel and its Arab neighbors in the Middle East. When these oil-producing Arab countries proceeded to limit exports of petroleum, the price of crude oil quadrupled almost overnight. Because Japan was almost entirely reliant on oil imports, it was one of the countries hardest hit. The economic shock touched off galloping inflation, and panicked citizens who feared shortages began franticly hoarding basic goods, in some cases even toilet paper.
In 1979, a revolution toppled the Iranian monarchy, sending oil prices skyrocketing once more. Thankfully, Japan weathered the second crisis easier than the first. By then, Japan had emerged as a world leader in energy-saving technologies and the foundations of its economy were thus much more resilient.
Japanese Cabinets from the 1960s to the 1980s
Year of inauguration Prime Minister and accomplishments
1960 Ikeda Hayato
-Income-Doubling Plan (1960)
1964 Sato Eisaku
-Retrocession of Okinawa (1972)
1972 Tanaka Kakuei
-Normalization of Sino-Japanese Relations (1972)
1974 Miki Takeo
1976 Fukuda Takeo
1978 Ohira Masayoshi
1980 Suzuki Zenko
1982 Nakasone Yasuhiro
-Breakup and privatization of Japanese National Railways (1987)
1987 Takeshita Noboru
-Introduction of the consumption tax (1989)
Hirohito, The Emperor Who Was One With His People
While holding true to the tenets of constitutional monarchy, Emperor Hirohito lived a life of selfless devotion, praying always for the peace and safety of the people of Japan.
A conscientious and upright character
Hirohito was born at the dawn of the twentieth century, on April 29, 1901 (Meiji 34). He was the first child of Crown Prince Yoshihito, later Emperor Taisho. In his childhood, he was called Prince Michi, and right from these early years, he was described as being a boy of remarkably conscientious and upright character.
Some time after his succession to the throne, Emperor Hirohito was returning to Tokyo from Kagoshima on board a battleship. One of his attendants was puzzled to see him standing alone on the deck, solemnly saluting toward the sea in the dark of the night. However, when the attendant gazed out into the distance, he saw a line of bonfires along the coast. The fires had been lit by local residents as a send-off, and Hirohito was faithfully reciprocating their gesture.
Educated as a constitutional monarch
In 1921 (Taisho 10), Hirohito visited Europe where he spoke candidly with King George V of Great Britain. At this time, he studied Britain’s political system of “constitutional monarchy” in which the monarch “reigns but does not rule”. This system was similar to the structure of the Japanese state under the shogunate, in which the samurai reserved the right to run the government while the emperors offered their prayers for the well-being of the nation. As Hirohito himself mentioned, “If I were to approve everything with which I agree and veto everything with which I disagree, that would simply be despotism.”
Nonetheless, even in a constitutional monarchy, the monarch must occasionally impose his own decisions in times of national crisis when the institutions of government no longer function. This is precisely what Emperor Hirohito did at several key moments as the fate of the nation hung in the balance.
When the attempted coup of February 26, 1936 (Showa 11), threw the country into disarray, Emperor Hirohito dealt sternly with the young officers behind the plot. Viewing them as traitors, he demanded that their rebellion be crushed.
In August 1945 (Showa 20), Emperor Hirohito was again called upon to make a fateful choice. The Japanese government was split evenly between those who wanted to accept the Potsdam Declaration and end the war, and those who wanted to fight a decisive battle with US forces on the Japanese mainland. Unable to find a consensus, Prime Minister Suzuki Kantaro asked the Emperor to break the deadlock. Tearfully explaining to the leaders of his government that, “My desire is to protect the people of Japan”, Emperor Hirohito delivered his momentous “sacred decision” to end the war.
Moving the heart of the General
In the month of September, soon after the war ended, a meeting was arranged between Emperor Hirohito and General Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers then occupying Japan. MacArthur expected the Emperor to beg for his life while desperately pleading his innocence. Throughout history, virtually all national leaders who have been defeated in war simply request clemency for themselves and their family, or else flee into exile, clutching a suitcase full of cash.
And yet, when Hirohito faced MacArthur, he told him in a clear voice, “I come to you, General MacArthur, to offer myself to the judgment of the powers you represent as the one to bear sole responsibility for every political and military decision made and action taken by my people in the conduct of the war.” As MacArthur recollected in his memoirs, “This courageous assumption of a responsibility implicit with death, a responsibility clearly belied by facts of which I was fully aware, moved me to the very marrow of my bones.”
Hirohito’s last thoughts of Okinawa
The war had reduced much of Japan to a smoldering ruin. Millions of people were left without food to eat or a roof over their heads. In the face of this unprecedented crisis, Hirohito insisted on personally meeting with the citizens of his nation. His imperial tours in the years after World War II took him to 1,411 sites across Japan where he spoke intimately with the ordinary people working hard to rebuild their nation.
In the fall of 1988 (Showa 63), the bedridden Hirohito whispered to his doctor, “Is it already too late?” His doctor thought that the Emperor was asking him if he was about to die, but that was not what the Emperor meant. Earlier, he had composed the following poem:
Stricken with sudden illness,
Is my final obligation
To arrive on the shores of Okinawa
Never to be fulfilled?
When Emperor Hirohito came down with a grave illness, the imperial tour to Okinawa that had been planned out the year before was put on hold. Okinawa was the site of the largest battle ever fought on Japanese soil, but remained under US occupation for decades after the war had ended. For a long time, he had deeply desired to visit the island. What the Emperor, who realized that his life was slipping away, had really meant was, “Is it already too late for me to go to Okinawa?”
As supreme sovereign under the Meiji Constitution, Emperor Hirohito spent the first half of his life agonizing over the bloodshed and devastation of war, and thus he dedicated the second half of his life to praying for the peace and happiness of his people as “the symbol of the State” under Japan’s new constitution. Throughout his life, Emperor Hirohito always stood by the side of the people.
Topic 89 – Postwar culture
What were the distinguishing characteristics of Japanese culture in the second half of the Showa period after the end of World War II?
Literature and science
Out from the ravages of the war, a new generation of Japanese men and women sprang forth to carry Japanese culture, in all its facets, into the postwar world. In the field of literature, Kawabata Yasunari, who had also been active in prewar Japan, continued to produce magisterial works exploring the traditional Japanese sense of beauty. There were also a number of bold young men, such as Mishima Yukio and Ishihara Shintaro, who attempted to create entirely new literary styles.
In science, the physicist Yukawa Hideki became the first Japanese person to win a Nobel Prize in 1949 (Showa 24). His achievement was the source of great inspiration to his compatriots, and since then Japan has produced dozens of Nobel laureates, especially in the natural sciences.
The ongoing rise of mass culture
The most important trend in postwar culture was the continuing growth of the mass culture that was born of the Taisho period. Especially notable was the proliferation of pop songs through records and radio broadcasting. Some singers like Misora Hibari established themselves as beloved national celebrities.
In prewar Japan, the literary arts were divided into “popular literature”, enjoyed as entertainment by the common people, and “high literature”, read by the intellectuals who styled themselves as “young literati”. However, this distinction began to break down in the postwar period as a number of talented novelists attracted a mass following. Matsumoto Seicho broke new ground by penning popular crime fiction containing profound critiques of Japanese society. Shiba Ryotaro’s widely read historical novels portrayed events from the Tokugawa shogunate and the Meiji Restoration to the First Sino-Japanese War and the Russo-Japanese War through the eyes of the budding young men of the era.
At the start of the occupation years, SCAP prohibited the production of Japanese “period drama films” set in the samurai era. Once the ban was lifted, people flocked to screenings of The Treasury of Loyal Retainers, and the Japanese movie industry revived. The movies of director Ozu Yasujiro depicted the daily lives of Japanese families, whereas Kurosawa Akira emphasized
epic stories and stunning visuals in his films, which became wildly popular in Japan. Kurosawa’s influence even extended to other countries, so much so that he was dubbed “Kurosawa of the World”.
Japanese culture goes global
Following the economic miracle, the world gained a new appreciation for Japanese accomplishments in a wide variety of fields. For example, modern Japanese animation and comic books became global phenomena, thanks to the pioneering works of Tezuka Osamu and Miyazaki Hayao.
Japanese culture arose from the fusion of indigenous Japanese traditions with imported foreign civilizations, and the culture Japanese people transmit abroad today is, in turn, embraced in many other countries and exerts a profound impact on their people.
Furthermore, amid the recent boom in health awareness, the beneficial properties of Japanese cuisine received international recognition in 2013 (Heisei 25) when the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) selected it for inclusion on the Intangible Cultural Heritage List. UNESCO praised traditional Japanese ingredients and the richness of Japan’s food culture, such as New Years’ customs and rice-planting ceremonies.
Topic 89 Recap Challenge! – State which Japanese artists and intellectuals of the postwar period received international esteem for their work.
Japanese Nobel Prize Laureates
Year of Award Person (Dates of Birth and Death) Category
1949 Yukawa Hideki (1907-1981) Physics
1965 Tomonaga Shinichiro (1906-1979) Physics
1968 Kawabata Yasunari (1899-1972) Literature
1973 Esaki Reona (1925-) Physics
1974 Sato Eisaku (1901-1975) Peace
1981 Fukui Kenichi (1918-1998) Chemistry
1987 Tonegawa Susumu (1939-) Physiology or Medicine
1994 Oe Kenzaburo (1935-) Literature
2000 Shirakawa Hideki (1936-) Chemistry
2001 Noyori Ryoji (1938-) Chemistry
2002 Koshiba Masatoshi (1926-) Physics
2002 Tanaka Koichi (1959-) Chemistry
2008 Nambu Yoichiro (1921-) Physics
2008 Kobayashi Makoto (1944-) Physics
2008 Masukawa Toshihide (1940-) Physics
2008 Shimomura Osamu (1928-) Chemistry
2010 Suzuki Akira (1930-) Chemistry
2010 Negishi Eiichi (1935-) Chemistry
2012 Yamanaka Shinya (1962-) Physiology or Medicine
2014 Akasaki Isamu (1929-) Physics
2014 Amano Hiroshi (1960-) Physics
2014 Nakamura Shuji (1954-) Physics
2015 Kajita Takaaki (1959-) Physics
2015 Oomura Satoshi (1935-) Physiology or Medicine
2016 Oosumi Yoshinori (1945-) Physiology or Medicine
Section 3 – Japan and the world in the twenty-first century
Topic 90 – The end of the Cold War and collapse of communism
How did the Cold War end?
The conclusion of the Cold War
After the United States withdrew from Vietnam, the USSR augmented its military strength and boosted support to communist forces in other countries. In 1979, Soviet troops invaded Afghanistan. When Ronald Reagan became president of the United States in 1981 (Showa 56), the United States responded by embarking on a massive arms buildup. The USSR gradually bankrupted its own economy trying to keep pace in the renewed arms race with the US.
The Gorbachev administration, which took office in 1985 (Showa 60), endeavored to rebuild Soviet society by introducing a market economy and encouraging more freedom of information. However, Gorbachev’s reforms backfired, causing domestic chaos and encouraging liberation movements in Eastern Europe. In 1989, the Berlin Wall, a potent symbol of the East-West divide in Europe, was demolished. The following year, West and East Germany reunited.
The Soviet Union bowed out of the arms race with the United States, leading to a 1989 summit between the leaders of both countries, at which the Cold War was officially declared to be over. The communist regimes of Eastern Europe collapsed, one after another, culminating in the abolition of the Soviet Communist Party and the dissolution of the USSR in 1991 (Heisei 3). With the fall of the Soviet-led communist bloc, the 70-year-long communist experiment came to a close. It was now apparent that communism could neither provide people with comfortable and stable lives nor even guarantee them basic political rights, such as freedom of speech.
The Persian Gulf War and the War on Terror
In August 1990, the Iraqi Army stormed into Kuwait. A US-led multinational force fought the Iraqis and drove them out of Kuwait in January of the following year. Citing the restrictions imposed by its constitution, Japan did not participate militarily in this conflict, known as the Persian Gulf War. Instead, Japan provided massive infusions of financial aid, even though the international community showed little appreciation for these contributions. Because of this, Japanese citizens began to discuss and question what role they should play in the world.1
*1=In 1992, the Diet passed the United Nations Peacekeeping Cooperation Law, permitting the deployment of the Self-Defense Forces abroad in support of UN personnel.
On September 11, 2001 (Heisei 13), hijacked passenger airliners collided into the World Trade Center in New York City and other targets, killing thousands of civilians. The culprits of the September 11 Attacks were members of Al-Qaeda, an Islamist terrorist organization. Declaring a “War on Terror”, the United States retaliated by attacking Al-Qaeda’s bases in Afghanistan and, in 2003, invaded Iraq, initiating the Iraq War.
Topic 90 Recap Challenge! – Consider and explain the reasons why communism collapsed.
The Victims of War and Totalitarianism
The twentieth century has been described as “the century of war and revolution”. In the space of just one hundred years, human civilization suffered the combined shocks of two world wars and numerous wars of revolution, starting with the Russian Revolution. The tremendous loss of life resulting from these conflicts exceeded that of any other century.
About ten million soldiers perished in World War I. World War II cost the lives of another twenty-five million soldiers, as well as countless millions of civilians. Nazi Germany alone was accused of murdering twenty-five million people, including millions of Jews during the Holocaust.
Furthermore, the communist dictatorship in the Soviet Union, led by Joseph Stalin, labeled a whole class of peasants as kulaks, who were marked for extermination by firing squad or starvation. Many more were accused of political crimes and allocated by region to concentration camps where they labored under brutal conditions. In the second half of the twentieth century, there were many other major atrocities perpetrated by communist regimes, such as China’s Cultural Revolution. If we add together all casualties of communism, the total would reputedly approach one hundred million.
The victims of the two totalitarian ideologies of the twentieth century, communism and fascism, far surpass the number of people killed in the two world wars. Though called “the century of war”, the twentieth century might better be thought of as the century of the victims of totalitarianism.
Though the Cold War is over, its legacy continues to impact East Asia, and ethnic or religious differences remain a source of conflict in many parts of the world. We must be vigilant to not allow mankind’s mistakes in the twentieth century to be repeated in the twenty-first century.
Topic 91 – The future of Japan in the twenty-first century world
In the midst of a difficult international situation, how should Japan tackle today’s challenges?
The rise of China
Though the end of the Cold War eased the threat of a global nuclear war, the dangers posed by terrorism and by ethnic, religious, and political disagreements did not fade away. In East Asia in particular, a state of cold war with the region’s one-party communist states persisted after the collapse of the USSR and still jeopardizes the peace today.
In the final decades of the twentieth century, China enjoyed rapid economic development, eventually displacing Japan in 2012 (Heisei 24) as the world’s second largest economy behind the USA. Even so, China’s per capita income remains far below Japan’s. Moreover, the adverse side effects of China’s economic success have included a yawning disparity between the rich and poor, and significant environmental damage, such as urban smog, flooding of rivers, and desertification.
Recently, China has been rapidly expanding its military, tightening its grip on Tibet and Xinjiang, and increasing its presence in neighboring seas. China has also claimed ownership to Japan’s Senkaku Islands, asserting its claim by frequently infiltrating Chinese government ships, fishing vessels, and aircraft into Japan’s territorial waters and airspace around the islands.1 Nonetheless, the Japanese government denies the existence of a territorial dispute with China on the grounds that the Senkaku Islands are an integral part of Japan.
*1=Japan began surveying the Senkaku Islands in 1885 and, after concluding that they belonged to no nation, incorporated them into Japanese territory by cabinet order in 1895. Japanese people soon came to the Senkakus for work, mostly engaging in the production of dried tuna flakes. At its peak, the number of Japanese living on the islands exceeded two hundred. After World War II, the United States administered the islands until they were returned to Japan in 1972 accompanying the retrocession of Okinawa.
Japan and Korea
Following the Meiji Restoration, Japan treated the Korean Peninsula as the linchpin of its national security strategy, but today North Korea represents a grave threat to the stability of East
Asia. Under the iron fist of the Kim family and the Korean Workers’ Party, North Korea built long-range missiles and a nuclear arsenal. Since the 1970s, North Korea was also engaged in the abduction of Japanese citizens, who were utilized to strengthen the regime. North Korea released some of the abductees and their families on three occasions, but it is believed that North Korea may still be illegally holding more than a hundred Japanese citizens.
The Takeshima Islands, an integral Japanese territory, are claimed by South Korea, which illegally occupied the islands in 1953 and maintains a permanent police presence there.2
*2=During the Edo period, the people of Japan’s Tottori Domain received official permission from the shogunate to fish in the waters around the Takeshima Islands. In 1905 (Meiji 38), Japan declared its sovereignty over the Takeshima Islands in conformity with international laws and exercised effective control over them under the jurisdiction of Shimane Prefecture.
The path Japan should take
On March 11, 2011 (Heisei 23), eastern Japan was struck by a magnitude nine earthquake, producing a massive tsunami that engulfed Japan’s northeastern coastline. About twenty thousand people disappeared into the sea. The earthquake and tsunami also led to a nuclear accident that forced many people from their homes and into evacuation shelters. And yet, at the peak of the emergency, people around the world were amazed to see Japanese citizens, even those still reeling from the loss of loved ones, evacuate in a calm and orderly manner. The Japanese people were praised internationally for their stoicism in the face of crisis.
In 2006 (Heisei 18), the Fundamental Law of Education was amended to clarify that one of the core objectives of the school system is “fostering the value of respect for tradition and culture and love of the country and regions that have nurtured us, as well as the value of respect for other countries and the desire to contribute to world peace and the development of the international community.”
Japan is a nation of rich traditions rooted in the remarkable civilization and beautiful lands that have been cultivated by our ancestors since ancient times. Now, as we enter the twenty-first century, the people of Japan ought to feel pride and confidence in our own history, disseminate across the world all that’s great of our culture, and contribute in a positive manner to world peace and the progress of humankind.
Topic 91 Recap Challenge! – Discuss why the international community lauded the way ordinary Japanese people responded to the Great East Japan Earthquake.
Japanese Cabinets Since the 1990s
Year of inauguration Prime Minister
1989 Kaifu Toshiki
1991 Miyazawa Kiichi
1993 Hosokawa Morihiro
1994 Hata Tsutomu
1994 Murayama Tomiichi
1996 Hashimoto Ryutaro
1998 Obuchi Keizo
2000 Mori Yoshiro
2001 Koizumi Junichiro
2006 Abe Shinzo (First Abe Cabinet)
2007 Fukuda Yasuo
2008 Aso Taro
2009 Hatoyama Yukio
2010 Kan Naoto
2011 Noda Yoshihiko
2012 Abe Shinzo (Second Abe Cabinet)
I WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT…
Modern Japan’s Interactions with the Wider World: Tales of Courage and Friendship
The Ertugrul Disaster
In June 1890 (Meiji 23), the warship Ertugrul arrived at the Port of Yokohama carrying 650 sailors from Turkey (then the Ottoman Empire) on a goodwill mission to Japan. This was the year that Japan convened the First Imperial Diet, and since Turkey aspired to modernize its political system in a similar manner, it strongly desired a close relationship with Japan. The Turkish delegation, which had just completed a difficult voyage lasting over a year, was warmly received by the people of Japan, including Emperor Meiji. In September, the delegation embarked for the return trip to Turkey.
However, while the Ertugrul sailed towards Kobe, it was hit by a typhoon near Kushimoto, Wakayama Prefecture, and sank into the sea off Oshima Island’s Kashinozaki Cape. It was a devastating shipwreck, costing the lives of 587 people. Survivors who washed ashore in the dead of the night ran to Oshima Island’s lighthouse for help. The lightkeeper opened a book of international flag signals and recognized them as Turkish from the star and crescent moon on their flag.
The rescue work and care-giving of local islanders
Moved by the plight of these sailors from a foreign land, the four hundred Japanese families living on Oshima Island leapt into action to save as many lives as they could. The men scoured the sea tirelessly in search of survivors. They found some Turkish sailors nearly freezing, but they pressed the sailors up against their own naked bodies for warmth and managed to revive them from the brink of death. Once on shore, the Turkish survivors were tended to by local women, who worked day and night to feed them and dress their wounds. The islanders provided the survivors with everything they could, even the chickens that were kept as an emergency food supply.
When the shipwreck was reported in newspapers, a swell of donations, amounting to $250,000 today, was collected from ordinary people across Japan. The sixty-nine survivors were given excellent care in Kobe hospitals and, once restored to health, they were returned to their homeland aboard the Japanese warships Kongo and Hiei. Emperor Meiji lauded the islanders for their heroism, and asked that all the expenses that they incurred rescuing the sailors be reimbursed. However, the islanders refused this generous offer, simply stating that, “We only did what anyone would have done.” This incident was yet another demonstration of the stout and compassionate spirits of the people of Meiji Japan.
Ninety-five years of gratitude
In March 1985 (Showa 60), as war raged between Iran and Iraq, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein announced that, starting in forty-eight hours, Iraq would begin indiscriminately shooting down all aircraft flying over Iranian airspace. Foreign countries hurriedly dispatched special flights to Tehran Airport to evacuate their own nationals, until 215 Japanese citizens, including many families, were the last ones left stranded in Iran.
In the final desperate moments before the deadline expired, two aircraft suddenly emerged from the sky and landed at the airport. Their crew said that they had come to evacuate the Japanese citizens, who were all carried to safety with just two hours to spare. The aircraft were rescue planes specially dispatched by the Turkish government in recognition of the kindness that the people of Meiji Japan had shown to the victims of the Ertugrul Disaster and the sacrifices they had made for them. Ninety-five years after the event, Turkey had still not forgotten its debt of gratitude to Japan.
Taiwan’s great dam-builder: Hatta Yoichi
Taiwan’s Jianan Plain today accounts for one-sixth of the arable land on the island, but it was once a barren wasteland that flooded in the rainy season and desiccated in the dry season. Hatta Yoichi (1886-1942), a native of Ishikawa Prefecture, was assigned to the government of Japanese-ruled Taiwan after studying civil engineering at Tokyo Imperial University. Once there, he surveyed the Jianan Plain and drew up a comprehensive development plan. Hatta’s plan called for the construction of a dam that would retain the upper reaches of the river running through the plain and an irrigation facility that would provide a reliable supply of water.
The actual construction work was fraught with difficulty. On one day, there was a massive gas explosion that killed more than fifty people. The grief-stricken Hatta lamented that, “Now, nobody will follow my instructions.” However, it was the Taiwanese people who comforted him, saying, “It wasn’t your fault. It was an accident. We all know that we’re risking our lives for the sake of Taiwan and its people.”
By 1930, the Jianan Plain had been transformed into a green oasis. It took ten years to make the
project, one of the most ambitious of the century, into a reality. The American Society of Civil Engineers introduced this engineering miracle to the rest of the world as the “Hatta Dam”. To this day, the local Taiwanese people have continued to hold an annual memorial service on the anniversary of Hatta’s death.
JAPAN AS SEEN THROUGH FOREIGN EYES
The Great East Japan Earthquake and the Japanese People
Global praise for the people of Japan
Foreign journalists covering the catastrophic Great East Japan Earthquake, which hit Japan on March 11, 2011 (Heisei 23), were left awestruck by the calm and brave demeanor of the many Japanese who had lost their homes or loved ones in the disaster. Media outlets around the world had only praise for their tenacity and selflessness.
One journalist of America’s New York Times reported being, “impressed by the humility, patience, calm and discipline that the Japanese have shown. If this disaster had happened in Europe or the U.S., there would have been looting, riots and mass panic. Here there is nothing of the sort.” Even South Korean media reporting on the scene were impressed to hear crowds of disaster victims saying “You go first” and “No, I’ll be fine” to one another, never raising their voices or forgetting their good manners.
The spirit of self-sacrifice and Emperor Akihito’s address to the nation
The 24-year-old Endo Miki worked in the town of Minamisanriku with the Crisis Management Section of the Miyagi prefectural government. As the massive tsunami drove towards the shore, she stayed at her post and continuously broadcast a disaster warning to the people of the town. “A wave of over six meters is approaching! Please evacuate immediately!” The tsunami finally submerged her office, killing her, but it was thanks to her dutiful warnings that many people, including her own mother, managed to escape in time.
The policemen and Self-Defense Force personnel deployed to disaster sites also distinguished themselves through their dedicated rescue work. Five days after the earthquake struck, Emperor Akihito released the following message to the people of Japan:
“All those who have tirelessly pressed on with the difficult relief effort, even as the danger of aftershocks remains present, have earned my deepest admiration. I must express my boundless gratitude to local and national officials of the Self-Defense Forces, police, firefighters, and Coast Guard, to those who came to Japan from foreign countries to help us, and to Japanese citizens affiliated with national relief agencies.”
The unique culture born of Japan’s history
In the wake of the disaster, voices across the world expressed great admiration for the national characteristics and temperament of the Japanese people. Spanish media commended “the courage, generosity, modesty, dignity under adversity, and strong sense of duty that are rooted in Japanese society.” American media were inspired by the Japanese people’s “altruistic hearts and unshakeable spirit of self-sacrifice.” Taiwanese media paid tribute to “Japan’s samurai mentality.”
The national characteristics of the Japanese people were nurtured over the course of the country’s long history. Since the Jomon period, the Japanese have been a people of gentle-tempered disposition, who, blessed with a fertile natural environment, developed a culture valuing peace, cooperation, and mutual aid. We sincerely wish that each succeeding new generation shall lose none of this heritage accumulated throughout our history.
CHAPTER 6 SUMMARY:
SUMMING UP THE POSTWAR PERIOD
Fumiko asks her sister about the periodization of postwar history…
The following is a dialogue between Fumiko, a Japanese middle school student, and her elder sister.
Fumiko’s sister: Do you have a good understanding of what the “postwar period” means?
Fumiko: The “postwar period” starts at the end of World War II when Japan was in bad shape from having lost the war.
Fumiko’s sister: But even though Japan was defeated, our government continued to function. The people picked themselves back up and achieved an economic recovery and rate of growth that astonished the world.
Fumiko: Another special thing about the postwar period was the “economic miracle”, right?
Fumiko’s sister: We Japanese have always been a hard-working people, and we are good at making things. Whenever the country is at peace, we show what we are really capable of.
Fumiko: In the postwar period, there was also a long Cold War that affected Japan and the whole world. It finally ended in 1991 when the Soviet Union collapsed.
Fumiko’s sister: The rival capitalist and communist blocs were both armed with nuclear weapons, and on a few occasions the world came close to all-out nuclear war.
There were “two totalitarianisms”, but fascism disappeared during World War II. Communism continued for almost another half a century up to the collapse of the Soviet Union. The number of victims of the “two totalitarianisms” is truly heartbreaking, more than those killed in battle in both world wars combined.
Fumiko: But even after the Cold War was over, there were still lots of wars in parts of the world.
Fumiko’s sister: Yes, I suppose you will cover that subject again in civics class. In your other classes as well, it’s important to grasp the general attributes of Japan’s history and thus have a good picture of the strengths and characteristics of the Japanese people.
Problems of periodization
If we divided the postwar period in two, what would be the best way of doing so? Examine the following popular viewpoints and consider which events in Japanese history each one treats as turning points.
(1.) The period up to April 1952, when Japan regained its sovereignty and became independent, and the period thereafter.
(2.) The period up to roughly the year 1970, when Japan’s economic growth was at its peak, and the period thereafter.
(3.) The period up to 1989, when the Berlin Wall fell and the Cold War ended due to the collapse of communism, and the period thereafter.
An essay “in a word”
What did you find most fascinating about Japan’s postwar history?
In a word, the postwar period was the era of __________.
In the blank, insert the topic that you think best fits and write a short essay of between 100 and 200 words on it.
Examples: the Cold War, science and technology, independence of colonies, nuclear weapons, etc…
Group discussion work
Discuss the factors that caused the postwar economic miracle while also considering how it differed from conditions in prewar Japan.
CHAPTER 6 SUMMARY:
MINI HISTORICAL DICTIONARY
(explanation of key terms in less than 100 words)
United Nations 1945 An international organization formed with the goal of averting the mistakes that led to the two world wars and preventing the outbreak of another war like them. The Allied Powers also intended to utilize the new organization to maintain their hegemony over the global order after the end of World War II. The UN Charter still contains the “enemy clauses” denouncing Japan, Germany, and other countries that had opposed the Allied Powers during the war.
Constitution of Japan 1946 The constitution created on the basis of the draft written by SCAP. It was ratified via the Meiji Constitution’s amendment procedure. The new constitution recognized the Emperor as the symbol of the unity of the Japanese state and its citizens. It also affirmed popular sovereignty, guaranteed basic human rights, and contained provisions requiring that Japan renounce war and the maintenance of any military forces.
Tokyo Trials 1946 – 1948 The postwar trials of accused Japanese war criminals that condemned Tojo Hideki and six other individuals to death by hanging. Justice Pal, representing India, questioned the legitimacy of the trials under international law and he, alone among the justices, declared all the defendants to be innocent.
Cold War 1949 – 1989 An international confrontation between rival powers without recourse to military force. Following the end of World War II, the world was plunged into the Cold War between the US-led capitalist camp and the Soviet-led
communist camp. The two camps fiercely competed to build the largest nuclear arsenal and the longest range missiles.
Korean War 1950 – 1953 A war on the Korean Peninsula that started when North Korea invaded South Korea with the aim of reuniting the Korean peoples by force of arms. South Korea counterattacked with the support of a UN Army consisting mainly of the American military, provoking the Chinese military to intervene on the side of the North. The lines of battle moved back and forth along the peninsula until a truce was signed in 1953.
San Francisco Peace Treaty 1951 The treaty restoring independence to Japan, ratified by Japan and forty-seven other countries, mostly of the US-aligned non-communist bloc. It was signed by Prime Minister Yoshida Shigeru in San Francisco. At the same time, Japan also signed the US-Japan Security Treaty, authorizing the stationing of American forces on Japanese soil.
Japanese Economic Miracle 1960 – 1973 The strong economic growth that occurred in Japan as the country rose from the ashes of its defeat in World War II. It was the greatest economic expansion yet seen in history, making Japan the second largest economy in the world, after the USA, by 1968. This period saw the construction of the bullet train and a network of national expressways, as well as the rise of Japanese corporations like Sony to global prominence.
Cuban Missile Crisis 1962 A serious nuclear standoff between the USA and USSR that started when the USSR attempted to construct nuclear missile bases in Cuba. Because the USA refused to yield, the USSR eventually removed the missiles, averting the threat of a nuclear war.
Vietnam War 1965 – 1973 A war between North and South Vietnam in which US forces participated directly. Fearing the communization of Indochina, the United States aided South Vietnam in its fight against the Soviet and Chinese-backed North. America’s military intervention was widely condemned, both in the United States and other countries, and ended in the withdrawal of US forces.
Retrocession of Okinawa 1972 The return of Okinawa, which had been under American occupation since the end of World War II, to Japanese control. In accordance with his Three Non-Nuclear Principles, Prime Minister Sato Eisaku worked out a deal with the USA to achieve reunification with Okinawa while keeping US nuclear weapons out of their military bases.
Normalization of Sino-Japanese Relations 1972 The establishment of normal diplomatic relations between China and Japan by Prime Minister Tanaka Kakuei. Following the example of US President Nixon, Tanaka visited China and signed the Japan-China Joint Communiqué. As a result, Japan severed official relations with Taiwan.
Oil Crises 1973, 1979 Two major economic shocks caused by a petroleum embargo that was imposed by petroleum-producing countries. The embargo was a major blow to Japan, which was largely dependent on petroleum imports for energy. Nevertheless, in the end it actually strengthened the Japanese economy by spurring the development of energy-saving technologies.
Fall of the Berlin Wall 1989 The fall of the wall separating East and West Berlin, leading directly to the reunification of Germany. Unable to keep up with the United States in an arms race, the Soviet economy broke down, strengthening the voices of those within the communist bloc who were calling for the liberalization of the nations of Eastern Europe. As a result, the Berlin Wall, a symbol of the Cold War-era division of Europe, was torn down.
Persian Gulf War 1991 A war between Iraq and the army of a US-led multinational coalition. In response to the Iraqi military’s surprise invasion of Kuwait, the United States and its allies drove Iraq back with armed force. Japan contributed to their victory through generous financial assistance.
Collapse of the Soviet Union 1991 The downfall of the communist system in the USSR. The leaders of the US and USSR declared an end to the Cold War once the USSR had ceded the arms race to the United States. Soon after, the communist regimes in Eastern Europe collapsed one by one, eventually bringing about the dissolution of the USSR. This marked the end of the seventy-year-old experiment in communism.
Putting Your Study of History into Perspective: What Are The Distinguishing Characteristics of Japanese History?
Assignment 1 – Look back to the illustration on the first pages of this textbook showing “three Japans” coexisting on the Japanese landscape.
The first Japan is the “nation of forests”, the rich natural environment that nourished Japanese culture ten thousand years ago during the Jomon period.
The second Japan is the “nation of rice paddies”, the agricultural society that arose on the basis of wet rice cultivation.
The third Japan is the “nation of manufacturers”, the age of industry in which the Japanese people, notably the small-scale manufacturers, demonstrated world-class prowess in the production of finished goods.
In the form of a written essay, reassess how all three Japans are interconnected within your community and day-to-day life.
Assignment 2 – During both the ancient period and the modern period of Japanese history, the people of Japan painstakingly forged a nation-state.
In ancient times, the Ritsuryo State was constructed to preserve Japan’s independence in the face of China’s hegemonic civilization.
In modern times, the Meiji Government was founded to preserve Japan as an independent nation-state.
These two nation-building experiences share many similarities. Compare the two by examining their (1.) historical background, (2.) progression, (3.) methods employed, and (4.) results.
Assignment 3 – Japan has always had a strong interest in foreign civilizations, whose advanced cultures have been passionately studied and embraced by the Japanese people. And yet, Japan assimilated aspects of overseas cultures while still always forging its own path and holding onto its unique indigenous traditions.
Provide a summary of the history of Japanese culture, making clear the major themes of Japan’s cultural evolution from ancient to modern times. Come up with your own method of organizing the information, such as a chronology, illustration, or narrative.
Assignment 4 – Explain what are the distinguishing characteristics of the society and structure of the Japanese nation, making reference to relevant historical concepts, such as bushido, ikki, and the ancient ideas found in Japanese mythology. Let everyone share their own ideas.
Assignment 5 – Review all the “Japan As Seen Through Foreign Eyes” columns and consider what opinions foreigners have tended to have about the people of Japan. Summarize the main points.
Assignment 6 – Japan was never colonized by the Western powers, but instead rose to become one of the most prosperous countries in the world. What factors and events in Japan’s history do you think made this possible?
Suppose that you have gone abroad to meet with young people of your age from a variety of other countries and must give a three-minute speech on this subject. Write such a speech.