Post War Period
1945- Present

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Transition from War | Government | Economics | Art and Literature | Popular Culture | Important People and Events

Transition from War

Part of the conditions of surrender signed by the Japanese on September 2, 1945 included the occupation of Japan by the Allied military forces. What followed is often referred to a period of demilitarization and democratization under General Douglas Mac Arthur from 1945-1947. Japan's army and navy ministries were abolished. War industries began a process of converting to civilian production. War crimes trials also began which led to the conviction of 4,200 officials. 700 of those were executed. The American forces also sought to remove the expression of patriotism from public life including schools. Shinto was disestablished as state religion and on January 1, 1946,
Emperor Hirohito declared he was not a divine figure. Reforms were made to the Meiji Constitution. The new constitution is often referred to as the "Mac Arthur Constitution". Some of the reforms included economic reforms, agricultural land redistribution, the reestablishment of trade unions, and restrictions on zaibatsu. These restrictions were eased as economic recovery increased. In September 1951, a conference was held in San Francisco to reach a peace accord with Japan. Fifty-one nations attended the conference including China, India, the USSR, and the United States. The treaty that resulted became formally known as the Treaty of Peace and informally as the Treaty of San Francisco. In the treaty, Japan renounced its land claims including those gained by League of Nations mandate. These land claims included Korea, Taiwan, and the Kuril Islands. Japan was allowed to enter into collective security agreements and defends itself. This treaty allowed Japan to regain its independence. The Occupation of Japan by the United States ended in 1952. Most people deem it successful due to the fact that Japan has not fought a war since World War II, remains a close ally of the US and has not changed most of the reforms made during the Occupation.

Japanese Diet BuildingPerhaps one of the biggest changes in Japan since World War II was the government. The new constitution stated that the power of the government rested with the people and not with the emperor. The emperor, similar to the Queen or King of England, continued as a symbol of Japan with no political power. The Japanese government has legislative, executive, and judicial branches as well as local governments. Click here for a detailed explanation of the Japanese National Government. After World War II, local governments were encouraged in Japan. Japan's government is unitary rather than federal. The local governments depend largely on the national government in administrative and financial matters. There are forty-seven local administrations. Primarily they are called prefectures or ken in Japanese. There are forty-three rural prefectures. Tokyo is the the largest division and is called a metropolitan district. The two second largest cities, Kyoto and Osaka make up two urban prefectures. Lastly, Hokkaido, the northernmost island in Japan makes up a district. Each large city is divided into wards which are split into towns, precincts, or sub districts. Each local jurisdiction has a governor and an assembly that are elected every four years. All Japanese citizens who are twenty or older with at least three-months of residency can vote. The Japanese people gained new freedoms including free speech and equal rights for women. While the military was abolished, the local police became subject to careful regulation. Within modern Japanese government many political parties have developed. The Japan Socialist Party and Japan Communist Party were outlawed before World War II and quickly reestablished the parties. The conservative parties also revived themselves.The Liberal Party and the Japan Progressive Party were actually reinvention of the old Seiyokai and Rikken Minseito. Over time, political parties in Japan have continued to split. The Liberal Party and the Japan Democratic Party merged in 1955 to form the Liberal Democratic Party. They successfully held power from 1955 through 1993. Click here to view a web site of Japanese Laws.

Tokyo Stock MarkeyIn the years after World War II, the Japanese economy has seen tremendous growth. One of the first changes made to the economy of Japan was land use. Before World War II, two-thirds of the land in Japan was rented by the farmer who farmed it. The average farm was only one acre in size and the rent was almost half of the crops grown. In industry, laws were passed to allow free trade unions. The High Growth Age refers to the time from the late 1950s to the early 1970s when there was a booming economy. During this time period, the 1964 Olympic Games were held in Tokyo. In 1961 the Basic Agricultural Law was enacted and in 1964 the New Tokaido Railway (Shinkansen) began. In 1970 the World's Fair was held in Osaka. A very significant year was 1972. This is the year that relations with China normalized. In 1973 with OPEC's increased oil prices, Japan experienced its first recession since World War II. In the 1980's the conservative government was pressured by the United States to open more it Japan's markets to more United States imports. The Japanese government had a growing trade surplus. Historically, the Japanese government protects its key industries. During the post war period, Japan's key industries grew to include automobiles and electronics. In the late 1980s, the Japanese faced economic problems. Unemployment rose to 3.2 percent in 1987 and on October 20, 1987, the Tokyo Stock Market (pictured above) crashed. In the 1990's into the new century, the Japanese economy has continued to grow but Tokyo and Osaka became two of the most expensive cities to live in the world.
Since 1970, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Japan is second only to the United States.

CarOne of the best known and most successful industries in modern Japan is the automobile industry. The automobile, while in existence in Japan since 1900, did not significantly effect Japan's culture until after World War II. The Japanese giants of the automobile industry began manufacturing cars in the early 1900s but expanded in the post war period. From 1925-1939, the American "Big Three" (Ford, GM, Chrysler) began production in Japan. This introduced the Japanese car industry to mass production. In the years leading up to World War II, the automobile industry became an example for increased production for the war effort. After World War II, the General Headquarters of ALlied Powers (GHQ) allowed 30 different companies to begin truck production. By June 1947, GHQ allowed small passenger cars to be produced, but only 300 per year. In 1949, the automobile industry cut wages and laid off workers to deal with a recession. The labor unions began a strike against manufacturers. The Automobile Industrial Association founded in April 1948 by five companies including Toyota and Nissan. In 1950, Mr. Hisato Ichimada, chairman of the Bank of Japan at the time, claimed that it was "meaningless for Japan to develop its automobile industry with the present international division of labor." This statement actually inspired the opposite. Government guidelines were set up to introduce new technology to Japan leading to the production of cars that would compete in the world market. The Korean War greatly helped the growth of the automobile industry in Japan. For example, only a year into the war, the Japanese automobile industry saw about $30 million in contracts involving trucks and automobile parts. Automobile production increased steadily in the 1950s. This led to the Tokyo Motor Show in 1954. The government had encouraged the manufacture of "People's Car". These led to mass production and popularization of the car in the 1960s. By 1973, Japan's output of four-wheeled motor vehicles (cars, trucks, and buses) was over 7 million. A drastic change from just under 500,000 in 1960. Similarly, during the same time period, the number of four-wheeled vehicles in use in Japan rose from just over 1 million to almost 25 million. By 1967, Japan was second only to the US in automobile production. By 1980, Japan surpassed the US in automobile production. While the oil crisis of the 1970s had a negative initial impact on the car industry, Japan began experimenting with more fuel efficient cars. This led to the production of more popular cars and eventually an increase in demand for Japanese cars that continues into the present day.

Cutting Fish at the FishmarketOne of Japan's traditional businesses is the fishing industry. The Tsukiji Fish Market is the second largest fish market in the world. The market handles 400 different types of seafood and moves five million pounds (2, 268,000 kilograms) of seafood each day. This amount of fish translates into approximately 30 million US dollars per day. The fish market has many different vendors that people can buy a variety of fresh fish from. The vendor will often cut and package the fish in front of you. Products and workers move around the fish market on large scooters. One exceptional event that happens daily is the fish auction at 5 AM. Fish are auctioned off daily to the highest bidders. Tuna, the most popular fish to be auctioned, can weigh from 200 to 1,000 pounds (90 -450 kilograms) each. Over 200 tuna can be sold in under a half of a hour. The live auctions were open to the public until May of 2005.

Art and Literature

Art and Literature is still being researched and developed.


Popular Culture

Within education, laws concerning the control and regulation of education changed. "Moral training" in schools was abolished. Instead children were educated in democracy. Control of education as well as censorship of textbooks was switched from the national government to the local governments. The modern Japanese educational system is similar to the United States system. Elementary school is comprised of six years while junior and senior high school are three years each. University is usually four years and junior college is two. Completing school through junior high school is required by law. Over 90% of the students in Japan graduate from high school while 40% will graduate from a junior college or university. The number of male students are higher than female students at university while more females attend junior college than males. The school year itself begins in April and consists of three terms. Each term is separated by a break; two short breaks in winter and spring and a month long break in summer. Most high schools, universities and some private elementary and junior high schools require students to take entrance examinations. To prepare for the exams, students will attend special preparation schools called juku in addition to their regular classes. .

Family structure also changed. The head of the household, usually the father, had complete control of everything. Fathers could withhold consent for children to be married and would control the family finances. After World War II, laws were changed to make each family member more equal. In general, the family in Japan is more important than the individual. Family is the basic unit of society and the basis of how people conduct themselves in the world. For that reason, employers will choose someone who is married over unmarried and a person who comes from a two-parent household. The evolution of the family has changed since the end of World War II. Click here to read about the types of families on Japan.


PiccachuTelevision met with great success in Japan. By 1990, only 1 percent of households were without a color television set. There are two main broadcasting systems. There is one public network (Japan Broadcasting Network or NHK) and five private networks. Both the public network and the private networks must comply with the Broadcasting Law of 1950. Several councils oversee general programming, but following their recommendations is voluntary. Most of the programming is centered on pure entertainment. Around one quarter of the programming involves cultural programs. The last part of programming, again around twenty-five percent, revolves around news and education programs. In order to retain a broadcasting licence, the networks are required to devote a certain amount of time to educational programs. Programming is similar to the United States. Early mornings have news programs followed by soap operas and dramas at midday. After school hours have children's programs followed by news programs during the mid evening hours. Prime time begriming at 7PM and extending to 9 PM are shows that have the biggest stars and can be dramas or comedies. AFter a late night news program, most programs are geared toward mature audiences or are re-runs of earlier shows. Most Japanese programming centered around family life, samurai, and the Japanese underworld (yakuza) themes. There are many premium or pay TV channels. One is TV Japan. Some of the Japanese television shows that have transferred to the United States include the Iron Chef (a cooking show), Endurance (a game show) and cartoons (Dragon Ball, Sailor Moon, Pokémon, Speed Racer, and Yu-Gi-Oh). Foreign movies are shown on pay TV channels. They can be watched in either Japanese or the original language they were made in.

GodzillaWhile the Japanese film industry began in 1899 with silent films, it is not until after World War II, that it grows in size and notoriety. During the US occupation of Japan, the Japanese were exposed to American animation that had been banned during the war. During the 1950s the movie industry began to boom. The most famous film to come out of this time period is Gojira or Godzilla. This first film spawns a series of films well into present day. Woman in the Dunes, released in 1964 receives Academy Award nominations for Best Director and Best Foreign Film. In 1965, a three-hour documentary called Tokyo Olympiad is released. The 1970s in Japanese film brings controversy in the film In the Realm of Senses. The film contained adult material that Japan censored. An uncut version was made but has not been shown in Japan. The film industry in Japan saw a decline in production in the 1980s. Television's popularity led to a decline in the number of films made. The 1980s saw the rise of Hayao Miyazaki who made the Valley of the Wind in 1984. In 2001, Hayao directed Spirited Away which won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.


Karaoke Man
Karaoke is popular past time in Japan that is spreading around the world. In Japanese karaoke comes from two words. "Karappo" meaning empty contributes the kara and "oke" comes from "okesutura," or orchestra. According to legend karaoke began in a Kobe restaurant over twenty years ago when the strolling guitarist did not show up and the owner played instrumental tapes of songs prompting sing along from the customers. Karaoke night spots spread to Kansai. It became a typical form of entertainment for Japanese business people. The business men and women would go to a karaoke bar and sing to relieve the stress of the work day.
Karaoke WomanWhile the practice of karaoke began in the bar and restaurant scene, it has spread to homes. People can buy karaoke machines and cds and practice at home. With poorly soundproofed houses, karaoke boxes on the street began appearing in 1984. Karaoke's popularity is said to be based in the Japanese culture of love of singing and watching others sing. Karaoke is often performed in multiple languages. Karaoke has spread throughout Asia and into the west.


Important People and Events

Important People and Events is still being researched and developed.

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July 2005 Created - | Saturday, February 25, 2006 Last Revised