The Symphony of Tragedy – Postwar Japan
Government is a sacred trust of the people, the authority for which is derived from the people, the powers of which are exercised by the representatives of the people, and the benefits of which are enjoyed by the people.
The fundamental human rights by this Constitution guaranteed to the people of Japan are fruits of the age-old struggle of man to be free; they have survived the many exacting tests for durability and are conferred upon this and future generations in trust, to be held for all time inviolate.
Last time, we talked about ideology, its ability to inflict ruination and despair, but also the ability to raise one country to its feet after a devastating defeat. This process restored postwar Japan, as quickly as it ruined it before. The only difference was the introduction of a new ideology, the new perspective and national order.
What could had been seen by the US soldier in Japan then was the definition of hell on earth: squalor, misery and death on every corner, street and in every home. People feeding themselves from the merchandise that they could have bought at the black market (some even ate grass and tree bark), destitution and malnutrition killed thousands. Entire streets were filled with poverty, soldiers with amputated limbs begging for food and people starving to death. Soon it was obvious that no resistance or ambushes could’ve been mounted and thus US soldiers didn’t need full gear and armament. It is not an exaggeration, it is true.
This happened after the WWII – the postwar Japan was occupied by the Allied forces for seven years and the country was controlled by the SCAP (Supreme Commander of Allied Powers). This prestigious, yet very demanding title was held by Douglas Mc Arthur(1880–1964), also known as the “American Shogun”.
McArthur, controlled the entire country from his HQ, stationed at the “Da-Ichi Seimei” building and coordinated the restoration effort nationwide.
Notable changes in postwar Japan:
- US AID was entering the country en masse to stabilize the society and ease the famine.
- Swords of almost every type were confiscated and the number of seized swords is estimated to have been around 5 million.
- Japanese military as well as the Zaibatsu (Big business conglomerates that supported the militaristic government during the WWII) were dissolved.
- State Shinto was rooted out of schools and religion and by doing this, the freedom of religion was established.
- Imperialism was systematically replaced by democracy.
- The emperor lost his absolute and divine power (Hirohito denounced it on the New Year’s Eve in 1946.).
- The system of education was reformed.
- Women were given the right to vote and gender equality was enforced.
- Allocation of political power to local state institutions thereby weakening the strong imposed centralization.
- The new constitution (promulgated on the 3rd of May, 1947.) eliminated the weakness that the previous had (Meiji constitution) – now the political system and the judicial one were two separate entities.
These reforms made a huge impact, in fact an immeasurable one on the Japanese society that is felt even today. Japan is fully focused on the idea of peace, having but a small army (JSDF – Japanese Self-Defense Forces) and spending only 1% of its BDP on it.
Despite huge risks and barriers of all kinds, the reforms that were implemented by the Allied forces were successful and helped postwar Japan to stand on her own two feet. The military clique and state Shinto were all gone, leaving a chance for prosperity to Japan after a long and bloody struggle, that was entirely unneeded.
However, the question of the cultural impact, world outlook and national ideals are the topics for a more serious and to an extent very difficult discussion in which objectivism is sometimes difficult to understand and attain. For now, let’s stop here.