After the defeat of Japan in World War II, the United States led the Allies in the occupation and rehabilitation of the Japanese state. Between 1945 and 1952, the U.S. occupying forces, led by General Douglas A. MacArthur, enacted widespread military, political, economic, and social reforms.
Defeated Japan also had the blessing of being poor in natural resources and of virtually no economic interest to outsiders. It was spared the presence of carpetbaggers who might have tried to manipulate occupation policy to serve their private interests.
The groundwork for the Allied occupation of a defeated Japan was laid during the war. In a series of wartime conferences, the leaders of the Allied powers of Great Britain, the Soviet Union, the Republic of China, and the United States discussed how to disarm Japan, deal with its colonies (especially Korea and Taiwan), stabilize the Japanese economy, and prevent the remilitarization of the state in the future.
In the Potsdam Declaration, they called for Japan’s unconditional surrender; by August of 1945, that objective had been achieved.
In September 1945, General Douglas MacArthur took charge of the Supreme Command of Allied Powers (SCAP) and began the work of rebuilding Japan. Although Great Britain, the Soviet Union, and the Republic of China had an advisory role as part of an “Allied Council,” MacArthur had the final authority to make all decisions. The occupation of Japan can be divided into three phases: the initial effort to punish and reform Japan, the work to revive the Japanese economy, and the conclusion of a formal peace treaty and alliance.
The first phase, roughly from the end of the war in 1945 through 1947, involved the most fundamental changes for the Japanese Government and society. The Allies punished Japan for its past militarism and expansion by convening war crimes trials in Tokyo. At the same time, SCAP dismantled the Japanese Army and banned former military officers from taking roles of political leadership in the new government.
In the economic field, SCAP introduced land reform, designed to benefit the majority tenant farmers and reduce the power of rich landowners, many of whom had advocated for war and supported Japanese expansionism in the 1930s. MacArthur also tried to break up the large Japanese business conglomerates, or zaibatsu, as part of the effort to transform the economy into a free market capitalist system.
In 1947, Allied advisors essentially dictated a new constitution to Japan’s leaders. Some of the most profound changes in the document included downgrading the emperor’s status to that of a figurehead without political control and placing more power in the parliamentary system, promoting greater rights and privileges for women, and renouncing the right to wage war, which involved eliminating all non-defensive armed forces.
By late 1947 and early 1948, the emergence of an economic crisis in Japan alongside concerns about the spread of communism sparked a reconsideration of occupation policies.
This period is sometimes called the “reverse course.” In this stage of the occupation, which lasted until 1950, the economic rehabilitation of Japan took centre stage.
SCAP became concerned that a weak Japanese economy would increase the influence of the domestic communist movement, and with a communist victory in China’s civil war increasingly likely, the future of East Asia appeared to be at stake.
Occupation policies to address the weakening economy ranged from tax reforms to measures aimed at controlling inflation.
However, the most serious problem was the shortage of raw materials required to feed Japanese industries and markets for finished goods.
The outbreak of the Korean War in 1950 provided SCAP with just the opportunity it needed to address this problem, prompting some occupation officials to suggest that, “Korean came along and saved us”.
After the UN entered the Korean War, Japan became the principal supply depot for UN forces. The conflict also placed Japan firmly within the confines of the U.S. defence perimeter in Asia, assuring the Japanese leadership that whatever the state of its military, no real threat would be made against Japanese soil.
In the third phase of the occupation, beginning in 1950, SCAP deemed the political and economic future of Japan firmly established and set about securing a formal peace treaty to end both the war and the occupation. The U.S. perception of international threats had changed so profoundly in the years between 1945 and 1950 that the idea of a re-armed and militant Japan no longer alarmed U.S. officials; instead, the real threat appeared to be the creep of communism, particularly in Asia.

The final agreement allowed the United States to maintain its bases in Okinawa and elsewhere in Japan, and the U.S. Government promised Japan a bilateral security pact.
In September of 1951, fifty-two nations met in San Francisco to discuss the treaty, and ultimately, forty-nine of them signed it. Notable holdouts included the USSR, Poland and Czechoslovakia, all of which objected to the promise to support the Republic of China and not do business with the People’s Republic of China that was forced on Japan by U.S. politicians.
Shigeru Yoshida served as Prime Minister in 1946–1947 and 1948–1954, and played a key role in guiding Japan through the occupation.
His policies, known as the Yoshida Doctrine, proposed that Japan should forge a tight relationship with the United States and focus on developing the economy rather than pursuing a proactive foreign policy. Yoshida was one of the longest serving Prime Minister in Japan’s history. Yoshida’s Liberal Party merged in 1955 into the new Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which went on to dominate Japanese politics for the remainder of the Showa Period.
Shigeru Yoshida - Prime Minister of Japan from 1946 to 1954
Although the Japanese economy was in bad shape in the immediate post-war years, an austerity program implemented in 1949 by finance expert Joseph Dodge, ended inflation. The Korean War (1950–1953) was a major boon to Japanese business. In 1949, the Yoshida cabinet created the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) with a mission to promote economic growth through close cooperation between the government and big business
MITI sought successfully to promote manufacturing and heavy industry, and encourage exports. The factors behind Japan’s post-war economic growth included technology and quality control techniques; close economic and defence cooperation with the United States, non-tariff barriers to imports, restrictions on labour unionization, long work hours, and a generally favourable global economic environment. Japanese corporations successfully retained a loyal and experienced workforce through the system of lifetime employment, which assured their employees a safe job.
By 1955, the Japanese economy had grown beyond pre-war levels, and by 1968, it had become the second largest capitalist economy in the world. The Gross National Product(GNP) expanded at an annual rate of nearly 10% from 1956 until the 1973 oil crisis slowed growth to a still-rapid average annual rate of just over 4% until 1991.
Life expectancy rose and Japan’s population increased to 123 million by 1990. Ordinary Japanese people became wealthy enough to purchase a wide array of consumer goods. During this period, Japan became the world’s largest manufacturer of automobiles and a leading producer of electronics.
Japan signed the Plaza Accord in 1985 to depreciate the US dollar against the Yen and other currencies. By the end of 1987, the Nikkei stock market index had doubled and the Tokyo Stock Exchange became the largest in the world. During the ensuing economic bubble, stock and real estate loans grew rapidly.
Japan became a member of the United Nations in 1956 and further cemented its international standing in 1964, when it hosted the Olympic Games in Tokyo. This also made Karate-do a recognised and competitive sport in the Olympics and made open to the rest of the world as an official sporting activity.
Japan was a close ally of the United States during the Cold War, though this alliance did not have unanimous support from the Japanese people. As requested by the United States, Japan reconstituted its army in 1954 under the name Japan Self-Defence Forces (JSDF), though some Japanese insisted that the very existence of the JSDF was a violation of Article 9 of Japan’s constitution. In 1960, hundreds of thousands protested against amendments to the USJapan Security Treaty.

Japan successfully normalized relations with the Soviet Union in 1956, despite an ongoing dispute over the ownership of the Kuril Island, and with South Korea in 1965, despite an ongoing dispute over the ownership of the islands of Liancourt Rocks. In accordance with US policy, Japan recognized the Republic of China on Taiwan as the legitimate government of China after World War II, though Japan switched its recognition to the People’s Republic of China in 1972.

Among cultural developments, the immediate post-occupation period became a golden age for Japanese media arts. The reasons for this include the abolition of government censorship,
low film production costs, expanded access to new film techniques and technologies, and huge domestic audiences at a time when other forms of recreation were relatively scarce.
Today there is a notable growth of multi-billion companies in gaming, anime, music and cinema industry.

A bustling street in Shibuya,Tokyo - Japan
Through these lessons learnt by Japan, we can derive a very good anchor point to rapid development of an economy, which had bartered profoundly by the World War 2. The upper hand that we have in Africa is that we have not been engaged in a war amongst our nations to the severity of world wars. We are well known of unity, cultural diversity and firm rules of way of conduct, which can be vastly applicable in developmental agendas. Good and planned governance led to Japan healing from its bloody past to a modern era first class economy. Our leaders can emulate this in order to create a super power continent independent from external influences and exploitation.
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This Post Has One Comment

  1. Cheryl

    Lessons worth learning & emulating.
    They say a nation needs to learn from history first before coming up with future development strategies and surely Japan has grown in independence from this.
    I like it👏👏👏

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