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The occupation of Japan was, from start to finish,

hi an American operation.

General Douglans MacArthur, sole supreme commander of the Allied Power was
in charge. The Americans had insufficient men to make a military
government of Japan possible; so t hey decided to act through the existing
Japanese gobernment. General Mac Arthur became, except in name, dictator
of Japan. He imposed his will on Japan. Demilitarization was speedily
carried out, demobilization of the former imperial forces was complet ed by
Japan was extensively fire bomded during the second world war. The
stench of sewer gas, rotting garbage, and the acrid smell of ashes and
scorched debris pervaded the air. The Japanese people had to live in the
damp, and cold of the concrete buildings, because they were the only ones
left. Little remained of the vulnerable wooden frame, tile roof dwelling
lived in by most Japanese. When the first signs of winter set in, the
occupation forces immediately took over all the steam-heated buildings.

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The Japanese were out in the cold in the first post war winter fuel was
very hard to find, a family was considered lucky if they had a small barely
glowing charcoal brazier to huddle around. That next summer in random
spots new ho uses were built, each house was standardized at 216 square
feet, and required 2400 board feet of material in order to be built. A
master plan for a modernistic city had been drafted, but it was cast aside
because of the lack of time before the next winte r. The thousands of
people who lived in railroad stations and public parks needed housing.

All the Japanese heard was democracy from the Americans. All they cared
about was food. General MacAruther asked the government to send food, when
they refus ed he sent another telegram that said, “Send me food, or send me
American troops were forbidden to eat local food, as to keep from cutting
from cutting into the sparse local supply.

No food was was brought in expressly for the Japanese durning the first
six months after the American presence there. Herbert Hoover, serving as
chairman of a special presidential advisory committee, recommended minimum
imports to Japan of 870,000 tons of food to be distributed in different
urban areas. Fish, the source of so much of the protein in the Japanese
diet, were no longer available in adequate quantities because the fishing
fleet, particularly the large vessels, had been badly decimated by the war
and because the U.S.S.R. closed off the fishing grounds in the north.

The most important aspect of the democratization policy was the adoption
of a new constitution and its supporting legislation. When the Japanese
government proved too confused or too reluctant to come up with a
constitutional r eform that satisfied MacArthur, he had his own staff draft
a new constitution in February 1946. This, with only minor changes, was
then adopted by the Japanese government in the form of an imperial
amendment to the 1889 constitution and went into effect on May 3, 1947.

The new Constitution was a perfection of the British parliamentary form of
government that the Japanese had been moving toward in the 1920s. Supreme
political power was assigned to the Diet. Cabinets were made responsible to
the Diet by having the prime minister elected by the lower house. The
House of Peers was replaced by an elected House of Councillors. The
judicial system was made as independent of executive interference as
possible, and a newly created supreme court was given the power to review
the constitutionality of laws. Local governments were given greatly
The Emperor was reduced to being a symbol of the unity of the nation.

Japanese began to see him in person. He went to hospitals, schools, mines,
industrial plants; he broke ground for public buildings and snipped tape at
the opening of gates and highways. He was steered here and there, shown
things, and kept muttering, “Ah so, ah so.” People started to call him
“Ah-so-san.” Suddenly the puybli c began to take this shy, ill-at-ease man
to their hearts. They saw in him something of their own conqured selves,
force to do what was alien to them. In 1948, in a newspaper poll, Emperior
Hirohito was voted the most popular man in Japan.

Civil liberties were emphasized, women were given full equality with
men. Article 13 and 19 in the new Constitution, prohibits discrimination in
political, economic, and social relations because of race, creed, sex,
social status, or family origen. This is one of the most explicitly
progressive statements on human rights anywhere in law. Gerneral Douglas
MacArthur emerged as a radical feminist because he was “convinced that the
place of women in Japan must be brought to a level consistent with that of
women in the western democracies.” So the Japanese women got their equal
rights amendment long before a concerted effort was made to obtain one in
Compulsory education was extened to nine years, efforts were made to make
education more a traning in thinking than in rote memory, and the school
system above the six elementary grades was revised to conform to the
American pattern. This last mechanical change produced great confusion and
dissatisfaction but became so entrenched that it could not be re vised even
Japan’s agriculture was the quickest of national activities to recover
because of land reform. The Australians came up with the best plan. It
was basis was this: There were to be no absentee landlards. A p erson who
actually worked the land could own up to 7.5 arcers. Anyone living in a
village near by could keep 2.5 acres. Larger plots of land, exceeding
these limits, were bought up by the government and sold on easy terms to
former tenants. Within two years 2 million tenants became landowners. The
American occupation immediately gained not only a large constituency, for
the new owners had a vested interest in preserving the change, but also a
psychological momentum for other changes they wanted to ini tiate.

The American labor policy in Japan had a double goal: to encourage the
growth of democratic unions while keeping them free of communists. Union
organization was used as a balance to the power of management. To the
surprise of the America n authorties, this movement took a decidedly more
radical turn. In the desperate economic conditions of early postwar Japan,
there was little room for successful bargaining over wages, and many labor
unions instead made a bid to take over industry and o perate it in their
own behalf. Moreover large numbers of workers in Japan were government
employees, such as railroad workers and teachers, whose wages were set not
by management but by the government. Direct political action therefore
seemed more meani ngful to these people than wage bargaining. The Japanese
unions called for a general strike on February 1, 1947. MacArthur warned
the union leadership that he would not countenace a nationwide strike. The
strike leaders yieled to MacArthur’s will. The re after the political
appeal of radical labor action appeared to wane.

The Americans wanted to disband the great Zaibatsu trust as a means of
reducing Japan’s war-making potential. There were about 15 Zaibatsu
families such as – Mitsui, Mitsubishi, Yasuda, and Sumitomo. The Zaibatsu
controled the industry of Japan. MacArthur’s liaison men pressured the
Diet into passing the Deconcentration Law in December 1947. In the eyes of
most Japanese this law was designed to cripple Japanese business and i
ndustry forever. The first step in breaking up the Zaibatsu was to spread
their ownership out among the people and to prevent the old owners from
ever again exercising control. The stocks of all the key holding companies
were to be sold to the public. Friends of the old Zaibatsu bought the
stock. In the long run the Zaibatsu were not exactly destroyed, but a few
were weakened and others underwent a considerable shuffle.

The initial period of the occupation from 1945 to 1948 was marked by
reform, the second phase was one of stabilization. Greater attention was
given to improvement of the economy. Japan was a heavy expense to the
United States. The ordered breakup of the Zaibatsu was slowed down. The
union movement continued to grow, to the ult imate benefit of the worker.

Unremitting pressure on employers brought swelling wages, which meant the
steady expansion of Japan domestic consumer market. This market was a
major reason for Japan’s subsequent economic boom. Another boom to the
economy was the Korean War which proved to be a blessing in disguise.

Japan became the main staging area for military action in Korea and went on
a war boom economy with out having to fight in or pay for a war.

The treaty of peace with Japan was signed at San Francisco in September
1951 by Japan, the United States, and forty-seven other nations. The
Soviet Union refused to sign it. The treaty went into effect in April
1952, officially terminating the United States military occupation and
What is extraordinary in the Occupation and its aftermath was the
insignificance of the unpleasant. For the Japanese, the nobility of
American ideals and the essential benignity of the American presence
assuaged much of the bitterness and anguish of defeat. For the Americans,
the joys of promoting peace and democracy triumphed over the attendant
fustrations and grievances. Consequently, the Occupation served to lay down
a substantial capital of good will on which both America and Jap an would
Christopher, Robert C. /The Japanese Mind/. New York: Fawcett
La Cerda, John. /The Conqueror Comes to Tea/. New Brunswick: R utgers
Manchester, William. /American Caesar/. New York: Dell Publishing
Perry, John Curtis. /Beneath the Eagle’s Wings/. New York: Dodd, Mead
Reischauer, Edwin O. / The Japanese/. London: Belknap Press, 1977
Seth, Ronald. /Milestones in Japanese History/. Philadelphia: Chilton
Sheldon, Walt. /The Honorable Conquerors/. New York: The Macmillan


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