How World War Two changed Japan between 1945 and 1990

Essay by krisworldHigh School, 12th gradeB+, March 2004

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In August 1945 an exhausted and battle-weary Japan accepted the surrender terms of the Allied powers, and by imperial edict the people laid down their arms. For more than six years after the surrender, Japan was placed under Allied, mainly American, control. Between 1945 and 1948, Japan was embroiled in utter confusion as the country desperately tried to rebuild itself.

After the cessation of World War Two, Japan was led by General Douglas Macarthur who acted as the country's leader whilst it was under occupation by the USA. During this period of occupation, various social and political reforms were carried out, whereby agricultural land was redistributed in favor of former tenants and workers were assured of their rights to organize trade unions and to strike. At the top of Macarthur's agenda was demilitarization as it spread to every corner of Japan's society. This resulted in the demobilisation of the country's armed forces as the first priority.

Of interesting consequences was the initiation of special war crimes trials to punish those responsible for the war and who had committed atrocities on conquered people and prisons and prisoners of war. Obviously, this was a push from the Allied forces who had fought the Japanese soldiers and returned home to tell of the atrocities. At that time, the general Japanese population as a whole probably had little idea of the many atrocities committed by their armed forces.

Next on Macarthur's agenda was political reform. Such political reforms were considered necessary in order to give Japan a cleaner slate to build from, namely the them prevalent authoritarian societal structure. Under the new constitution, the Emperor gave up all powers associated with the government and became a constitutional monarch and a more democratic parliamentary structure in the Diet. Further, a bill of rights...