Japanese history Wednesday, Jun 7 2006 

Traditionally, Japan dates from 660 bc. The earliest surviving records of Japanese history, aside from Chinese accounts, are contained in two semimythical chronicles, the Koji-ki and the Nihon shoki (or Nihongi), the former compiled in ad 712 and the latter in ad 720. These chronicles purport to concern events from about the 7th century bc to the 7th century ad. The chronicles and other collections of legends were the basis of the traditional accounts of the history of Japan. The Nihon shoki gives 660 bc as the year in which Jimmu, the first emperor of Japan, ascended the throne, thereby founding the Japanese Empire.

Early Settlement.
Archaeological and historical research has shown that the Ainu, a tribal people whose origins are unknown, were probably the earliest inhabitants of the Japanese Archipelago. They may have populated all the Japanese islands in the 2d and 1st millennia bc. Invading peoples from nearby areas in Asia began expeditions of conquest to the islands. Gradually, the Ainu were forced to the northern and eastern portions of Honshu by the invaders. According to the chronicles, Emperor Jimmu, having established his rule in Kyushu, led his forces northward and extended his domains to Yamato, a province in central Honshu, which gave its name to the imperial house and eventually to all ancient Japan.

The Imperial Clan.
The ruling Yamato chieftain consolidated his power by making a primitive form of Shinto the general religion and, thus, a political instrument. In the early centuries of the Christian era the Yamato chieftains exerted indirect control over various autonomous tribal units known as uji. Each uji had its own clan gods and its own domain. The most important of the uji were the Omi, who claimed divine descent, and the Muraji, who were said to be descended from nobles of the pre-Yamato era. The rule of the imperial clan, regarded as the head clan, was more nominal than actual, although its principal deity, the sun goddess, was worshipped nationally.

About ad 360 Empress Jingo (fl. about 356–80), a legendary ruler who came to be considered a goddess, took over the government at the death of her husband, Emperor Chuai (r. 356–63). The warrior empress is said to have equipped an army and invaded and conquered a portion of Korea. Korean culture, greatly influenced by adjacent China, had already advanced to a comparatively high level. During the next several centuries intercourse between Japan and Korea, including the movement of people, considerably stimulated the developing civilization of the islands. Chinese writing, literature, and philosophy became popular at the court of Yamato. At the beginning of the 5th century the Chinese script came into use at the Yamato court. About 430 the imperial court appointed its first historiographers, and more dependable records were kept. The most important event of the period was the importation of Buddhism. This is usually dated in 552, when the king of Pakche, in southwestern Korea, sent Buddhist priests to Japan, together with religious images, Buddhist scriptures, calendars, and methods of keeping time. The imported culture soon became strongly rooted in the archipelago, and while contacts between the two countries weakened after the Japanese were driven out of Korea in 562, it made little difference; by the early 7th century Buddhism had become the official religion of Japan.

In 604, the first Japanese constitution, comprising a simple set of maxims for good government, was drafted. It was strongly influenced by the centralized government of China. Originally 12, and later 8, hierarchical ranks of court officials were established. A great council, the Dajokan, ruled the realm through local governors sent out from the capital. Nara in Yamato became the fixed capital in 710; in 794 Kyoto was made the imperial residence and, with few interruptions, remained the capital until 1868. By the 9th century the Yamato court had come to rule all the main islands of Japan except Hokkaido.

Fujiwara Leadership
(858–1160). During the 9th century the emperors began to withdraw from public life. Delegating the affairs of government to subordinates, they went into seclusion and, in time, came to be regarded as abstractions in the national life rather than its directors. The retirement of the emperors was accompanied by the rising power of the Fujiwara, the leading family of court nobles. In 858 the FUJIWARA became virtual masters of Japan, maintaining their power for the next three centuries. In that year a Fujiwara prince, Yoshifusa (804–72), became regent for his grandson, then less than one year old. The Fujiwara monopolized most of the court and administrative offices. In 884 Fujiwara Mototsune (836–91) became the first official civil dictator (kampaku). The greatest of the Fujiwara leaders was Michinaga (966–1027), whose five daughters married successive emperors, and who was the leading figure at the court from 995 to 1027.

The period of Fujiwara supremacy was marked by a great flowering of Japanese culture and by the growth of a civilization greatly influenced but no longer dominated by the Chinese one, which had been its fountainhead. The dictatorship of Michinaga is regarded as the classical age of Japanese literature. The character of the government also changed under the Fujiwara ascendancy. The centralized administration, which became rife with corruption, weakened, and the country in time was divided up into large, hereditary estates, owned by the nobles as tax-free emoluments for their official positions. Most peasants were only too willing to attach their lands to such estates in order to escape the heavy burden of taxes on the public lands that had been meted out of them. Thus, great private estates became characteristic of landownership throughout the empire.

In the provinces, local groups of warriors banded together for protection, forming protofeudal groups of lords and vassals. The leaders of these groups were often members of the TAIRA and the Minamoto clans, both of which had been founded by imperial princes. The Taira warriors acquired their military renown and power in the southwest; the Minamoto, in the east. In the 12th century both great military clans started to extend their power to the court itself, dominated by the Fujiwara, and a struggle for control of Japan ensued. In 1156 a civil war was waged between the forces of two rival emperors, and, after a second war in 1159–60, the Taira crushed the Minamoto and seized control of Japan from the Fujiwara. The Taira leader, Kiyomori (1118–81), was named prime minister in 1167, and, modeling his policies on those of the Fujiwara, married his daughter to an imperial prince, their infant son becoming emperor in 1180. In the same year the Minamoto leader, Yoritomo, led an uprising in eastern Japan, and the Taira were driven from the capital. The civil war endured five years, ending in 1185 with the naval battle of Dannoura, near present Shimonoseki on the Inland Sea. Yoritomo became the leader of Japan, ending the era of imperial administration and inaugurating a military dictatorship that ruled Japan for the next seven centuries.

Early Shoguns
(12th–16th cent.). Stressing the almost complete division between the civil and military phases of government, Yoritomo established a separate military capital at Kamakura, near Tokyo, in 1185. During the Kamakura period, which lasted from 1185 to 1333, Japanese art flourished. Also from that time forward Japanese feudalism developed until it was stronger than the imperial administration had ever been. In 1192 Yoritomo was appointed to the office of Seiitaishogun (“barbarian–subduing great general”), usually shortened to shogun, the military commander in chief. Through his military network, Yoritomo was already the virtual ruler of Japan, and his shogunate made him titular leader as well. The emperor and court were largely powerless before the shogun. Kamakura became the true court and government, while Kyoto remained a titular court, without power.

In 1219 the HOJO family, by means of a series of conspiracies and murders that eliminated Minamoto heirs and their supporters, became the military rulers of Japan. No Hojo ever became shogun; instead, the family prevailed on the emperor to appoint figurehead shoguns, sometimes small children, while a Hojo leader governed as the shikken, or hereditary regent, with the actual power. For more than 100 years the Hojo maintained their rule. In 1274 and again in 1281 the Mongols, then in control of China and Korea, attempted to invade Japan, each time unsuccessfully. The invasions were a serious drain on Hojo resources, and the Hojos were unable to reward their vassals for support during the invasions. An able emperor, Daigo II (1287–1339), led a rebellion that was climaxed in 1333 with the capture of Kamakura and the downfall of the Hojo. For the next two years Daigo tried to restore the imperial administration. One of his vassals, Ashikaga Tokouji (1305–58), revolted and, driving Daigo from Kyoto, set up his own candidate for emperor in 1226. Daigo and his supporters fled to Yoshino, a region south of Nara in Honshu, and established a rival court. For the next 56 years civil war between Daigo and his successors and the emperors controlled by the ASHIKAGA who became shoguns, ravaged Japan. At length, in 1392, an Ashikaga envoy persuaded the true emperor at Yoshino to abdicate and relinquish the sacred imperial regalia. With their nominees acknowledged as rightful emperors, the Ashikaga shoguns felt empowered to establish their own feudal control over all Japan.

By this time, however, a class of hereditary, feudal lords, called daimyo, had developed in all parts of Japan. The Ashikaga shoguns were never able to exercise absolute control over the powerful daimyo. In general, the period of Ashikaga ascendancy was one of great refinement of manners, of great art and literary endeavor, and, notably, of the development of Buddhism as a political force. For some centuries Buddhist monasteries had been so wealthy and powerful that they were great forces in the country. Buddhist monks, clad in armor and bearing weapons, often turned the tide of medieval battles with their strong organizations and fortified monasteries. Local wars among feudal lords became common by the 16th century, which is known in Japanese history as the Epoch of a Warring Country.

Three great contemporary warlords finally established order in the strife-torn empire. Oda Nobunaga, a general of Taira descent, broke the power of the monasteries between 1570 and 1580, destroying Buddhism as a political force. Toyotomi Hideyoshi, a follower of Oda, united all Japan under his rule by 1590. Using his power to its greatest extent, the dictator marked out the boundaries of all feudal fiefs. Finally, in 1603, the successor to Hideyoshi, Ieyasu (1542–1616), became the first of the TOKUGAWA shoguns; they ruled Japan for the succeeding two and a half centuries.

The Tokugawa Shogunate
(1603–1867). Ieyasu made Edo (later named Tokyo) his capital. In a short time the city became the greatest in the empire, developing culturally and economically as well as politically. Ieyasu brought the feudal organization that had been planned by Hideyoshi to fulfillment. The daimyos and administrators, as well as the emperor and his court, were put under the strict control of the shogunate. Social classes became rigidly stratified. The form of feudalism established by Ieyasu and the succeeding Tokugawa shoguns endured until the end of the feudal period in the late 19th century.

Another result of Tokugawa domination was the imposed isolation of Japan from the Western world. The first Europeans to visit Japan were Portuguese traders who had landed on an island near Kyushu about 1542. St. Francis Xavier, the Jesuit missionary, had brought Christianity to Japan in 1549. During the remainder of the century about 300,000 Japanese were converted to Roman Catholicism, despite disapproval and persecution by Hideyoshi. Portuguese, Spanish, and Dutch traders visited Japan more and more frequently. The shoguns became convinced that the introduction of Christianity was designed to serve as a preliminary to European conquest. In 1612 Christians became subject to Official persecution, and various massacres occurred. The Spanish were refused permission to land in Japan after 1624, and a series of edicts in the next decade forbade travel abroad, prohibiting even the building of large ships. The only Europeans permitted to remain in Japan were a small group of Dutch traders restricted to the artificial island of Deshima in the harbor of Nagasaki and continually subjected to indignities and limitations on their activities. During the succeeding two centuries the forms of Japanese feudalism remained static. Bushido, the code of the feudal warriors, became the standard of conduct for the great lords and the lesser nobility, the professional warriors called samurai. Japanese culture, closed to outside influence, grew inward and received intensive development resulting in extreme nationalism.

During the 18th century, however, new social and economic conditions in the islands began to indicate the inevitable collapse of rigid feudalism. A large, wealthy merchant class rose in great strength. At that time, too, peasant disturbances became more frequent because of the impoverishment of the landless peasantry.

Japan’s awakening consciousness of the outside world was formally acknowledged in 1720, when the Tokugawa shogun Yoshimune (1677–1751) repealed the proscription on European books and study. By the early 19th century, visits from Europeans, mostly traders and explorers, became comparatively frequent, although the ban was still officially in force. The U.S. was particularly anxious to make a treaty of friendship and, if possible, one of commerce with Japan. One of the objects behind this American policy was to secure the release of American whalers from ships wrecked on the Japanese coast. In 1853 the American government sent a formal mission to the emperor of Japan; this mission was headed by Commodore Matthew Calbraith Perry, who arrived with a squadron of ships. Following extended negotiations, Perry and representatives of the emperor signed a treaty on March 31, 1854, establishing trade relations between the U.S. and Japan. In 1860 a Japanese embassy was sent to the U.S., and two years later Japanese trade missions visited European capitals to negotiate formal agreements.

The opening of Japan was achieved more through the show of superior force by Western nations than by an actual desire for foreign relations on the part of Japanese leaders. The Japanese warlords, equipped with medieval weapons and trained in small-scale warfare, were dismayed by Western military equipment and dared not, at first, resist. Nevertheless, a militant antiforeign faction immediately developed, and attacks on foreign traders became common in the 1860s. The leaders of the antiforeign movement were the great clans that had always resented Tokugawa rule from Edo. They rallied around the emperor at Kyoto and, with imperial support, initiated military and naval attacks on foreign ships in Japanese harbors. The antiforeign movement was short-lived, however; it ended in 1864, following a show of force by the Western powers, but it resulted in the decline of the shogunate and the restoration of imperial administration.

Restoration of Imperial Rule.
In 1867 the last shogun, Hitotsubashi (1837–1902), resigned, and the emperor, Mutsuhito, regained the position of actual head of the government, with the support of the southwestern clans. Mutsuhito took the name Meiji (“enlightened government”) to designate his reign, and this became his imperial title. The royal capital was transferred to Edo, renamed Tokyo (“eastern capital”). In 1869 the lords of the great Choshu, Hizen, Satsuma, and Tosa clans surrendered their feudal fiefs to the emperor, and, after a succession of such surrenders by other clans, an imperial decree in 1871 abolished all fiefs and created centrally administered prefectures in their stead.

Under the direction of such farsighted statesmen as Prince Iwakura Tomomi (1835–83) and Marquis Okubo Toshimichi (1830?–78), the Japanese remained untouched by the European imperialism that, at the time, was engulfing other Asian countries. By concerted imitation of Western civilization in all its aspects, they set out to make Japan itself a world power. French officers were engaged to remodel the army; British seamen reorganized the navy; and Dutch engineers supervised new construction in the islands. Japanese were sent abroad to analyze foreign governments and to select their best features for duplication in Japan. A new penal code was modeled on that of France, and a ministry of education was established in 1871 to develop a system of universal education based on that of the U.S. Universal military service was decreed in 1872, and four years later the samurai class of professional warriors was abolished by decree.

Changes in the Japanese political system were imposed from the top and were not the result of political demands by the people. In 1881 the emperor promised formally to establish a national legislature, and in 1884, preparing for an upper house, he created a peerage with five orders of nobility. A cabinet modeled on that of Germany was organized in 1885 with Marquis Ito Hirobumi as the first prime minister, and a privy council was created in 1888, both being responsible to the emperor. The new constitution, drafted by Marquis Ito after constitutional research in Europe and the U.S., was promulgated in 1889. A bicameral diet was designed to have a house of peers of 363 members and a 463-member lower house elected by citizens paying direct annual taxes of not less than 15 yen. The emperor’s powers were carefully safeguarded; he was permitted to issue decrees as laws, and only he could decide on war or the cessation of war. Moreover, the lower house could be dissolved and the upper one adjourned by imperial decree. Rapid industrialization, under government direction, accompanied this political growth.

The empire also embarked on an aggressive foreign policy. In 1879 Japan had taken over the Ryukyu Islands, a Japanese protectorate since 1609, designating them the prefecture of Okinawa. The struggle for control of Korea became the next step in Japanese expansion. Conflict with China in Korea resulted in the Sino-Japanese War of 1894–95, in which the modernized Japanese forces completely and easily defeated the Chinese army and navy. By the terms of the Treaty of Shimonoseki in April 1895, China gave Japan Taiwan (Formosa), the Pescadores, and a large monetary indemnity. The treaty had originally also awarded the Liaodong (Liao-tung) Peninsula (southern Manchuria) to Japan, but intervention by Russia, France, and Germany forced Japan to accept an additional indemnity instead.

The decisive Japanese triumph indicated to the world that a new, strong power was rising in the East. As a preliminary to negotiating full equality with the great powers, Japan, in 1890, had completely revised its criminal, civil, and commercial law codes on Western models. Thus, the empire was in a position to demand the revocation of extraterritoriality clauses from its treaties. By 1899 all the great powers had signed treaties abandoning extraterritoriality in Japan. In 1894 the U.S. and Great Britain were the first nations given the freedom of the entire empire for trade.

Expansionist Period.
In pursuing its interests in Korea, Japan inevitably came into conflict with Russia. Resentment against Russia was already high, because that country had been the principal agent in depriving Japan of the Liaodong Peninsula following the Chinese war. The two countries signed a treaty pledging the independence of Korea in 1898, but allowing Japanese commercial interest to predominate there. Two years later in 1900, following the Boxer Rebellion in China, the Russians occupied Manchuria and, from bases there, began to penetrate northern Korea.

In 1904, after repeated attempts to negotiate the matter had failed, Japan broke off diplomatic relations with Russia and attacked Russian-leased Port Arthur (now part of Dalian) in southern Manchuria, beginning the Russo-Japanese War. Japan won its second modern war in less than 18 months. The peace treaty, mediated by U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt, was signed in Portsmouth, N.H., on Sept. 5, 1905. Japan was awarded the lease (to 1923, later extended to 1997) of the Liaodong Peninsula, including the Guangdong territory, and the southern half of Sakhalin, thereafter known as Karafuto. Moreover, the Russians acknowledged the paramount interest of Japan in Korea. Five years later (1910) Korea was formally annexed to the Japanese and named Chosen.

Japanese-American relations had for some years been strained by difficulties over Japanese immigration to the U.S. Thousands of Japanese had settled in the states of California, Oregon, and Washington, and the American residents of these states demanded the exclusion of the Japanese by legislation similar to the Chinese Exclusion Acts of 1882, 1892, and 1902. This agitation was led by American labor unions, resenting the fact that Japanese laborers were willing to work for lower wages and longer hours than those called for by American labor policies. Formal protests against the treatment of Japanese in Pacific Coast states were delivered by the Japanese ambassador in Washington in 1906 and, after a series of negotiations, Japan and the U.S. concluded a so-called gentleman’s agreement in 1908. By this extralegal agreement, confirmed in 1911, the Japanese government consented to withhold passports from laborers, and the U.S. Department of State promised to disapprove anti-Japanese legislation. The problem, however, was never fully resolved, and it contributed to anti-American feeling in Japan, which steadily increased during the following three decades.

World War I.
In August 1914, following the outbreak of World War I, Japan sent an ultimatum to Germany, demanding the evacuation of the German-leased territory of Jiaozhou in northeastern China. When Germany refused to comply, Japan entered the war on the side of the Allies. Japanese troops occupied the German-held Marshall, Caroline, and Mariana islands in the Pacific Ocean. In 1915 the empire submitted the Twenty-one Demands to China, calling for industrial, railroad, and mining privileges and a promise that China would not lease or give any coastal territory opposite Taiwan to a nation other than Japan. These demands, some of which were quickly granted, were the first statement of the Japanese policy of domination over China and the Far East. A year later, in 1916, China ceded commercial rights in Inner Mongolia and southern Manchuria to Japan.

As a result of the World War I peace settlement, Japan received the Pacific Islands, which it had occupied as mandates from the League of Nations, the empire having become a charter member of that organization. The leased territory of Jiaozhou was also awarded to Japan, but the empire restored it to China in 1922 as a result of an agreement, the Shandong Treaty, made during the Washington Conference in 1922. This conference also resulted in the replacement of the Anglo-Japanese Alliance by the Four-Power Treaty, by which Japan, France, Great Britain, and the U.S. pledged themselves to respect one another’s territories in the Pacific Ocean and to consult if their territorial rights were threatened. The Nine-Power Treaty (Belgium, Great Britain, the Netherlands, Portugal, Japan, France, Italy, China, and the U.S.) bound the signatories to respect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of China. An additional treaty between Great Britain, the U.S., Japan, France, and Italy dealt with naval disarmament on a 5–5–3–1.67–1.67 ratio, respectively, with the Japanese navy being limited to 315,000 tons of capital ships.

With the adoption of the Shandong and Nine-Power treaties, Japan demonstrated a conciliatory attitude toward China. Nevertheless, Japanese commercial interests in China were still regarded as paramount over Chinese interests. Russo-Japanese relations, which had become strained after the Russian Revolution in 1917 and the subsequent invasion of Siberia and northern Sakhalin by the Japanese in 1918, became more amicable after Japan recognized the Soviet regime in 1925. This less aggressive attitude on the part of the Japanese was due partly to a surge of political liberalism stimulated by the victory of the democratic nations in World War I. Beginning in 1919 the Japanese government was assailed with increasing demands for universal suffrage, an issue that occasioned rioting in the cities. In answer to these demands the government passed (1919) a reform act doubling the electorate (to 3 million). The protests became even more intense, however, and universal suffrage was granted in 1925. The electorate increased sharply, to 14 million. Reflecting the rising interest in popular government, the political trend during the 1920s was toward party cabinets and away from oligarchic rule by the nobility, the military leaders, and the so-called elder statesmen. This movement was short-lived, however.

Ascendancy of the Militarists.
In 1926 Hirohito, the unassuming grandson of Emperor Meiji, succeeded to the throne. He adopted Showa (“enlightened peace”) as the official designation for his reign, but when Gen. Baron Tanaka Giichi became prime minister in 1927, he declared the resumption of an aggressive policy toward China. The impelling force in this change of policy lay in the expansion of Japanese industry, which had begun with the start of World War I in 1914 and was still continuing at a rapid pace, requiring new markets for the increased output.

Occupation of Manchuria.
In the late 1920s Japan, in effect, gained domination of the administrative and economic affairs of Manchuria. The Chinese, however, increasingly resented Japanese interference in what was, technically, part of China. On Sept. 18, 1931, the Japanese army in Guangdong, claiming that an explosion on the Japanese-owned South Manchuria Railroad had been caused by Chinese saboteurs, seized the arsenals of Shenyang and of several neighboring cities. Chinese troops were forced to withdraw from the area. Entirely without official sanction by the Japanese government, the Guangdong army extended its operations into all Manchuria and, in about five months, was in possession of the entire region. Manchuria was then established as the puppet state of Manchukuo; Henry Pu-Yi (Hsüan T’ung as last emperor of China) was crowned emperor of Manchukuo in 1934 as K’ang Te.

All pretense of party government in Japan was abandoned as a result of the occupation of Manchuria. Viscount Saito Makoto (1858–1936) formed a so-called national cabinet composed chiefly of men who belonged to no party. The international repercussions of the Manchurian incident resulted in an inquiry by a League of Nations commission, acting by authority of the Kellogg-Briand Pact. In 1933, when the League Assembly requested that Japan cease hostilities in China, Japan instead announced its withdrawal from the league, to take effect in 1935. To consolidate its gains in China, Japan landed troops in Shanghai to put down an effective Chinese boycott of Japanese goods. In the north the Japanese Manchurian army occupied and annexed the province of Chengde and threatened to occupy the cities of Beijing and Tianjin. Unable to resist the superior Japanese forces, the Chinese, in May 1933, recognized the Japanese conquest by signing a truce.

The independent action of the army indicated the power of the military leaders in Japanese politics. In 1936 the empire signed an anti-Communist agreement with Germany and, one year later, a similar pact with Italy. The establishment of almost complete military rule, with the cooperation of the Zaibatzu, or family trusts, made aggression and expansion the avowed policy of the empire.

War with China.
On July 7, 1937, a Chinese patrol clashed with Japanese troops on the Marco Polo Bridge near Beijing. Using the incident as a pretext to begin hostilities, the Japanese army in Manchuria moved troops into the area, precipitating another Sino-Japanese war, although it was never actually declared. A Japanese force quickly overran northern China. By the end of 1937 the Japanese navy had completed a blockade of almost the entire Chinese coast. The army advanced into eastern and southern China throughout 1937 and 1938, capturing, successively, Shanghai, Suzhou, Nanjing, Tsingtao, Guangzhou, and Hankou, and forcing the Chinese army into the west. A Japanese force occupied the island of Hainan. Protests by foreign governments concerning property owned by their nationals and mistreatment by Japanese troops of foreigners who were residing in China, were, in effect, ignored by the empire. By the end of 1938 the war with China had reached a virtual stalemate. The Japanese army was checked by the mountains of central China, behind which the Chinese waged guerrilla warfare against the invaders.

Japan, meanwhile, was subjected to a controlled war economy. In 1937 a cabinet headed by Prince Konoye Fumimaro relegated the entire conduct of the war, without government interference, to military and naval leaders.

World War II.
The beginning of World War II in Europe, in September 1939, gave Japan new opportunity for aggression in Southeast Asia. These aggressive acts were prefaced by a series of diplomatic arrangements. In September 1940 the empire concluded a tripartite alliance with Germany and Italy, the so-called Rome-Berlin Axis, pledging mutual and total aid for a period of ten years. Japan considered, however, that a 1939 neutrality pact between Germany and the Soviet Union had released the empire from any obligation incurred by the 1936 anti-Communist alliance. In September 1941, therefore, Japan signed a neutrality pact with the Soviet Union, thus protecting the northern border of Manchuria. A year before, with the consent of the German-sponsored Vichy government of France, Japanese forces occupied French Indochina. At the same time Japan tried to obtain economic and political footholds in the Netherlands East Indies.

These acts in Indochina and the East Indies contributed to increasing hostility between Japan and the U.S. The protection of American property in eastern Asia had been a source of friction since the Japanese invasion of China in 1937. Continued protests from Joseph Clark Grew (1880–1965), then U.S. ambassador to Japan, were fruitless. In October 1941, Gen. Tojo Hideki, who was militantly anti-American, became the Japanese premier and minister of war. Negotiations aimed at settling the differences between the two countries continued in Washington throughout November, even after the decision for war had been made in Tokyo.

Attack on Pearl Harbor.
On Dec. 7, 1941, without warning and while negotiations between American and Japanese diplomats were still in progress, Japanese carrier-based airplanes attacked Pearl Harbor, the main U.S. naval base in the Pacific. Simultaneous attacks were launched by the Japanese army, navy, and air force against the Philippines, Guam, Wake Island, Midway Island, Hong Kong, British Malaya, and Thailand. On December 8 the U.S. Congress declared war on Japan, as did all Allied powers except the USSR.

For about a year following the successful surprise attacks, Japan maintained the offensive in Southeast Asia and the islands of the South Pacific. The empire designated eastern Asia and its environs as the “Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere” and made effective propaganda of the slogan “Asia for the Asians.” Moreover, nationalistic elements in many of the countries of eastern Asia gave tacit and, in some cases, active support to the Japanese, because they saw an apparent way to free themselves from Western imperialism. In December 1941, Japan invaded Thailand, forcing the government to conclude a treaty of alliance. Japanese troops occupied Burma, British Malaya, Borneo, Hong Kong, and the Netherlands East Indies. By May 1942 the Philippines were in Japanese hands. Striking toward Australia and New Zealand, Japanese forces landed in New Guinea, New Britain (now part of Papua New Guinea), and the Solomon Islands. A Japanese task force also invaded and occupied Attu, Agattu, and Kiska in the Aleutian Islands off the Alaskan coast of North America. Ultimately, however, the war became a naval struggle for control of the vast expanses of the Pacific Ocean.

The tide turns.
The tide of battle began to change in 1942, when an Allied naval and air force contained a Japanese invasion fleet in the Battle of the Coral Sea between New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. A month later a larger Japanese fleet was defeated in the Battle of Midway. Using combined operations of ground, naval, and air units under command of the American general Douglas MacArthur, Allied forces fought northward from island to island in the South Pacific, invading and driving out the Japanese. In July 1944, after the fall of Saipan, a major Japanese base in the Mariana Islands, the Japanese leaders realized that Japan had lost the war. Tojo was forced to resign, weakening the hold of the military oligarchy. In November 1944 the U.S. began a series of major air raids over Japan by B-29 Superfortress bombers based on Saipan. In early 1945 an air base even closer to Japan (about 1200 km/750 mi) was acquired with the conquest, after a fierce battle, of Iwo Jima. During the same period Allied forces under the British admiral Louis Mountbatten, 1st earl Mountbatten of Burma, defeated the Japanese armies in Southeast Asia. In the next four months, from May through August, bombing attacks devastated Japanese communications, industry, and what was left of the navy. These attacks were climaxed on Aug. 6, 1945, by the dropping of the first atomic bomb on the city of Hiroshima. Two days later, on August 8, the Soviet Union declared war on Japan, and on August 9 a second atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. Soviet forces invaded Manchuria, northern Korea, and Karafuto. The Allied powers had agreed during the Potsdam Conference that only unconditional surrender would be acceptable from the Japanese government. On August 14 Japan accepted the Allied terms, signing the formal surrender aboard the American battleship USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay on September 2.

Dissolution of Empire.
The U.S. Army was designated, by the Allied powers, as the army of occupation in the Japanese home islands. Japan was stripped of its empire. Inner Mongolia, Manchuria, Taiwan, and Hainan were returned to China. The USSR, by virtue of occupation, held on to the Kuril Islands and Karafuto (which again became known as Sakhalin) and the control of Outer Mongolia; Port Arthur and the South Manchurian Railway were placed under the joint control of the USSR and China. All the former Japanese mandated islands in the South Pacific were occupied by the U.S. under a UN trusteeship.

On Aug. 11, 1945, after the Japanese offered to surrender, Douglas MacArthur was appointed Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers (SCAP) occupying Japan. Representatives of China, the USSR, and Great Britain were named to an Allied Council for Japan, sitting in Tokyo, to assist MacArthur. Broad questions of occupation policy became the province of the Far Eastern Commission, sitting in Washington, D.C., representing the U.S., Great Britain, the Soviet Union, Australia, Canada, China, France, India, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and the Philippines. A number of Japanese war-time leaders were tried for war crimes by an 11-nation tribunal that convened in Tokyo on May 3, 1946, and closed on Nov. 12, 1948.

American Occupation.
The American occupation of the Japanese islands was in no way resisted. The objectives of the occupation policy were declared to be, basically, the democratization of the Japanese government and the reestablishment of a peacetime industrial economy sufficient for the Japanese population. MacArthur was directed to exercise his authority through the emperor and existing government machinery as far as possible. Among other Allied objectives were the dissolution of the great industrial and banking trusts, the assets of which were seized in 1946 and later liquidated through SCAP. A program of land reform, designed to give the tenant farmers an opportunity to purchase the land they worked, was in operation by 1947, and an education program along democratic lines was organized. Women were given the franchise in the first postwar Japanese general election in April 1946, and 38 women were elected to the Japanese diet. Subsequently the diet completed the draft of a new constitution, which became effective in May 1947.

The rehabilitation of the Japanese economy was more difficult than the reorganization of the government. The scarcity of food had to be offset by imports from the Allied powers and from the U.S. in particular. Severe bombings during the war had almost nullified Japanese industrial capacity. By the beginning of 1949 aid to Japan was costing the U.S. more than $1 million a day.

Beginning in May 1949 work stoppages took place in various Japanese industries, notably coal mining. The government accused the Communist party, which had polled 3 million votes in a recent national election, of instigating the strike movement for political purposes, and MacArthur concurred in this view. Subsequently the government launched a large-scale investigation of Communist activities. MacArthur’s labor policies were sharply criticized in June 1949 by the Soviet member of the Allied Control Council. In his reply, MacArthur accused the USSR of fomenting disorder in Japan through the Communist party and of “callous indifference” in repatriating Japanese prisoners of war. For the next year communism and repatriation were dominant issues in national politics. The Soviet Union announced in April 1950 that, excluding approximately 10,000 war criminals, all prisoners (94,973) had been returned to Japan, but according to Japanese records more than 300,000 prisoners were still in custody of the USSR.

Allied negotiations during 1950 relative to a Japanese peace treaty were marked by basic differences between the U.S. and the Soviet Union on several issues, especially whether China should participate in the drafting of the document. In May the American statesman John Foster Dulles, adviser to the U.S. secretary of state, was named to prepare the terms of the treaty. More than a year of consultations and negotiations with and among the Allied powers, Japan, and the Far Eastern nations that had fought against Japan culminated, on July 12, 1951, in the publication of the draft treaty. The USSR, which had been consulted also, maintained that the document was conducive to the resurgence of Japanese militarism. The U.S. government invited 55 countries to attend the peace conference. Nationalist China (Taiwan) and the People’s Republic of China were not invited.

The peace conference opened in San Francisco in early September. Of the nations invited, India, Burma, and Yugoslavia refused to attend. During the conference discussion was limited to the previously prepared treaty text, a procedure that nullified Soviet attempts to reopen negotiations on its various provisions. Forty-nine countries, including Japan, signed the treaty; the USSR, Czechoslovakia, and Poland refused to do so.

The Peace Treaty, 1951.
By the terms of the treaty Japan renounced all claims to Korea, Taiwan, the Kurils, Sakhalin, and former mandated islands and relinquished any special rights and interests in China and Korea; the right of Japan to defend itself and enter into collective security arrangements was recognized; and Japan accepted in principle the validity of reparations claims, to be paid in goods and services in view of the country’s insufficient financial resources.

At the same time, the U.S. and Japan signed a bilateral agreement providing for the maintenance of U.S. military bases and armed forces in and around Japan to protect the disarmed country from aggression or from large-scale internal disturbances.

Meanwhile, MacArthur had been relieved of his post as SCAP in April 1951. Lt. Gen. Matthew Bunker Ridgway (1895–1993), who was then commander of the UN forces in Korea, succeeded him. The U.S. terminated economic aid to Japan at the end of June, but the detrimental effect of this action on the Japanese economy was largely offset by American military procurement orders for the Korean War, then raging. The country’s economic problems stemmed mainly from the wartime loss of overseas markets, especially the Chinese mainland. Recognizing the importance of the Chinese market, the U.S. in October granted Japan the right to carry on limited trade with mainland China.

On April 28, 1952, the Japanese peace treaty became effective, and full sovereignty was restored to Japan. By the terms of the Japanese-American treaty of 1951, U.S. troops remained in Japan as security forces. The Japanese government concluded treaties of peace or renewed diplomatic relations during 1952 with Taiwan, Burma, India, and Yugoslavia.

The question of rearmament was widely debated throughout 1952. The government was reluctant to commit itself in favor of rebuilding the country’s defenses, mainly because of economic difficulties and legal obstacles (in the Japanese constitution of 1947 war is renounced “forever”).

After heated debate the diet in July 1952 approved a bill to suppress subversive activities of organized groups, including the Communists. The Communist party itself was not outlawed, however. In general elections on October 1, the first since the end of the occupation, Yoshida Shigeru, leader of the Liberal party, who had headed the cabinet since 1949, was again named premier.

Postwar Foreign Relations: U.S.
In March 1953, Premier Yoshida, after losing a vote of confidence on proposals for increased centralization of the school system and the police force, scheduled new elections. The electorate went to the polls in April and again returned the Liberals to power. Yoshida was then renamed premier.

During 1953 the U.S. government, seeking further to safeguard the country against possible Communist aggression, actively encouraged Japan to rearm. In August the two countries signed a military-aid treaty that contained provision for the manufacture of Japanese arms according to American specifications. In a joint statement in September, Premier Yoshida and Shigemitsu Mamoru (1887–1957), Progressive party leader, officially recommended that Japan rearm for self-defense. Negotiations with the U.S. government led to the signing of a mutual-defense pact by the two nations in March 1954.

Premier Yoshida’s policy of close collaboration with the U.S. was subjected to strong criticism by dissidents within the Liberal party during the second half of 1954. In late November the insurgent Liberals formed the Japan Democratic party. Premier Yoshida, who was removed as head of the Liberal party a few days later, resigned the premiership in early December after failing to muster a majority in the diet. Subsequently, by virtue of Socialist party support, the Democratic party leader Hatoyama Ichiro (1883–1959) was elected premier. He promised, in exchange for Socialist support, to dissolve the diet in January 1955 and hold national elections.

The Democratic party failed to win a majority in the diet in the election held in February 1955, but with Liberal support Hatoyama was returned to the premiership. The Democratic party and the Liberal party merged in November of that year, giving the government an absolute majority in the diet.

Postwar Foreign Relations: USSR.
In October 1956 the Soviet Union and Japan agreed to end the technical state of war that had existed between the two countries since August 1945. The agreement provided for the reestablishment of normal diplomatic relations, for the repatriation of Japanese prisoners of war still remaining in the USSR, for the effectuation of fishing treaties negotiated earlier in the year, for Soviet support of Japanese entry into the UN, and for the return to Japan of certain small islands off its northern coasts on the conclusion of a formal Soviet-Japanese peace treaty. On December 18 the UN General Assembly voted unanimously to admit Japan to the UN. Two days later Ishibashi Tanzan (1884–1973), the minister of international trade and industry, succeeded Hatoyama as premier. While maintaining close relations with the U.S., Ishibashi sought to expand trade with the Soviet Union and China as a means of reducing unemployment.

In February 1957, Premier Ishibashi resigned from his post because of poor health. The diet elected his former foreign minister, Kishi Nobusuke, to succeed him. In the same month agreements were signed ending the state of war with Czechoslovakia and Poland. Japan agreed in November to pay $230 million to Indonesia as World War II reparations. In addition, the Indonesian trade debt of $177 million to Japan was canceled.

Japan became a nonpermanent member of the UN Security Council in January 1958. The House of Representatives was dissolved by Premier Kishi in April, and elections were held the following month.

Domestic Politics.
In October 1958 the Socialist party ordered a strike of its members in both chambers of the diet to protest a government bill providing for increased power for the police. By the beginning of November, about 4 million workers were also on a protest strike; subsequently, Premier Kishi agreed to withdraw the bill. Elections in June 1959 for half the seats in the House of Councillors proved a victory for the Liberal-Democratic party. Shortly afterward, the government was completely reorganized.

In November 1959 more than 500 people were injured when violent anti-U.S. riots broke out in Tokyo during a discussion in the diet of a new security pact with the U.S. The treaty was signed in Washington, D.C., in January 1960, and at the same time it was announced that President Dwight D. Eisenhower would visit Japan in June. By mid-June, however, anti-U.S. feelings in Japan had grown to the extent that the visit was canceled because of fears for Eisenhower’s safety.

Premier Kishi resigned on July 15 and was succeeded by Ikeda Hayato, the new president of the Liberal-Democratic party. In elections to the House of Representatives in October, the Liberal-Democrats won a major victory, and Ikeda formed a new cabinet in December.

In 1963 the governing Liberal-Democrats sought to amend a constitutional provision banning maintenance of military forces and other war potential in Japan. The amendment, necessary to legalize further increases in the Japanese armed forces, needed approval of a two-thirds majority in the House of Representatives. Lacking such majority, Premier Ikeda dissolved the diet and scheduled elections for November 21. His party’s majority was reduced by 13 seats.

Economic Growth.
The Japanese economy continued to lead the world in its growth rate for 1964. In its drive to expand trade the Japanese government made an agreement with China that each would establish unofficial trade liaison offices in the other’s capital city. The usual 5-year limit on Soviet credit was exceeded when Japan arranged the sale of a fertilizer plant to the Soviet Union with payment extended over eight years. Premier Ikeda, who had been reelected president of the Liberal-Democrats in July, was incapacitated by illness in September and resigned as premier in late October. He was succeeded by former minister of state Sato Eisaku (brother of Kishi Nobusuke), also a Liberal-Democrat. The 18th Olympic Games were held in Tokyo in October. Japan had prepared for the event by investing $2 billion in city improvements, including new highways, subways, and buildings.

In March 1965 the South Korean foreign minister became the first Korean to have an audience with the Japanese emperor since World War II. During his visit the Japanese and South Korean governments reached far-ranging agreement on mutual relations. In the late 1960s Japan experienced widespread demonstrations by radical students protesting Japanese support of U.S. foreign policy. Japanese-U.S. relations were strained in 1971 by the U.S. failure to consult with Japan on China policy and the devaluation of the dollar, but the breach was partly healed by the return of Okinawa to Japan in 1972.

Japan in the 1960s surpassed every nation of Western Europe in terms of gross national product and ranked next to the U.S. as a world industrial power. The Japan World Exposition at Osaka in 1970 demonstrated the nation’s restored position in world affairs. By the early 1970s Japan was the world’s third largest exporter, after the U.S. and West Germany, and the world’s fifth largest importer.

Cabinet Turnover.
Although the Liberal-Democratic party continued to hold the reins of government throughout the 1970s, the party’s cabinets frequently changed. In 1972 Tanaka Kakuei (1918–93), who succeeded Premier Sato in July, agreed on measures to alleviate the American trade imbalance. He also visited China and agreed to resume diplomatic relations with that country immediately; official ties with Taiwan were then severed. In November 1974 Tanaka resigned in favor of Miki Takeo (1907–88). Miki’s government had to endure the world economic recession that followed the Arab oil embargo of 1973; Japan’s economy, heavily dependent on oil and other raw materials, showed zero growth during the fiscal year 1974–75.

In 1975, the Liberal-Democrats were torn by factional strife and failed to pass most of their major bills in the diet. The party was further shaken in 1976 by revelations that the Lockheed Aircraft Corp., a U.S. firm, had paid at least $10 million in bribes and fees to Japanese politicians and industrialists since the 1950s. Miki called elections for December, in which the Liberal-Democrats lost their majority in the lower house for the first time. Miki resigned, and Fukuda Takeo (1905–95) was elected premier. He was replaced by Ohira Masayoshi (1910–80), another Liberal-Democrat, in December 1978. After Ohira died at the height of the 1980 election campaign, Suzuki Zenko (1911–2004) was chosen by the Liberal-Democrats to succeed him. Beset by factionalism within his own party, Suzuki unexpectedly resigned in November 1982. He was replaced both as premier and party leader by Nakasone Yasuhiro. The Liberal-Democrats, who had suffered a setback in 1983 diet elections, won their greatest landslide in 1986; to replace Nakasone, they chose Takeshita Noboru (1924–2000) in November 1987.

Japan in the 1980s faced urban overcrowding, pollution, and unproductive agriculture, but had the highest rate of economic growth and the lowest inflation rate of leading industrial nations. Growth began to slow in the mid-1980s, in part because the yen’s strength against the U.S. dollar had a dampening effect on exports. Hirohito died in January 1989, and his son Akihito succeeded as emperor, beginning the reign of Heisei (“achieving peace”). In April Takeshita resigned as premier, after a bribery and influence-peddling scandal; his successor, Uno Sosuke (1922–98), implicated in a scandal, resigned in July and was replaced by Kaifu Toshiki (1931– ).

Japan in the 1990s.
Liberal-Democrats won decisively in the parliamentary elections of February 1990, even though the Tokyo stock market had begun a decline that would last until mid-1992 and see the Nikkei average lose almost two-thirds of its value. Unable to cope with economic malaise and lacking the confidence of prominent party members, Kaifu was replaced in late 1991 by Miyazawa Kiichi (1919– ). National attention was diverted in June 1993 by the marriage of Crown Prince Naruhito (1960– ) to a commoner, Owada Masako (1964– ).

Confidence in the government continued to decline, culminating in the defection of many Liberal-Democrats and the party’s loss of its majority in the elections of 1993. The leader of the Japan New party, Hosokawa Morihiro (1938– ), a former Liberal-Democrat, was elected to head a seven-party coalition government.

The next 18 months brought continued political uncertainty. Forced to step down because of a fund-raising scandal, Hosokawa was succeeded as prime minister in April 1994 by Hata Tsutomu (1935– ) of the Japan Renewal party. His coalition fractured almost immediately, and in June an unusual alliance of Liberal-Democrats and Socialists took power, with Social Democratic party leader Murayama Tomiichi (1924– ) as prime minister. In January 1995, Japan suffered its worst natural disaster in more than 70 years when an earthquake struck the Kobe area, claiming some 5500 lives and causing extensive damage. Murayama resigned abruptly in January 1996 and was succeeded as prime minister by Hashimoto Ryutaro (1937– ), a Liberal-Democrat. At a summit conference in Tokyo in April, Hashimoto and U.S. President Bill Clinton signed a joint security declaration that would maintain some 47,000 U.S. troops in Japan. Hashimoto led the Liberal-Democrats to victory in October elections for the lower house of parliament.

The Liberal-Democrats’ inability to extricate Japan from recession cost the party dearly in elections for the upper house of parliament in July 1998, and Hashimoto resigned as soon as the results became known. To replace him the party named Obuchi Keizo (1937–2000), a veteran politician who had served as foreign minister in the Hashimoto government. In April 2000, Obuchi suffered a stroke. When he was unable to return to his position, Yoshiro Mori (1937– ) was named his successor. Within a year Mori resigned. On April 26, 2001, the Liberal Democrats returned to power, when Junichiro Koizumi (1942– ), in a landslide victory, became Japan’s 11th prime minister in the last 13 years. Although Koizumi had formerly served as minister in cabinets that had been blamed for causing Japan’s current financial problems, he is viewed as a reformer who may be able to revitalize the country’s economy.


Japan’s Government Wednesday, Jun 7 2006 

Japan is governed according to the provisions of a constitution that came into force in 1947. Under the terms of this document, which was formulated under the guidance of the Allied occupation authorities after World The constitution also renounced the use of war to resolve international disputes, leaving Japan essentially dependent on the U.S. for protection against threats to its security. In December 2004, however, in view of possible emerging threats in the region, Japan adopted the “National Defense Program Outline,” a new policy that called for a more active role for its armed forces. Nonetheless the policy reiterated Japan’s traditional views opposing war and the use of aggressive military force.

Between 1889, when the first modern Japanese constitution was promulgated, and the end of World War II in 1945, the supreme executive power in Japan was officially designated as resident in the sacred and inviolable person of the emperor, called the Dai Nippon Teikoku Tenno (“Emperor of the Empire of Great Japan”). The throne is hereditary and descends only in the male line of the imperial family; if no heir is produced, an emperor may be chosen only from four princely families equal in rank to the imperial house. Emperor Akihito, who succeeded to the throne in 1989, is said to be the 125th of his line. Under the 1947 constitution, the emperor has only ceremonial functions.

Executive power is vested in a cabinet, headed by a premier. The premier, who represents a majority of the national legislature (diet), chooses the cabinet from among members of the diet, subject to the diet’s approval. The premier and the cabinet are both responsible to the diet.

Before the Japanese defeat in World War II, legislative power resided in a House of Peers (composed of hereditary peers, distinguished commoners nominated by the emperor, and a limited number of elective seats) and a House of Representatives elected by male citizens over 25 years of age. Cabinet ministers were responsible to and appointed by the emperor.

Since 1947 the Japanese diet, the supreme organ of government power, has been a bicameral body, elected by universal suffrage (at age 20) and consisting of the House of Representatives (lower house) and the House of Councillors (upper house). Lower-house members, totaling 500, are elected for a term not to exceed four years; 300 legislators are elected from single-member districts, and the remaining 200 seats are chosen on a proportional basis. Upper-house members, totaling 252, are elected for 6-year terms; elections for one-half the membership are held every three years. One hundred councillors are elected at large and the remainder from the prefectural districts. Decisions by the House of Councillors may be vetoed by the lower house, which also retains control over legislation dealing with treaties and fiscal matters.

The Japanese judicial system is entirely separate from and independent of the executive authority. Except for reasons of health, judges may be removed only by public impeachment. The highest court in the nation is the supreme court, established by the constitution and consisting of a chief justice appointed by the emperor upon the recommendation of the cabinet and 14 associate justices appointed by the cabinet. Four types of lower courts are prescribed by the constitution: high courts, district courts, family courts, and summary courts. The supreme court is the tribunal of final appeal in all civil and criminal cases and has authority to decide on the constitutionality of any act of the legislature or executive. High courts hear appeals in civil and criminal cases from lower courts. District courts have both appellate and original jurisdiction. Family and summary courts are exclusively courts of first instance.

Local Government.
Including Okinawa, which was returned to Japan by the U.S. in 1972, the country is divided into 47 prefectures or their equivalent; each is administered by an elected governor and assembly. Each municipality in the prefectures has a legislature composed of popularly elected representatives. The municipalities have fairly broad powers; they control public education and may levy taxes.

Political Parties.
According to legislative representation, the major political parties in Japan in the late 1990s included the Liberal-Democratic party, the New Frontier Party, the Democratic party, the Communist Party of Japan, and the Social Democratic Party of Japan (formerly the Japan Socialist party). The Liberal-Democratic party, which held power from the mid-1950s to the early 1990s, advocates free enterprise, expansion of foreign trade, government aid to small business, and close relations with the U.S. The Social Democratic party has traditionally favored nationalization of major industries and expanded social welfare; it supports the principles of mutual security and collective nonaggression. Corruption scandals in recent years have fostered the growth of new parties with reform agendas.

Health and Welfare.
In the early 1990s about 18% of the annual national budget was allocated for social security purposes. A medical insurance system has been in effect in Japan since 1927. Self-employed people and employees in the private and public sectors are included under the medical plan.

Social welfare services have greatly expanded since World War II; legislation enacted or amended in the postwar years includes the Livelihood Security Law for Needy Persons, the Law for the Welfare of Disabled Persons, the National Health Insurance Law, the Welfare Pension Insurance Law, Old Age Welfare Law, and the Maternal and Child Welfare Law. The entire population is covered by various insurance systems. Most working people retire at the age of 55 and receive retirement pensions amounting to about 40% of their salary. Health conditions are generally excellent. In the early 1990s life expectancy at birth was 76 years for men and 82 years for women; the infant mortality rate was a very low 4.4 per 1000 live births. Japan had about 210,200 physicians, 365,300 nurses, 73,000 dentists, 24,100 midwives, and 1,686,000 hospital beds.

The National Police Reserve, created under the direction of the occupation authorities in 1950, formed the nucleus of the defense forces subsequently organized when the Japanese regained national sovereignty. In the early 1990s the Japanese Self-Defense Forces consisted of about 237,700 persons. These comprised an army (149,900members), a navy (43,100), and an air force (44,700). The country also has a coast guard. All police forces in Japan are under the control of the central government.

International Organizations.
Japan is a member of the UNITED Nations (UN), the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, the ORGANIZATION for Economic Cooperation and Development, and the WORLD Trade Organization.

Japan’s Economy Wednesday, Jun 7 2006 

Following decades of rapid growth, the economy of Japan entered a stagnant period in the 1990s, although living standards remained among the highest in the world. The industrial base of Japan has shifted from light industries to heavy industries, chemicals, and electronics, which together constitute at least three-fourths of the total value of yearly exports. In the late 1990s, the annual gross national product of Japan (about $4.8 trillion) was the largest in the world after the U.S.; the GNP per capita exceeded $37,000. The estimated national budget included revenues of $528 billion and expenditures of $673 billion.

Before and during World War II much of the Japanese economy was controlled by about a dozen wealthy families, collectively called the Zaibatsu (“wealth cliques”). The greatest of these families were the Mitsui, Iwasaki (operating under the company name Mitsubishi), Sumitomo, and Yasuda; they controlled most of the coal, steam-engine, pulp, and aluminum industries. In 1945–46 family ownership of these immense trusts was dissolved by the Allied occupation authorities. The business organizations remained intact, however, and have since acquired even greater economic power by expanding into shipping, banking, and other industries.

An enormous increase in the number and membership of trade unions took place in the country following World War II. In 1946 more than 12,000 trade unions had a combined membership of about 3.7 million. By the late 1970s the number of unions had increased to more than 70,000. In 1989 the nation’s two largest trade union confederations merged to form the Japan Trade Union Confederation, known as JTUC-Rengo, with about 9 million members. Overall, in the early 1990s, some 12.4 million workers (nearly 25% of the labor force) belonged to trade unions.

The number of Japanese farm households and the farm population have declined in recent decades. In the early 1990s the farming sector employed about 6% of the labor force and accounted for 2% of the annual gross domestic product. More than 40% of the cultivated land is devoted to rice production. Rice remains the staple of the Japanese diet; wheat and barley are other important grain crops.

In the early 1990s annual production in metric tons included rice, 13.3 million; potatoes, 3.7 million; sugar beets, 3.8 million; apples, 1 million; mandarin oranges, 1.4 million; cabbage, 2.5 million; sweet potatoes, 1.3 million; onions, 1.3 million; and cucumbers, 870,000. Other crops include melons, tomatoes, wheat, soybeans, tea, tobacco, and other fruits and vegetables.

Because arable land is scarce and consequently valuable, relatively little acreage is used for livestock. Nevertheless, Japan in the early 1990s had 11 million pigs, 5 million cattle, and 335 million poultry. The arable land is divided into small farms, and almost 70% of this land consists of farms of 1 ha (2.5 acres) or less. Most of the farmers also work part-time in industry. The land is tilled intensively; almost all farms have electricity and most use modern machinery. Japanese farmers frequently raise two or more crops yearly. Much of the country’s land suffers from soil exhaustion. Heavy use of chemical fertilizers, improved strains, and advanced techniques, however, have made Japanese farms among the most productive in the world.

Forestry and Fishing.
About two-thirds of the total land area of Japan is woodland, some two-fifths of which contain softwoods. Approximately two-thirds of the forest area is privately owned. Although Japan ranks high in world production of timber, the steadily increasing domestic demand for lumber requires the country to import much of its needs. The annual timber harvest in the early 1990s was about 28.3 million cu m (999 million cu ft).

Fish is a food staple for the Japanese and is second in importance only to rice. Consequently, fishing is one of the most important industries, both for the domestic and export markets. The Japanese fishing fleet is one of the world’s largest. The industry may be divided into three principal categories: offshore, coastal, and deep-sea fishing. Offshore fishing from medium-sized boats accounts for about one-fourth of the volume and nearly one-half the value of the annual catch. Deep-sea fishing is conducted by large vessels in international fishing grounds, while coastal fishing is carried out by small boats, set nets, or cultivation. In the early 1990s the annual catch in Japan totaled some 20.9 million metric tons and included sardines, bonito, crab, pike, prawn, salmon, pollack, mackerel, squid, clams, saury, sea bream, tuna, and yellowtail. In addition, Japan is among the world’s few remaining whaling countries; more than 20,000 whales were caught in 1991. More than 700,000 metric tons of seaweed and other marine plants were harvested annually in the early 1990s.

The mineral resources of Japan are varied but limited in quantity. Coal is the principal mineral, but it is primarily low-grade bituminous coal. Other minerals include copper, lead, zinc, manganese, petroleum, natural gas, limestone, pyrites, and quartzite, but quantities of these are insufficient to meet domestic demand.

Japanese industry suffered extensive damage in World War II. Subsequently, the country undertook a reconstruction that resulted in a complete modernization of its manufacturing facilities. Primary emphasis was placed on the chemical and petrochemical industries and the heavy-machinery industry. By the mid-1950s industrial production had surpassed prewar levels; manufacturing growth averaged 9.4% annually during 1965–80 and 5.8% a year during 1980–92. In the early 1990s Japan was the leading shipbuilding country in the world and among the leading world producers of electrical and electronic products, steel, and motor vehicles. Crude steel production in the early 1990s was some 98.1 million tons; and pig iron output was about 73.1 million tons. Japanese industry also produced 9.4 million passenger cars, 477 million watches and clocks, 26.1 million videocassette recorders, 13.4 million color televisions, 17.7 million 35-mm cameras, 4.3 million microwave ovens, 5.2 million refrigerators, 4.5 million facsimile, or fax, machines, 2.7 million photocopying machines, and numerous other electric and electronic items for home and workplace.

In the early 1990s Japan was also among the leading world producers of basic chemical raw materials. Japan was one of the leading textile manufacturers in the world and among the three largest world producers of synthetic fibers. Japanese industries faced increasingly stiff competition from other Asian manufacturers in the 1990s.

Japan is among the world’s leading countries in the annual production of electricity. In the mid-1990s Japan had an installed electricity-generating capacity of 234 million kw, and the yearly output of electricity in the country exceeded 1 trillion kwh. About 61% of the electricity was generated in thermal plants using coal or petroleum products; hydroelectric facilities accounted for 9%, and nuclear power plants 30%. Although nuclear power’s share of annual electrical output more than doubled between 1980 and 1995, there have been numerous safety lapses, and public opposition to nuclear power has been growing. The worst nuclear accident in Japanese history occurred on Sept. 30, 1999, when an uncontrolled chain reaction at the Tokaimura uranium-reprocessing facility, NE of Tokyo, exposed plant workers and residents of the surrounding area to extremely high radiation levels.

Lacking adequate domestic energy resources, Japan depends on fuel imports to meet more than 80% of its energy needs. Because of improvements in energy efficiency and conservation, Japan’s annual growth in energy consumption decreased from 6.1% during 1965–80 to 2.8% during 1980–94. Mineral fuels represented about 16% of all merchandise imports in the early 1990s.

Currency and Banking.
The Bank of Japan, established in 1882, is the central bank, acts as general fiscal agent for the government, and is the sole issuer of currency. Some 140 private commercial banks constitute the heart of the financial system. The Tokyo Stock Exchange is one of the world’s leading securities markets. The basic unit of currency is the yen, which consists of 100 sen (110.34 yen equal U.S.$1; Sept. 2004). The U.S. intervened on world currency markets when the value of the yen depreciated rapidly in June 1998, reflecting concerns over the weakness of the Japanese banking system. In October the legislature enacted a plan committing more than $500 billion in government funds to shore up ailing banks.

Foreign Trade.
Before World War II Japan ranked fifth in world trade. In 1939 Japanese exports amounted to about $928 million, and imports totaled some $757 million. Most Japanese exports went to territories controlled by the empire, such as Manchuria and occupied China. The yearly trade balance with other countries, such as the U.S. and Great Britain, was unfavorable; annual imports from the U.S., for example, exceeded exports to that country by more than $70 million. Allied occupation authorities permitted a resumption of foreign trade by private enterprises in 1946. By the early 1990s yearly imports totaled about $198.5 billion, and exports totaled about $330.9 billion, ranking Japan third as an export nation. The U.S. absorbs about 28% of Japan’s exports and supplies about 22% of its imports; Japan’s annual trade surplus with the U.S. exceeded $40 billion in the early 1990s. The country’s manufactured goods accounted for more than 90% of total exports; crude and refined petroleum, for approximately 16% of total imports.

Foreign trade is essential to the Japanese economy. The domestic market is unable to fully absorb the manufactured goods that are produced by Japanese industry. Furthermore, because Japan must import much of the raw material on which its industries depend, the country also must export a substantial proportion of its annual national product to effect a favorable balance of trade. Japan has used the huge trade surpluses accumulated in recent decades to invest heavily overseas, thus becoming the world’s leading creditor nation. Japanese economic assistance to other countries was more than $120 billion between 1970 and 1993.

In the early 1990s, Asian countries accounted for about 45% of Japan’s imports and purchased nearly 39% of its exports. Japan’s leading Asian trade partners were South Korea, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Thailand, and Singapore. During the same period, EUROPEAN Union (EU) countries—most notably Germany, France, and Great Britain—provided 14% of Japan’s imports and purchased 19% of its exports. Other principal trade partners included Australia, Canada, and Saudi Arabia.

During the early 1990s, about 3 million foreigners visited Japan each year, while an estimated 13 million Japanese traveled overseas. Japanese citizens traveling abroad spend at least $20 billion more each year than foreign visitors spend in Japan.

The major railroads were nationalized in 1907; they were reorganized and transferred to the private sector in 1987. Railroad routes in the early 1990s totaled about 23,170 km (about 14,400 mi), of which about 71% was electrified. Construction of a high-speed rail network spanning about 7000 km (about 4350 mi) and connecting the country’s principal cities was begun in the early 1970s.

Japan has about 1,112,840 km (about 691,490 mi) of roads, of which more than 70% are paved. Motor vehicles in the early 1990s included about 39 million passenger cars and 22.7 million commercial vehicles. Japan’s four main islands are connected by a series of bridges, including the Akashi Kaikyo (1998), the longest suspension bridge in the world, which connects Kobe on the mainland with the island of Awaji.

Japan ranks among world leaders in the size of its merchant fleet, with more than 10,000 vessels, aggregating a total of about 37.8 million deadweight tons. Japan Air Lines, established in 1951, provides service from Tokyo to major population centers throughout the world. All Nippon Airways, primarily a domestic service, has expanded its international operations in recent years.

In the early 1990s Japan had more than 55 million telephone subscribers. About 112.5 million radios and 76 million televisions were in use. The people of Japan are among the world’s most avid newspaper readers. Some 120 daily newspapers were published; their combined circulation exceeded 71 million. The newspapers with the largest daily circulation were Tokyo’s Asahi Shimbun and Yomiuri Shimbun.

Education and culture Wednesday, Jun 7 2006 

Early Japanese education was profoundly affected by the Chinese, and the culture of Japan derives from contact with the early civilizations of both China and Korea.

From the Chinese, the Japanese acquired new crafts and, most important, a system of writing. The acquisition of writing cannot be precisely dated, but by about ad 400 Korean scribes were using Chinese ideographs for official records at the Japanese imperial courts. Education in ancient Japan, however, was more aristocratic than in the Chinese system, with noble families maintaining their own private schooling facilities. During the medieval military-feudal period, Buddhist temples assumed much responsibility for education.

With the onset of the rule of Emperor Meiji (r. 1867–1912), Japan in 1868 underwent a radical transformation in education as well as in social and economic matters. A ministry of education was created in 1872, and in the same year a comprehensive educational code that included universal primary education was formulated. The government sent missions to Europe and America to learn new educational approaches; it also invited foreign educators to carry on educational programs and initiate changes in Japanese schools. In 1877, during this period of innovation, the University of Tokyo was founded. As a result of these reforms, Japan emerged as a modern nation with a full educational system that was in line with much of Western practice.

The defeat of Japan in World War II resulted in educational changes, many of which were recommended in 1946 by a U.S. educational mission; some of these changes were discontinued when Japan regained sovereign status as a nation in 1952. The teaching of nationalistic ideology was banned, greater emphasis was placed on social studies, and classroom procedures were redesigned to encourage self-expression.

Education in Japan is centralized under the ministry of education. Its school system operates under the Fundamental Law of Education of 1947 and subsequent legislation, and enables all students to compete for admission to institutions of higher education.

With its highly developed educational system, the literacy rate in Japan is virtually 100% for the entire nation. English, as a chief language for foreign contacts, is a required course of study in secondary schools. One of the continuing problems facing Japanese educators, however, is the teaching of the complex Japanese language, which utilizes several scripts.

Elementary and secondary schools.
Education is free and compulsory for nine years, that is, six years of elementary school and three of junior high school. Beyond the junior high school level, education is optional, and a small tuition fee is charged, even in public senior high schools and public institutions of higher learning. In the early 1990s Japan had about 24,730 primary schools annually attended by some 8.9 million students and about 16,800 secondary schools with about 10.3 million students. Elementary school teachers numbered about 441,000, and there were some 567,000 secondary school teachers. Technical, commercial, and vocational schools are also maintained in the country, as are schools for the physically disabled.

Universities and colleges.
Japan has more than 500 public and private universities. Of some 65 national (formerly called imperial) universities, the biggest include Chiba University (1949); Hiroshima University (1949); Hokkaido University (1876), at Sapporo; Kobe University (1949); Kyoto University (1897); Kyushu University (1911), at Fukuoka; Nagoya University (1939); Okayama University (1949); Osaka University (1931); Tohoku University (1907), at Sendai; the University of Tokyo (1877); and the University of Tsukuba (1973). Major private institutions include Hosei University (1880), Nihon University (1889), and Waseda University (1882), in Tokyo; Fukuoka University (1934); and Kansai University (1886), in Osaka. Japan also has numerous junior colleges and technical colleges. In the early 1990s, institutions of higher education in Japan had a combined yearly enrollment of more than 2.8 million students.

Classic influences of ancient China are found in Japanese literature, art, and music. Religion, especially Buddhism, has played an important role in the cultural life of Japan. Western influences, which began in earnest during the 19th century, exist side by side and often intermingle with the traditions and stylized forms of Japanese culture. See JAPANESE Art and Architecture; JAPANESE Drama; JAPANESE Literature; JAPANESE Music.

Tokyo outranks all other Japanese cities in the number of its important libraries. Among the most important are the National Diet Library, an international book exchange and information center of Japan; its combined collections exceed 10.4 million volumes. The Cabinet Library in Tokyo contains about 549,000 volumes. Among the important university collections in Tokyo are those at the University of Tokyo Library with more than 6 million volumes, Meiji University Library with about 1.4 million volumes, and Nihon University Library with more than 4.4 million volumes. Major collections are also housed in the libraries of the provinces. The Osaka Prefectural Nakanoshima Library contains more than 913,000 volumes, and Kobe City Library has more than 240,000 volumes. Important university libraries are located throughout the country.

The museums of Japan, with the exception of several modern galleries in the large cities, represent treasure halls and are usually found in temples and shrines. Among the most famous of these is the Myohoin Temple in Kyoto. Tokyo contains several important museums and art galleries. The largest art museum in Japan is the Tokyo National Museum (1871). Major specialized collections in Tokyo are in the Calligraphy Museum (1936), the National Museum of Western Art (1959), the Meiji Shrine Treasure Museum (1921), and the Japanese Folk Crafts Museum (1936). Other notable museums include the Shitamachi Museum (1980) in Tokyo, the Miho Museum (1997) outside Kyoto, and the Asakura Choso Museum, also in Tokyo, which is located in the former house and studio of sculptor Fumio Asakura (1883–1964). The Museum of Contemporary Art in Tokyo is of interest for both its permanent and its temporary collections. Important museum collections are found in virtually every major city.

Religion Wednesday, Jun 7 2006 

The principal religious faiths of Japan are SHINTO a cult based on ancestor and nature worship, with about 200 sects and denominations, and BUDDHISM with at least as many sects and denominations. Christianity—represented in Japan by the Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Greek Orthodox faiths—is practiced by less than 4% of the population. Virtually all the Japanese, with the exception of the Christians, are regarded as being Shintoists, and the majority of the Shintoists are also Buddhists. In the latter half of the 19th century Shinto was made a state religion, stressing worship of the emperor as a divinity and the racial superiority of the Japanese; all Japanese, regardless of their religious affiliation, were forced to worship at Shinto shrines. In 1946 the Allied occupation authorities ordered Shinto disestablished and reduced it to the level of a sect. On Jan. 1, 1946, Emperor Hirohito renounced all claim to divinity. The constitution promulgated in 1947 reestablished absolute freedom of religion and ended state support of Shinto.

Japanese Language Wednesday, Jun 7 2006 

The national language is Japanese. Many scholars consider it one of the ALTAIC languages; others believe it is possibly akin to Korean. For writing, the Japanese borrowed (about ad 400) Chinese characters, and adapted them (about ad 800) as phonetic symbols; continuously reduced, the number of characters in common use in the second half of the 20th century was about 1850. See also JAPANESE Language.

Japan’s Cities Wednesday, Jun 7 2006 

The capital and largest city of Japan is Tokyo, the financial and commercial center of the country, with a population (1993 est.) of 7,927,100. Other leading cities, with their 1993 estimated populations, are Yokohama (3,250,500), with excellent harbor facilities, a leading seaport and shipbuilding and industrial center, with manufactures including chemicals, machinery, and metal and petroleum products; Osaka (2,495,300), an important seaport and airline terminus and one of Japan’s largest financial centers; Nagoya (2,095,400), a manufacturing center which is noted for its lacquerware, textiles, and pottery; Kobe (1,468,200), a leading seaport and shipbuilding and transportation center; and Kyoto (1,456,500), famed for the manufacture of art goods, including silk brocades and textiles, and a center of heavy industry. More than 70 other cities have populations exceeding 250,000.

Political divisions of Japan Wednesday, Jun 7 2006 

Prefecture Population
(1992 est.)
Aichi 6,766,000 Nagoya
Akita 1,219,000 Akita
Aomori 1,472,000 Aomori
Chiba 5,673,000 Chiba
Ehime 1,511,000 Matsuyama
Fukui 824,000 Fukui
Fukuoka 4,852,000 Fukuoka
Fukushima 2,115,000 Fukushima
Gifu 2,080,000 Gifu
Gumma 1,983,000 Maebashi
Hiroshima 2,867,000 Hiroshima
Hokkaido 5,659,000 Sapporo
Hyogo 5,466,000 Kobe
Ibaraki 2,895,000 Mito
Ishikawa 1,169,000 Kanazawa
Iwate 1,414,000 Morioka
Kagawa 1,024,000 Takamatsu
Kagoshima 1,787,000 Kagoshima
Kanagawa 8,104,000 Yokohama
Kochi 817,000 Kochi
Kumamoto 1,845,000 Kumamoto
Kyoto (fu*) 2,606,000 Kyoto
Mie 1,811,000 Tsu
Miyagi 2,277,000 Sendai
Miyazaki 1,167,000 Miyazaki
Nagano 2,165,000 Nagano
Nagasaki 1,552,000 Nagasaki
Nara 1,401,000 Nara
Niigata 2,475,000 Niigata
Oita 1,233,000 Oita
Okayama 1,932,000 Okayama
Okinawa 1,238,000 Naha
Osaka (fu*) 8,735,000 Osaka
Saga 878,000 Saga
Saitama 6,561,000 Urawa
Shiga 1,246,000 Otsu
Shimane 775,000 Matsue
Shizuoka 3,701,000 Shizuoka
Tochigi 1,957,000 Utsunomiya
Tokushima 830,000 Tokushima
Tokyo (to**) 11,874,000 Tokyo
Tottori 615,000 Tottori
Toyama 1,120,000 Toyama
Wakayama 1,078,000 Wakayama
Yamagata 1,255,000 Yamagata
Yamaguchi 1,565,000 Yamaguchi
Yamanashi 862,000 Kofu

*Urban prefecture
** Metropolis

Population Wednesday, Jun 7 2006 

The modern Japanese are essentially a Mongoloid race and are similar in appearance to the Chinese and Koreans; the Japanese, however, are slightly smaller in stature. Japan is an industrialized urban society, and more than three-quarters of the people live in metropolitan areas. Japanese is the official language, and English is widely used in commerce.

Population Characteristics.
The population of Japan (1993 est.) was 124,670,000. The overall population density was about 330 persons per sq km (about 855 per sq mi).

Political Divisions.
Japan is divided into 47 chief administrative divisions, 44 of which are called ken, or prefectures. The prefectures include Okinawa, which was occupied by the U.S. after World War II and returned to Japan in 1972. The cities of Kyoto and Osaka each constitute an urban prefecture, or fu, and the city of Tokyo constitutes a metropolis, or to.


Animals Wednesday, Jun 7 2006 

As compared with its luxuriant flora, Japan suffers a dearth of animal life. Yet Japanese fauna includes at least 140 species of mammals, 450 species of birds, and a wide variety of reptiles, batrachians, and fish. The only primate mammal is the red-faced monkey, the Japanese macaque, found throughout Honshu. The carnivores include the red bear, black bear, and brown bear. Foxes are found throughout Japan, as are badgers. Other fur-bearing animals include the marten, Japanese mink, otter, weasel, and several varieties of seal. Hares and rabbits are numerous, as are rodents, which include squirrels, flying squirrels, rats, and mice, although the common house mouse is not found. Many varieties of bat exist; insectivores include the Japanese mole and shrewmouse. Of the two species of deer, the more common is the small Japanese deer, which has a spotted white coat in summer and a brown coat in winter.

The sparrow, house swallow, and thrush are the most common Japanese birds. Water birds constitute almost 25% of the known species and include the crane, heron, swan, duck, cormorant, stork, and albatross. Songbirds are numerous, the bullfinch and two varieties of nightingale being the best known. Among other common birds are the robin, cuckoo, woodpecker, pheasant, and pigeon.

The coastal waters of Japan teem with fish, which are caught in enormous quantities for use as fresh food or for canning and also for fertilizer. Various seaweeds are also eaten.

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