Table of Contents
World War two had a significant adverse impact on various nations. The war caused a devastating destruction of property and lives. Among the combatant nations, Japan experienced significant civilian and military casualties as well as considerable damage to its industrial complex when the USA used two nuclear bombs to destroy two cities in Japan that is Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The main agenda behind the unprecedented use of nuclear weapons was to break the will of the Japanese citizens and thus do away with the citizen’s support for their country’s military campaign. This action resulted in the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives and an environmental contamination that would last for decades. Ironically, the unexpected happened when the country though having been burdened with economic restrictions due to war reparation costs emerged to become an economic giant.
West Germany, a part of the pre-war Imperial Germany, also had a similar meteoric rise in term of its economic performance despite the annexation of its resources by allied powers as a means of war reparations. However, the focus of this paper is Japan’s rise to become an economic superpower in the decades following the resolution of the Second World War. The war in itself transformed the Japanese society and political organization. Following its occupation by allied powers, the once imperialist nation was turned into a capitalistic democratic nation. The contribution of various internal and external factors part of it being the assistance from the USA in a bid to counter the communist influence in Asia helped Japan to become an economic superpower. The following sections of this paper will discuss the reasons for the country`s impressive economic performance in the post-1960 as well as the observed social ramifications of the increased affluence in the Japanese society.
The Prestige and Acknowledgement of Japan as an Economic Super Power by Foreign Nations
As discussed in the preceding paragraphs Japan had faced considerable loss of lives and property damage in addition to being annexed for purposes of war reparations by the occupying allied forces which were majorly composed of U.S forces. As per the agreements, upon the surrender of Japan, the Allied forces took a non-vindictive stance. Furthermore, America had already set in motion plans to transform Japan into a capitalistic and democratic society. The main agenda behind U.S sponsoring of Japan was to reinstate its economy and use it to counter the spread of communism in Asia. It is important to note that the Japanese economic boom in the decades following 1960 occurred during the height of the cold war between the USA and USSR which championed for the spread of capitalism and communism respectively. Japan needed to re-enter the international community and be recognized as a world power. It was able to be readmitted into the international community when it hosted the 1964 Tokyo Olympics which was s sign of Japan’s recognition as a nation when it was adopted into the United Nations in 1956. At the Tokyo Olympics, Tokyo was able to showcase its premier technological marvel that was the bullet train ‘shinkansen’ which was the first of its kind in the whole world. Following its economic boom in post-1960, Japan effectively became the second biggest capitalist economy in the world, second only to the USA.
Additionally, during the World Exposition which was held in Osaka in 1970, Japan was able to showcase its economic progress and thus claims its position as a major economic power in the international community. The unprecedented rise of Japan as an economic superpower prompted a lot of scholars worldwide to try coming up with the reasons behind its economic success despite its post-war limitations. To that end, numerous publications had been produced to try and explain the economic rise in Japan. Japanese scholars cited the ingenuity, discipline, cooperation and industry of Japanese citizens and their supportive socio-political institutions as the main reasons behind the success of their economy. In general, the success of the Japanese economy was a source of immense pride for Japanese people and also gave Japan significant clout as a major economic superpower among the international community.
The Social Impacts of Increased Affluence in Post 1960 Japan
The social ramifications of the increased affluence of Japanese citizens after the post-1960 economic boom in Japan are diverse and complex. The effects include rural to urban migration changes in residential housing, education and student activism, gender defined roles, increase in the materialistic nature of Japanese citizens, increased vice in land transaction in and around urban centres and increased indulgence in leisure activities. These effects are interlinked as some effects consequently led to the emergence of others. In order to explain the nexus between the various social effects of the economic boom, I would begin with rural to urban migration as a starting point. There was massive rural to urban migration as a result of the economic growth. It is estimated that approximately 66 percent Japanese population were concentrated around urban centres by 1965. The largest observed rural to urban migration took place in metropolitan Tokyo, Nagoya region and Osaka-Kobe.
The major reason behind the migration was to fill in the employment gaps for the growing industries in Japan’s urban centres. Given that there was an economic boom, the industries offered fair pay for services rendered and as such this was a significant incentive for migration and resettling in urban centres. Increased population in urban centres led to the demand of cheap housing, a need that was met by the initiation of large housing projects that were to accommodate the immigrants who provided labour for Japanese industries. The response was calculated at curbing the pressure of overpopulation and crowding that was posed by the immigrants. Some of the land used for urban development project was gotten through illicit means. This is because the urban centres attracted unscrupulous characters who sought to exploit urban citizens. A good example is in the landsharking businesses whereby unscrupulous individual employed the services of gangsters and criminal organizations to force unwilling urban landowners to sell their land at low prices so that they could sell the land to urban developers at overvalued prices.
However, with the adequate pay received by labourers during the economic boom, the disparity between the rich and the poor in japan was significantly reduced. This thus led to the emergence of a big middle-class Japan with sufficient disposable income to indulge in modern labour saving and luxurious domestic machineries such as washing machines, refrigerators, televisions set and air conditioners. The increased demand for these consumer goods marked the start of a possessive and materialistic nature in Japanese society as every individual desired to have a car, a home and some cash that they could call their own and thus use them as they pleased.
The popularity of modern media devices such as television sets and radios, in turn, had the effect of changing the channels of the diffusion of information. The middleclass Japanese society thus relied on such devices for information and entertainment purposes from programs which were not limited to Japan only but were from other countries as well. This, in turn, influenced their perception of global events. The increased disposable income by the affluent Japanese society also led to a booming tourism and travel industry as people increased their expenditures in outdoor recreational activities and overseas vacations. Part of the disposable income was also channeled towards educating the young generation so that they would be able to be employed in white collar jobs in the large corporations. By 1975 approximately ninety percent of the children graduated from high schools and some proceeded to universities while others proceeded to alternative vocational training programs.
The increased investment of middle-class parents in their children’s education had diverse repercussions. Firstly it led to high literacy levels in Japan, and the youth who graduated from institutions of higher learning were strongly opposed to menial jobs that they considered dirty and boring. Secondly, the enlightened youth participated in student activism through protests and public demonstrations. Student activism at this time was increasingly violent due to the deployment of domestically fashioned weapons such as firebombs. One of the main reasons for their demonstrations was their opposition to the Vietnam War waged by the U.S as they were afraid that Japan would be unwillingly pulled into the war. The third implication of the education of the youth was the increased cases of bullying in learning institutions as some of the students in schools and campuses were there against their will and thus resorted to youth delinquency, part of which was bullying their fellow students.
It is important to note that in Japanese society at the time, mothers played a bigger role in educating their children compared to fathers. They did so by making sure that they provided a conducive environment at home for them and were thus referred to as ‘education mama’. This gender role was in addition to other duties such as managing the home, raising the children and handling day to day finances of the home. However, with all the above-mentioned effects of rural to urban migration during the economic boom, it is easy to forget the effect this action had on the rural communities. The growth of urban Centres in Japan absorbed most of the labourers in the rural areas. As a consequence of this only 5% of the Japanese labour force during the post-1960 economic boom worked in the primary production industries such as Cultivation and fishing in the rural areas.
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The Socio-Economic Impacts of Economic Boom in Japan
Some of the impacts of the economic boom in post-war Japan were both social and economic in nature. The rural to urban migration fuelled the pace of urbanisation. As a result of this, there was demand for more land to expand the urban infrastructure in Japan. This led to the overvaluing of real estate that led to the emergence of landsharking. However, when the recession hit the housing industry, the housing projects became too expensive for urban residents and as such were largely underutilized. Additionally, as mentioned above the migration absorbed most of the labourers in the rural areas. As a consequence of this only 5% of the Japanese Workforce at the time worked in the primary production industries such as cultivation and fishing in the rural areas. This led to the to the restructuring of farm operations as fewer farm labourers resulted in the mechanization of agricultural activities with the adoption of the use of higher quantities of pesticides and herbicides.
This capital-intensive mode of production required significant funding and as such farmers relied on non-agricultural incomes and government subsidies in order to survive. Following these hardships, there were periodic shortfalls in food production. However, the economic boom facilitated the doubling of average Japanese salaries by 1967. Furthermore, the employees working in large corporations received better salaries than their counterparts who worked in smaller industries. They also had job security that guaranteed them a means of earning a living until their old age in accordance with the life employment and seniority-based wage system policies that were used by Large Japanese corporations. The net result of these employee policies was the fostering of employee loyalty to the companies they worked in and in some cases employee loyalty to the company was so strong that they dedicated their lives to work to the extent that they wilfully neglected their family lives.
Another economic implication of the increased affluence of the Japanese citizens is the increased mismanagement of public fund by public officials. This was evident by the prioritization of ploughing back public funds in enhancing the economic boom that Japan was experiencing at the expense of local infrastructure development. The only times that funds were reallocated to finance infrastructure development was as a consequence of providing benefits to certain landowners and construction companies in a bid to fulfil illegal financial transactions between the government, big business corporations, and the criminal organizations. As such, it was not uncommon for there to be periodic financial scandals in the ministry of construction that oversaw all the development projects. Despite the shortcomings of the Japanese government officials in effectively maintaining the public funds from taxation, the Japanese companies during the economic boom period amassed a significant market share for their product. The economic boom facilitated the expansion and intensification of the Japanese industries.
These companies also known as ‘kereitsu’ were able to produce products and sell them at a cheaper price and thus were able to out-compete European and American companies in Japan. It is important to note that part of the reason that Japan had a robust economy is that Japanese citizens bought most of the consumer goods produced by their industries. The Japanese consumer loyalty towards brands that were generated by their own industries played a significant contribution in sustaining the economic boom. A good example is in the aftermath of rural to urban migration that led to the mechanization of Japanese agriculture. Although there were shortfalls in production especially in the Japanese staple food- rice- most Japanese citizens stuck to the more expensive Japanese rice as opposed to the American rice in the market with the reasoning that Japanese rice was of superior quality compared to the American rice.
Another positive economic ramification of the urbanisation and industrialization during the Japanese economic boom was its economic recovery after the 1973 global oil shocks. In 1973, the oil producing Arab countries unanimously decided to raise the global prices of crude oil. This action had serious impact on countries with oil dependent industries, of which Japan was a part of. Most of Japan’s industries at that time strongly relied on oil and as such the country underwent the first negative economic growth during that period. However, the Japanese government responded by implementing policies and programs calculated at creating efficiency in the use of fossil fuels. Given it economic capacity and industrial resilience, Japan was able to recover from this economic shock faster than many other countries. Furthermore, Japan also initiated programs and legislations that were aimed at curbing environmental pollution, an issue that was previously ignored during the urbanization and intensification of industrial production at the onset of the economic boom.
Despite the severe economic restriction that Japan faced due to war reparation costs imposed by the World War II victors, Japan emerged to become an economic giant in the 1960s and 1970s. After World War II America had already set in motion plans to transform Japan into a capitalistic and democratic society. The main agenda behind U.S sponsoring of Japan was to reinvigorate its economy and use it to counter the spread of communism in Asia. It is important to note that the Japanese economic boom in the decades following 1960 occurred during the height of the cold war between the USA and USSR which championed for the spread of capitalism and communism respectively. Japan thus arose to become the second-biggest capitalist economy after the U.S. The social and economic ramifications of the increased affluence of Japanese citizens after the post-1960 economic boom in Japan are diverse and complex. The effects include rural to urban migration, changes in residential housing, education and student activism, Gender defined roles, government corruption, the doubling of the national average salaries of Japanese salaries by 1967, improved economic recovery after the 1973 oil shock, increase in the materialistic and possessive nature in the Japanese middle class, increased vice in land transaction in and around urban centres and increased indulgence in leisure activities. These effects are interlinked as some of them consequently led to the emergence of other socioeconomic impacts.
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