This week, we’re going to discuss the postwar strategy that enabled Japan to revive itself after World War II. In 1952, most observers believed Japan would become a mid-rank regional power on the same order as Sweden; by 1970 it was clear that would not be the case. We’re going to discuss how Japan was able to rebound from defeat so quickly, and what forces propelled the massive growth of the 1950s, 60s, and 70s.
Listen to the episode
The Making of Modern Japan.
Images (Courtesy of the Wikimedia Foundation)
Okita Saburo, the economist who, in 1945, articulated a vision for Japan revived as an economic power. Okita was the youngest of the men who would lead postwar Japan (he was born in 1914) and lived until 1993, just long enough to see his system begin to falter.
Yoshida Shigeru, the ex-diplomat turned Prime Minister who would lead the group dedicated to putting Okita Saburo’s vision into place.
Socialist and other left-wing protestors riot outside the Diet building in downtown Tokyo against the renewal of the US-Japan Mutual Security Treaty in 1960. The LDP faction in power had to bring in police and yakuza to prevent the crowds from halting the passage of the renewed treaty.
The Speaker of the Lower House of the Diet performing the final tally of votes regarding the security treaty. He had to be physically escorted to the stage and protected from left-wing Diet members, who attempted to prevent him from finishing the procedures required to pass the treaty.
The lighting of the cauldron at the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games. We didn’t really have time to talk about it on the show, but the 1964 Olympics became a symbol of Japanese revival after the war, as they took place right when Ikeda Hayato’s Income Doubling Plan was beginning to seriously jumpstart the national economy.
Ikeda Hayato, the famously-abrasive bureaucrat and politician (PM 1960-1964). Ikeda is often credited with reaching out to the Japanese people and forging a consensus that the best way forward for the country was to focus all its resources on economic growth. His Income Doubling Plan was an ambitious (and ultimately successful) bid to massively stimulate the Japanese economy along the lines proposed by Okita Saburo and Yoshida Shigeru.
Sato Eisaku, Prime Minister 1964-1972 (the longest-serving in Japanese history). Sato was the last of the Yoshida “honor students,” and continued to carry forth his mentor’s legacy.