Japan after World War II

Occupied by American troops, the country was under the control of a military government under General D. MacArthur (* 1880, † 1964). The reforms demanded by the Americans began with a radio speech by the emperor (January 1, 1946) in which the emperor renounced the old Japanese view of the divinity of the emperor. The large estates were divided among small farmers, the large corporations were unbundled. On May 3, 1947, the constitution came into force, according to which the emperor is only a symbol of the state. Leading politicians and military officials of the war years had to answer before an international military tribunal in Tokyo (including the 1948 death sentence against former Prime Minister Hideki Tōjō). On September 8, 1951, 48 nations (apart from the USSR, China and others) signed a peace treaty with Japan in San Francisco, through which the country regained its sovereignty (effective from April 28, 1952); however, immediately after its defeat in August 1945, the national territory was restricted to the original Japanese islands. Also on September 8, 1951, a US-Japanese security treaty was concluded, which allowed the further stationing of American troops in Japan.

Japan under the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP)

The leading political force in post-war Japan was the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which emerged from the merger of the Liberal and Democratic Party on November 15, 1955 and was the government for the next 38 years. Under Prime Minister I. Hatoyama (1954–56) Japan resumed diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union without a formal peace treaty in October 1956 and became a member of the UN on December 18, 1956. The security treaty with the USA, which was extended on January 19, 1960 despite mass protests, confirmed its right to military bases. On June 22, 1965, Japan signed a treaty normalizing relations with South Korea. Under Prime Minister E. Satō (1964–72) Japan achieved the return of the Bonin Islands (1968) and Okinawa (1972, but American military bases continued to remain here) from the USA. Satō confirmed Japan’s renunciation of nuclear weapons in 1967 (formulation of the three “non-nuclear principles”: no manufacture, no possession, and no storage or importation of nuclear weapons; confirmed by the House of Commons in 1971); In 1970 Japan signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (ratified in 1976). Diplomatic relations were established with China in 1972. The long reign of Sato, which was characterized by high economic growth, followed a frequent change of heads of government, which was seen as an expression of a structural crisis in the ruling LDP. The Lockheed Affair (1976), in which the former Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka (1972-74) was also involved, caused the greatest domestic political upheaval to date. Only Prime Minister Y. Nakasone was able to show a longer term of office (1982-87).

The educational reform begun by the Nakasone government and continued under Prime Minister N. Takeshita (in office 1987-89) aroused fears in the opposition that it might encourage a revitalization of nationalist traditions. The uncovering of a new bribery scandal and the involvement of senior government officials in the affair led to the resignation of Prime Minister Takeshita. His successor S. Uno (* 1922, † 1998), who took over the office of head of government at the beginning of June 1989, declared after the LDP had lost a lot of votes in the upper house elections (July 23, 1989) and his own involvement in a scandal 7. 1989 his resignation. The following month the former Minister of Education became Toshiki Kaifu (* 1932)Prime Minister.

The successor to the emperor Hirohito, who died on January 7, 1989, was his eldest son Akihito (enthronement in November 1990); he put his term of office under the motto “Heisei” (to achieve peace).

In terms of foreign policy, according to mathgeneral, Japan expanded its relations with neighboring East and Southeast Asian countries (including the Peace and Friendship Treaty with China in 1978). The economically successful country rose to one of the seven largest western industrial nations; However, due to its expansive export and import policy, which was perceived as restrictive, there were repeated tensions with the USA and the EC. Even after the dissolution of the USSR (December 1991), the long-standing Japanese-Soviet dispute over the Kuril Islands could not be resolved with Russia’s negotiating partner. Prime Minister Kaifu was appointed by Kiichi Miyazawa in November 1991replaced. Under his leadership, a law was passed in June 1992 allowing Japan to participate in UN peacekeeping operations (Peacekeeping Operations [PKO] law).

Japan after World War II

Political Intermediate Period (1993-96)

After a successful motion of no confidence (also supported by members of the LDP) against the Miyazawa government, which was fraught with corruption affairs, parliament was dissolved in June 1993; the LDP lost its absolute majority in the new elections (July 1993) for the first time. The elections were preceded by numerous splits from the LDP, including that of the Shinseitō (»Renewal Party«) around T. Hata (* 1935, † 2017) and I. Ozawa (* 1942), the New Japan Party (NJP) under M. Hosokawa and the New Initiative party. The election result reflected the resentment of the population about the encrusted political structures with their corruption affairs.

The new government, sworn in in August 1993, was formed by a coalition of seven parties led by Hosokawa. In terms of foreign policy, this ensured an improvement in Japan’s relations with its Asian neighbors: As the first Japanese head of government, he admitted that Japan was guilty of war by describing Japan’s interventions in the East Asian region before and during the Second World War as a “war of aggression”. The most important projects of Hosokawa, a reform of the electoral law and measures to combat corruption, were approved by the House of Lords on January 29, 1994. After only eight months in office, Hosokawa saw himself forced to resign from his post as prime minister on April 9, 1994 because of his involvement in controversial private financial transactions.

After T. Hata’s brief term as Prime Minister (April – June 1994), the Social Democrat T. Murayama took over the leadership of a coalition government made up of the LDP, the Social Democratic Party of Japan (SDPJ) and the New Sakigake Party at the end of June 1994.

The year 1995 was overshadowed by two catastrophes: On January 17th, 5,490 people were killed in a severe earthquake in Kobe, and several hundred thousand were left homeless. On March 20, a poison gas attack carried out by the Aum sect in the Tokyo subway killed twelve people and injured over 5,000.

On the 50th anniversary of the Japanese surrender on August 15, 1995, Prime Minister Murayama apologized against internal opposition for the war crimes committed by Japan during World War II.