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The Allied occupation of Japan at the end of World War II was led by the United States, whose then-President Harry S. Truman appointed General Douglas MacArthur as the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers, with support from the British Commonwealth. Unlike in the occupation of Germany, the Soviet Union was allowed little to no influence over Japan. This foreign presence marks the only time in Japan's history that it has been occupied by a foreign power.[1] At MacArthur's insistence, Emperor Hirohito remained on the imperial throne. The wartime cabinet was replaced with a cabinet acceptable to the Allies and committed to implementing the terms of the Potsdam Declaration, which among other things called for the country to become a parliamentary democracy. Under MacArthur's guidance, the Japanese government introduced sweeping social reforms and implemented economic reforms that recalled American "New Deal" priorities of the 1930s under President Roosevelt.[2] The Japanese constitution was comprehensively overhauled and the Emperor's theoretically-vast powers, which for many centuries had been constrained by conventions that had evolved over time, became strictly limited by law. The occupation, codenamed Operation Blacklist,[3] was ended by the San Francisco Peace Treaty, signed on September 8, 1951, and effective from April 28, 1952, after which Japan's sovereignty – with the exception, until 1972, of the Ryukyu Islands – was fully restored.

General Horace Rob

In effect, there was no "military government" in Japan in the literal sense of the word. It was simply a SCAP superstructure over already existing government machinery, designed to observe and assist the Japanese along the new democratic channels of administration.

General Horace Robertson of Australia,

General Horace Robertson of Australia, head of BCOF, wrote:[70]

Japanese prefectures as a check on the extent to which the prefectures were carrying out the directives issued by MacArthur’s headquarters or the orders from the central government.
The really important duty of the so called Military government teams was, however, the supervision of the issue throughout Japan of the large quantities of food stuffs and medical stores being poured into the country from American sources. The teams also contained so-called experts on health, education, sanitation, agriculture and the like, to help the Japanese in adopting more up to date methods sponsored by SCAP’s headquarters. The normal duties of a military government organisation, the most important of which are law and order and a legal system, were never needed in Japan since the Japanese government’s normal legal system still functioned with regard to all Japanese nationals ... The so-called military government in Japan was therefore neither military nor government.

The Japanese government's de facto authority was strictly limited at first, however, and senio

The Japanese government's de facto authority was strictly limited at first, however, and senior figures in the government such as the Prime Minister effectively served at the pleasure of the occupation authorities before the first post-war elections were held. Political parties had begun to revive almost immediately after the occupation began. Left-wing organizations, such as the Japan Socialist Party and the Japan Communist Party, quickly reestablished themselves, as did various conservative parties. The old Seiyukai and Rikken Minseito came back as, respectively, the Liberal Party (Nihon Jiyuto) and the Japan Progressive Party (Nihon Shimpoto). The first postwar elections were held in 1946 (women were given the franchise for the first time), and the Liberal Party's vice president, Yoshida Shigeru (1878–1967), became prime minister. For the 1947 elections, anti-Yoshida forces left the Liberal Party and joined forces with the Progressive Party to establish the new Japan Democratic Party (Minshuto). This divisiveness in conservative ranks gave a plurality to the Japan Socialist Party, which was allowed to form a cabinet, which lasted less than a year. Thereafter, the socialist party steadily declined in its electoral successes. After a short period of Democratic Party administration, Yoshida returned in late 1948 and continued to serve as prime minister until 1954.

Japan accepted the terms of the Potsdam Declaration and surrendered on August 15, 1945. Over 5,000 Japanese Americans served in the occupation of Japan.[71] Dozens of Japanese Americans served as translators, interpreters, and investigators in the International Military Tribunal for the Far East. Thomas Sakamoto served as press escort during the occupation of Japan. He escorted American correspondents to Hiroshima, and the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay. Sakamoto was one of three Japanese Americans to be on board the USS Missouri when the Japanese formally surrendered. Arthur S. Komori served as personal interpreter for Brig. Gen. Elliot R. Thorpe. Kay Kitagawa served as personal interpreter of Fleet Admiral William Halsey Jr..[72] Kan Tagami served as personal interpreter-aide for General Douglas MacArthur.[73] Journalist Don Caswell was accompanied by a Japanese American interpreter to Fuchū Prison, where the Japanese government imprisoned communists Tokuda Kyuichi, Yoshio Shiga, and Shiro Mitamura.[74]

Japanese Americans in the OSS parachuted down into Japanese POW prison camps at Hankow, Mukden, Peiping and Hainan as interpreters on mercy missions to liberate American and other Allied prisoners.[75] Arthur T. Morimitsu was the only Military Intelligence Service member in the detachment commanded by Major Richard Irby and 1st Lt. Jeffrey Smith to observe the surrender ceremony of 60,000 Japanese troops under Gen. Sh

Japanese Americans in the OSS parachuted down into Japanese POW prison camps at Hankow, Mukden, Peiping and Hainan as interpreters on mercy missions to liberate American and other Allied prisoners.[75] Arthur T. Morimitsu was the only Military Intelligence Service member in the detachment commanded by Major Richard Irby and 1st Lt. Jeffrey Smith to observe the surrender ceremony of 60,000 Japanese troops under Gen. Shimada.[76] Kan Tagami witnessed Japanese forces surrender to the British in Malaya.[73]

In 1949, MacArthur made a sweeping change in the SCAP power structure that greatly increased the power of Japan's native rulers, and the occupation began to draw to a close. The Treaty of San Francisco, which was to end the occupation, was signed on September 8, 1951. It came into effect on April 28, 1952, formally ending all occupation powers of the Allied forces and restoring full sovereignty to Japan, except for the island chains of Iwo Jima and Okinawa, which the United States continued to hold. Iwo Jima was returned to Japan in 1968, and most of Okinawa was returned in 1972.

Following the American departure, Japan gained military protection from the United States. However, the United States was soon pressuring Japan to rebuild its military capabilities, and as a result, the Japan Self-Defense Forces were formed as a de facto milit

Following the American departure, Japan gained military protection from the United States. However, the United States was soon pressuring Japan to rebuild its military capabilities, and as a result, the Japan Self-Defense Forces were formed as a de facto military force with US assistance. However, following the Yoshida Doctrine, Japan continued to prioritize economic growth over defense spending, relying on American protection to ensure it could focus mainly on economic recovery. Through Guided Capitalism, Japan was able to optimally utilize its resources to economically recover from the war, and revive industry.[77] Some 31,000 US military personnel remain in Japan today at the invitation of the Japanese government as the United States Forces Japan under the terms of the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan (1960) and not as an occupying force. US bases in and around Tokyo, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Aomori, Sapporo, and Ishikari are currently active.

On the day the occupation of Japan was over, the Asahi Shimbun published a very critical essay on the occupation, calling it "almost akin to colonialism" and claiming it turned the Japanese population "irresponsible, obsequious and listless... unable to perceive issues in a forthright manner, which led to distorted perspectives".[78] The purpose for delaying the return of the Japanese southern islands, the Bonin Islands including Chichi Jima, Okinawa, and the Volcano Islands including Iwo Jima to civil administration was the U.S. military's requirement to covertly base U.S. atomic weapons or their components on the islands where the presence or expansion of U.S. bases remain a heated controversy to this day.[citation needed]

In later years, General MacArthur himself thought little of the Occupation. In June 1960, he was decorated by the Japanese government with the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun with Paulownia Flowers, the highest Japanese order which may be conferred on an individual who is not a head of state. In hi

In later years, General MacArthur himself thought little of the Occupation. In June 1960, he was decorated by the Japanese government with the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun with Paulownia Flowers, the highest Japanese order which may be conferred on an individual who is not a head of state. In his statement upon receiving the honor, MacArthur expressed his "own firm disbelief in the usefulness of military occupations with their corresponding displacement of civil control."[79]

Hirohito's surrender broadcast was a profound shock to Japanese citizens. After years of being told about Japan's military might and the inevitability of victory, these beliefs were proven false in the space of a few minutes.[citation needed] But for many people, these were only secondary concerns since they were also facing starvation and homelessness.[citation needed]

Post-war Japan was chaotic. The air raids on Japan's urban centers left millions displaced and food shortages, created by bad harvests and the demands of the war, worsened when the seizure of food from Korea, Taiwan, and China ceased.[80] Repatriation of Japanese living in other parts of Asia and hundreds of thousands of demobilized prisoners of war only aggravated the problems in Japan as these people put more strain on already scarce resources. Over 5.1 million Japanese returned to Japan in the fifteen months following October 1, 1945, and another million returned in 1947.[81] Alcohol and drug abuse became major problems. Deep exhaustion, declining morale and despair were so widespread that it was termed the "kyodatsu condition"air raids on Japan's urban centers left millions displaced and food shortages, created by bad harvests and the demands of the war, worsened when the seizure of food from Korea, Taiwan, and China ceased.[80] Repatriation of Japanese living in other parts of Asia and hundreds of thousands of demobilized prisoners of war only aggravated the problems in Japan as these people put more strain on already scarce resources. Over 5.1 million Japanese returned to Japan in the fifteen months following October 1, 1945, and another million returned in 1947.[81] Alcohol and drug abuse became major problems. Deep exhaustion, declining morale and despair were so widespread that it was termed the "kyodatsu condition" (虚脱状態, kyodatsujoutai, lit. "state of lethargy").[82] Inflation was rampant and many people turned to the black market for even the most basic goods. These black markets in turn were often places of turf wars between rival gangs, like the Shibuya incident in 1946. Prostitution also increased considerably.

In the 1950s, kasutori culture emerged. In response to the scarcity of the previous years, this sub-culture, named after the preferred drink of the artists and writers who imbibed it, emphasized escapism, entertainment and decadence.[83]

The phrase "shikata ga nai", or "nothing can be done about it," was commonly used in both Japanese and American press to encapsulate the Japanese public's resignation to the harsh conditions endured while under occupation. However, not everyone reacted the same way to the hardships of the postwar period. While some succumbed to the difficulties, many more were resilient. As the country regained its footing, they were able to bounce back as well.

Leftists looked upon the occupation forces as a "liberation army".[84]

It has been argued that the granting of rights to women played an important role in the radical shift Japan underwent from a war nation to a democratized and demilitarized country.[85] In the first postwar general elections of 1946, over a third of the votes were cast by women. This unexpectedly high female voter turnout led to the election of 39 female candidates, and the increasing presence of women in politics was perceived by Americans as evidence of an improvement of Japanese women's condition.[86]

American feminists saw Japanese women as victims of feudalistic and chauvinistic traditions that had to be broken by the Occupation. American women assumed a central role in the reforms that affected the lives of Japanese women: they educated Japanese about Western ideals of democracy, and it was an American woman, Beate Sirota, who wrote the articles guaranteeing equality between men and women for the new constitution.[87] General Douglas MacArthur did not mean for Japanese women to give up their central role in the home as wives and mothers, but rather that they could now assume other roles simultaneously, such as that of worker.[88][89]

In 1953, journalist Ichirō Narumigi commented that Japan had received "liberation of sex" along with the "four presents" that it had been granted by the occupation (respect for human rights, gender equality, freedom of speech, and women's enfranchisement).[90] Indeed, the occupation also had a great impact on relationships between men and women in Japan. The "modern girl" phenomenon of the 1920s and early 1930s had been characterized by greater sexual freedom, but despite this, sex was usually not perceived as a source of pleasure (for women) in Japan. Westerners, as a result, were thought to be promiscuous and sexually deviant.[91] The sexual liberation of European and North American women during World War II was unthinkable in Japan, especially during wartime where rejection of Western ways of life was encouraged.[92]

The Japanese public was thus astounded by the sight of some 45,000 so-called "pan pan girls" (prostitutes) fraternizing with American soldiers during the occupation.[90] In 1946, the 200 wives of US officers landing in Japan to visit their husbands also had a similar impact when many of these reunited couples were seen walking hand in hand and kissing in public.[93] Both prostitution and marks of affection had been hidden from the public until then, and this "democratization of eroticism" was a source of surprise, curiosity, and even envy. The occupation set new models for relationships between Japanese men and women: the western practice of "dating" spread, and activities such as dancing, movies and coffee were not limited to "pan pan girls" and American troops anymore, and became popular among young Japanese couples.[94]