Japan After World War II


After World War II, Japan was completely destroyed, devastated and left in ruins. There were two million casualties recorded, and all the major cities were destroyed by bombings. Nagasaki and Hiroshima were destroyed and left as scorched rubble. The United States decided to take advantage of this, and accepted the surrender of the Japanese. With the U.S. now in charge, General Douglas MacArthur and his colleagues decided to make changes and reforms to Japan's economy, and succeeded in improving it. In the end, Japan and the United states, who were once enemies, became allies.

Postwar Japan and the Damage

Hiroshima After the Bombing

The atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima; a main city for the Japanese Army, was the first ever to be used in warfare. 140,000 people died directly from the bombing, and 60,000 died after the fact with bomb-related injuries (Drea, Edward). Another atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki which was one of the largest sea ports in Southern Japan. This bomb missed it's designated area by one and a half miles, but it still managed to kill 75,000 people and leveled about half the city. Others died later because of sickness and ailments caused by the bombing. As a result, a total of 2 million Japanese people were killed (953,000 Japanese Civilians were killed, and 1,140,429 military members were killed) due to World War II, and many of Japan's major cities were destroyed. The direct war costs for for Japan; $41.3 billion dollars. (Littell, McDougal)

U.S. Occupation in Japan

General MacArthur
After Japan had surrendered to the United States and its allies, General Douglas MacArthur took charge of the occupation of the U.S. in Japan. While there, General MacArthur began the process of demilitarization. Demilitarization disbanded all of the Japanese armed forces and only left them with a small police forced to prevent crime. He also began to bring war criminals to trial, and out of the 25 still living, 7 of them were condemned to hang (Littell, McDougal). General Douglas MacArthur did this to maintain peace for a long period of time, and a rule was put in place that stated, Japan could only fight in wars if they were attacked first and they were not allowed to maintain an army. After this step of stabilization, General MacArthur introduced a new constitution in 1947 to be followed by the Japanese citizens. Also, General Douglas MacArthur began economic reforms which included rich people with large estates selling some of their land to the government, who would then sell the land to tenant farmers at a cheap price. All of these reforms improved Japan's economy and helped to stabilize it.

Changes Made by the U.S.

After taking control of Japan, the United States made many changes in order to re-establish Japan's economy, and the country as a whole. MacArthur focused his attention to democratization, the process of creating a government that is ran by the people (Littell, McDougal). Based of of this process, General MacArthur and his American advisers developed a new constitution. The Japanese accepted the new constitution, and it went into affect on May 3, 1947. The emperor lost almost all of his military, political, and social power, and became a symbol, or figurehead of Japan. Japan had now become a democratic society.
General MacArthur and Emperor Hirohito

The Diet and Government
The Japanese elected a
two-house legislature called the Diet.
Legislative: (Diet)
  • House of Councillors with 242 members
  • House of Representatives with 480 members
  • Total of 722 members
    Japanese Constitution
  • Prime Minister is the head of the cabinet
  • Prime Minister elected by the Diet
  • Supreme Court is the highest court
  • Judges appointed by the Cabinet
  • Other courts are summary courts, family courts, high courts and district courts
  • Minimum voting age is 20
  • Women received right to vote in new constitution
  • House of Rep. elections are held every 4 years
  • Half of the House of Councillors are elected every 3 years

(Japanese Government)^

Japan's Bill of Rights

Japan's Bill of Rights granted basic rights and freedoms such as...
  • Right to petition the government
  • Freedom of religion
  • Freedom of speech
  • Prohibition of forced marriages
  • Prohibition of torture and excessive punishments
  • Gave workers the right to create independent labor unions
  • Voting rights

(Japanese Government)^, (Littell, McDougal)^


Japan could only fight in wars if they were attacked first, and they were not allowed to maintain a standing army.

Peace Treaty

In September 1951, a peace treaty was signed between the United States and 47 other countries with Japan. This treaty officially ended the war, and six months after the signing, U.S. occupation of japan had ended. However, Japan had no army, so they accepted the protection of their country by the United States. In doing so, Japan and the United States, who once were enemies, were now allies.

Timeline of Major Events
  • August - September 1945 - Allies use atomic bombs causing Japan to surrender
  • February 1946 - General Douglas MacArthur and his political advisers draw up Japan's new constitution
  • May 3, 1947 - The new Japanese constitution goes into affect
  • September 1951 - United States and 47 other nations sign a peace treaty with Japan

(Littell, McDougal)^

Multiple Choice

General Douglas MacArthur arrived in Japan in 1945 by order of the United States military. From his time of arrival until 1951, MacArthur undertook fundamental reforms which included all of the following except...

a. Demilitarization
b. Forming the Diet
c. Issuing economic reforms
d. Increasing the power of the Emperor to prevent chaos
Japan's Flag

Works Cited

"Douglas MacArthur." Douglas MacArthur. Web. 9 May 2010.

Drea, Edward, Gary Trogdon, and Reneé Klish. “The U.S Army in Post World War II Japan.” United States Army. N.p., n.d. Web. 6 May 2010.

Ethnic Music Compilations. "Samurai Song". Traditional Music of The Japanese Geisha.

"Japan Flag." Civil Military Overview. Web. 12 May 2010.

Japanese Government. Japan Guide. Japan-Guide.com, 4 Dec. 2007. Web. 9 May 2010.

Kohn, George Childs. "Japanese Constitution of 1946."
Dictionary of Historic Documents, Revised Edition. New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2003. Modern World History Online. Facts On File, Inc. Web. 7 May. 2010.

Littell, McDougal. “Modern World History”. Evanston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2005. Print.

MacArthur Hirohito. N.d.
Wikimedia. MediaWiki, 12 June 2007. Web. 12 May 2010.

The Constitution of Japan
. N.d. Wikimedia. MediaWiki, 31 May 2005. Web. 4 May 2010.

"The Hiroshima Damage." World War III, Are you Ready?. Web. 9 May 2010.

“World War 2 Atomic Bomb.”
World War 2. Philadelphia Website Design, n.d. Web. 6 May 2010.