*Por Marcelo Gullo

Japan Against Western Powers

If we consider a state impulse to be all the policies made by a State to create or increase and of the elements that make up the power of that State, there is no room for doubt that Japan was the State that, throughout history and most systematically, used this “tool” to build its national power. It constitutes the paradigmatic example of how through state impulse the threshold of power, even when starting off with completely unfavorable conditions. Thanks to state impulse, Japan was able to go from being a feudal-agricultural state to being an industrial State-nation. Through that impulse Japan was able to make itself go from being an under-developed country to a world power. Thanks to state impulse, Japan was able to accumulate the quantum of power necessary to free itself from the subordination of hegemonic structures of world power and escape from the periphery.

Japan was on the verge of feudal anarchy when, in 1542, the Portuguese reached its coasts. The Japanese did not take long to understand the importance of ships carrying heavy canons and of soldiers armed with harquebuses. The great princes of western Japan – that had declared themselves independent – welcomed the intruders. The Japanese could not have been in worse condition to resist a European invasion. Fortunately for the country, from that difficult situation came a military leader magnitude, Oda Nobunaga, who managed to keep the power of the daimyo –the great feudal lords- in check and to thus hinder European powers from using internal quarrels to take hold of Japan. During the government of Nobunaga the Portuguese, and later the Spanish, peacefully began to visit and install themselves in Japan.

Toyotomi Hideyoshi, another great military leader, succeeded Nobunaga. Meanwhile, the Spanish, already established in the Philippines, planned to invade Japan from there.

In 1600, General Hideyoshi was succeeded by Ieyasu Tokugawa who in 1603 was proclaimed Sheitai Shogun, “great general submitter of the barbarians”, meaning the Europeans, who were – according to Japanese thinking, and rightly thought – on the verge of invading the Japanese islands. The Shogunato of the Tokugawa, though respecting the way and dignity of the imperial title, exercised, de facto, authority over all of Imperial Japan for 265 years. Fortunately as well for Japan, each European nation made sure to denounce the expansionistic intentions of the others.

During the era of the second Shogun, Tokugawa, the Japanese were well-informed of the activities of the Europeans in the islands of the Pacific, Java, the Moluccas and, especially, the Philippines, with whom the Japanese had commercial relationships from remote times. The observation of actions developed by the Portuguese, Dutch, Spanish and English took them to the conclusion that they should deny them setting foot in their territory: “In 1615, the Japanese sent a special spy to the southern regions to inform them of the actions that the Europeans developed there” (Panikkar, 1966: 77). The information – that reached them in 1622- confirmed their suspicions “about a Spanish plan to invade Japan itself” (77). The Japanese reaction was cutting. They began the deportation of all Spanish from the country and in 1937 they ordered the expulsion of all foreigners and the total closing off of the country to Western countries. To avoid a European material or spiritual invasion, the Japanese began a policy of severe isolation that lasted 216 years, during which the country hermetically closed itself off from the rest of the world. [1]

Liberationist Realism & Active Subordination

When on July 8th 1853 the Commodore of the America Armada Mathew Calbraith Parry entered Uraga Bay with two frigates and two war ships, Japan found itself in the exact same identical degree of development as its moment of “discovery” by the Portuguese. As a consequence, it had a “relative setback” of nothing less than two hundred years. In those two centuries of almost absolute impasse, it had remained an agricultural-feudal country, thus incapable of having a western invasion. Hurriedly, the Shogun called together all of his ministers: Should they open fire on that foreign fleet or should they negotiate with them? They soon sent out to palaver, with beautifully carved armor and helmets, with ivory sheathed swords, some of the most prestigious Samurai of Japan.

Commodore Perry carried with him a letter from President Millard Fillmore to the Shogun. The letter said, in a threatening tone: “Many of the great warships destined to visit Japan have not yet reached these waters, but we are expecting them within hours; the below signer, as evidence of his friendly intentions, has come with just four of the smallest ships, but if necessary he could come back to Yeddo next spring with a much great force” (quoted by Panikkar, 1966: 213).

Perry demanded permission from the Samurai to send the letter from the American President to the Shogun and to negotiate with him without intervention from the Dutch. When the American ships – that carried the best and most modern artillery of that country -, with the pretext of a greeting, shot off a lateral salute, the Samurai stopped stuttering and Perry obtained his permission to send the letter to the Shogun. Perry then retreated from Japanese waters to give the Shogun time to reflect. [2]

Japan knew that, due to the war the English had carried out against China – the famous Opium War of 1839 -, the city of Canton had been blockaded, the Chinese fleet destroyed and various points of the coast occupied. It was also not ignorant that that war had ended with the Nanking Treaty, in August of 1842. The treaty forced China to “reimburse” Great Britain, give up Hong Kong, “no perturb” the opium route and “open to trade” the ports of Canton, Fuchou, Amoy, Ningbo and Shanghai (Panikkar, 1966: 367).

In possession of this information and aware of the strategic vulnerability of Japan, one of the wisest counselors of the Shogunate, Ii Kaamon no Kami, created a document that pointed out the impossibility of resisting the Western barbarity suggesting “to adopt a complacent attitude until Japan, after having learned the secrets of the West, could deal with it on terms of equality” (Panikkar, 1966: 213). In conceptual terms Kami advised to carry out a policy of liberationist realism: a policy by which the Japanese State, starting with the real situation, meaning the state of subordination in which the technological setback had placed it, would decide to transform reality to begin a historical process during which it would seek to obtain the elements of power necessary to reach autonomy. In that process of construction of autonomy the first stadium that Japan would traverse would be that of active subordination. When Commodore Perry reappeared in 1854 on the coasts of Japan the Shogun, following the advice of Ii Kamon no Kami, showed himself willing to comply with the wishes of the Americans and he invited him to come to Yokohama. Commodore Perry lived the supreme moment of his life. Convinced advocate of the Manifest Destiny of the United States, “the opening of Japan was his supreme life objective” (Morrison, 1967: 324). For him, the Japanese –whom he considered weak, semi-savage, cheats and vengeful – had to be once and for all “civilized”. The Commodore had always dreamed of “drawing that strange isolated people to the bosom of civilized families” (Neumann, 1963: 31). Proud of having won primacy before the European powers, Perry entered Yokohama as if he were a circus master. The Admiral was surrounded by all his officials dressed in uniforms of gala, escorted by marine soldiers that held their bare swords up in the air. In front of Perry and his officials, two gigantic negroes, with unclothed torsos, advanced with the American flag and a band playing the music Yankee Doodle.

On March 31st of 1854 the Treaty of “Friendship and Trade” was signed between Japan and the United States. Its clauses established the right of the Americans to reside in agreed upon Japanese ports and the acceptance of the principle of extra-territorial jurisdiction. Nevertheless, these clauses would be resisted and only accepted after Towsend Harris –first American consul in Japan- warned the Japanese of the serious consequences that its refusal would have (Cosanza, 1930).

In 1853, Japan went into a deep crisis out of which it was only able to emerge – after fifteen turbulent years – in 1868 with the beginning of the Meiji Revolution. The crisis of 1853 allowed Japanese intelligence to understand that the industrial capacity was the decisive factor of the power of a State, that the relative power of a nation on the international stage depended, in large part, on its degree of industrialization. In this same way, the Japanese understood that international policy was a kind of oligopoly of industrial powers that, even while competing among themselves, they united to exercise a monopoly over the world. In the end, the crisis of 1853 unleashed in Japan a process of reflection –not exempt of acts of irrational violence and xenophobic reactions- that allowed it to understand that only through accelerated industrialization could it rebuild its national power. Thus the ideologists of the Meiji Revolution summarized their theme in two words: Sangyo rikkoko”, “reconstruction through industry”. Of all the countries of Asia only Japan was able to free itself of Western subordination and beat the West on its own soil.

The Silent Insubordination: the Meiji Revolution

From 1853 on Japan found itself divided and hesitating on the attitude to adopt before the “barbaric” westerners. For the first time the government solicited the opinion of feudal lords and of the most wisely considered Samurai. The intellectuals and educated officials debated vehemently. It seemed to be clear to all the intellectuals that, given the technological-military setback, direct resistance was impossible. Opinions swung conceptually between those that, before the evident inferiority of materials of power, technology and science, proposed the application of collaborationist realism, implied the flat out and full acceptance of subordination to the West, and those that proposed the adoption of liberationist realism. Nevertheless, the latter could not find an efficient formula to be carried out. The second defeat of China by Western powers, during the Second Opium War (1857-1858), that was followed with much attention by the Japanese ruling elite, accentuated the political crisis of the Shogunato that, in the eyes of the young samurai had shown its incapacity to act effectively before the “barbarians”.

As a reaction against the Shogunato, in 1858, those young samurai began a true “wave of violence”, terror and murders, as much against foreigners as against unpopular rulers. The failure of the Shogun to deal with the foreigners became more and more evident and as a consequence the revolt of the extremist Samurai took on the form of a restoration of imperial power against the Shogun. There were two consignments that synthesized the thoughts of the young Samurai – whose average age was barely over thirty years old-: “Kick out the barbarians” and “Venerate the Emperor”. Luckily for Japan, between 1858 and 1868 the majority of the most xenophobic young samurai activists perished during their campaign of terror.

On January 4th of 1868, a group of samurais –after a short civil war- expulsed the Shogun and restored royal power to the Emperor. Emperor Mutushito – young successor to the xenophobic Emperor Komei – under the name of Meiji Tenno then became the founder of a new era in Japan. The Meiji Revolution was the revolution of a select minority. [3] The fundamental objective of the Meiji Revolution was that Japan be able to reach the new threshold of power – the minimum power necessary for the Nippon State to not fall into the stadium of subordination – through accelerated industrialization and the construction of a modern State that would serve that goal. [4]

From the Meiji Revolution, through state impulse Japan created, in less than twenty years, a modern industrial apparatus and a prosperous national bourgeois. In record time it not only raised factories where there used to be rice paddies but it also made its samurai important captains of industry.

One of the first measures of the Meiji government was to found several industrial companies of state management. The Japanese government  began the industrialization process by creating those industries that it thought most important from the point of view of the construction of national power in hopes to reach, as soon as possible, the new threshold of power:

Given that the government was made up of members of the intelligentsia (ex-warriors in their majority), aware of the need of a new era, the creation of state-managed companies also fell into the hands of these types of people. An as their ideology was Confucian, the ideology of the industrials also became Confucianism. All of these businesses were factories of huge dimensions and needed the organization and disciplined work of large numbers of workers. However, since the farming, artesian and merchant classes of the age showed little willingness to that kind of discipline, workers even had to be found in the beginning primarily in the warrior class. (Morishima, 1997: 118).

In order to evaluate the magnitude and the scope of the effort that Japan carried out in order to reach the threshold of power, it is necessary to remember that the Japanese Empire, at the time the Meiji Revolution took place, it was made up of 3,500 islands, and the total land surface of its territory was only 34 percent inhabitable and barely 14 percent was cultivatable. Twenty-six million inhabitants lived on the islands and Japan had reached the highest point of its population, to the point that it could not cultivate and more food in its poor soil to maintain more human beings. [5] Japan did not possess, except for copper, practically any important raw materials and it could therefore not employ neither agricultural products nor basic raw materials in any significant way to fund the huge purchase of machinery that it needed to build its industrial apparatus.

Furthermore, even with the advent of the Meiji government Japan opened up without restrictions, this opening only applied to commercial property. The opening did not reach the point to which the Japanese government would allow the importation of foreign capital. Thus, in order to carry out the accelerated industrialization process, the government had to “create” the necessary capital by its own means, subjecting the population to great sacrifices. Internal capital was meager as well and, clearly, insufficient. Only merchants had some gold stored away that, with great patriotic spirit, they lent to the State. The first internal loan, titles in the value of 30 million Yen, was made in 1872. It is true that some feudal lords had committed to the industrialization process – such as Prince Satsuma, who in 1862 founded the first Japanese factory, a cotton spinning factory with five-hundred spindles, or the lords of the Maebashi fief, who created the first silk spinning factory in 1870 – but the capital they were able to gather was insufficient in relation to the amount necessary to build the shipyards, the iron and steel works, and the railways. [6] So, as the greater part of public income of the time came from agricultural contributions, “the government increased the charges and applied start-up collection fees of several companies, by way of this sort of internal savings”(Morishima, 1997: 121).

Furthermore, the government began to exploit the few gold and silver deposits that were to be found on the islands in order to increment the capital that would allow it to contribute to the undertaking of the necessary investments. Simultaneously, it began work on copper mines, the only mineral that Japan possessed in abundance. The State was able to exploit in a direct way three-hundred and fifty mines and with the profits from these it was able to create the textile industry.

The feudal revenue contributed another source of capital for industrialization:

In the era of the abolition of dominions, the government took charge ofthe allowances that each dominion anteriorly received; between 1873 and 1874 it handed titles of debt out to the old feudal lords and warriors that had renounced their revenue in the sum of around four to six years-worth of those payments. In this way the warriors found themselves in possession of money, and above all the old feudal lords and warriors of higher category became rich overnight, and they invested these riches in industry. The investor criterion of these men, in contrast to the merchants, were not cheap; they invested according to what they understood were strong national necessities and of national interest. Many of them had a strong national awareness and a relatively clear idea of what could be of national interest. (Morishima, 1997: 121)

The Development of the Shipping Industry

Special attention is deserved by the shipping industry in Japan due to the boycotts that the country suffered on behalf of Western powers tending to hinder it from developing its own shipping industry.

Western powers were also aware – and they thus agreed amongst themselves- that the achievement of potential, in terms of power, of the Nippon State would alter the correlation of forces on a regional level to their detriment. As a logical consequence, the objective of Western powers with respects to Japan consisted of trying to guarantee that its political, military and economic development not affect their local and regional interests. The Western powers failed completely in the attainment of that objective.

The Meiji government quickly realized that the charters they paid English or American shipping companies would make the importation of machinery 120 percent more expensive and that foreign ships were monopolizing Japanese coastal navigation in its entirety. It therefore decreed a law that, inspired by the old British Navigation Law of 1651, promoted naval construction.

For the development of the shipping industry, Japan needed to purchase construction blueprints abroad and obtain engineers and technicians willing to move to its territory in order to transmit their knowledge. The committees sent by the Japanese government to England and the United States to acquire blueprints and attract engineers often encountered closed doors. Finally Japan, after arduous arrangements, was able to get England to sell them an extremely expensive shipping construction plan. Nevertheless, in 1870 – when in the state shipyards of Uraga the construction of the first ships was completed – it was revealed that the English blueprints knowingly contained false measurements. Japan had simply been “swindled”. When the first ship was launched, it killed fifteen citizens and it heavily heeled over to port. In the blueprints, the British engineers had distributed the weight so subtly and in such an irregular way that all subsequent attempts to launch other ships failed systematically. The rulers of the Meiji government realized that they had been scammed by the British. They swallowed their indignation and accepted having to purchase the older and more obsolete ships from Europe and the United States but did not abandon the idea of creating a national shipping industry and they began, then, from the beginning, training up the necessary technicians and engineers. In 1894 Japan had already gone from single-mast junk construction to the construction of steam boats. [7]

After the invasion of Formosa Yotaro Iwasaki, descendant of a warrior family, received free of charge all the ships that made up the new fleet of the Japanese State and the government also granted 250,000 Yen of annual subsidies for the construction of new ships. Later another 15,000 annual Yen were granted to found a nautical school destined to slowly and markedly replace foreign captains and helmsmen. Iwasaki thus initiated the construction of modern shipyards but, in order to not have the same unpleasant experience as had the State builders, he had the construction blueprints stolen. In this way he double the tonnage in one year.

In 1911 the Japanese government – drawing on American laws of 1789 to promote the shipping industry – banned foreign countries from coastal sailing. The Mitsubishi then founded, jointly with the Mitsui and the Ocurra, the Osaka Shosen Kaisha and later the Kogusai Kisen Kaisha, that allowed Japan to not only achieve the navigation of its own coasts but also to create navigation routes to Africa, Australia, the United States, Europe and South America. Fifty years after the Meiji government decided to create, through state impulse, the shipping industry, the Japanese merchant marina had 4,000,000 tons available. Its capacity had multiplied one-hundred fold.

The First State Loans

In 1870, the Meiji government obtained its first foreign loan in the sum of one million sterling pounds. English banking granted the loan for nine years and demanded of Japan an annual interest of 9 percent, when it was common to charge non-European countries 4 percent. With the loan money they purchased in England – in the city of Lancashire – two spinning machines with two-thousand spindles each and, what’s more, they installed two state cement factories and one glass factory, equipped with American machinery. State shipyards were also created, a gas company, an electric company and a canning company.
In 1873, after lengthy negotiations, the Japanese government obtained, in the financing city of London, under truly usurious conditions, a new credit in the sum of 2,500,000 pounds. With the loans, the government was able to technical frame for reforms. It inaugurated the first stretch of railroad from Tokyo to Yokohama and it funded the establishment of the Genroin: a planning commission in charge of sending study committees abroad in search of the best possible model to industrialize the country and to build a modern State. Japan would not leave anything to the solutions of chance, would not leave any important sector of the freed economy in the “magical hands of the market”. From the Meiji Revolution on, it would act in a planned way.

The Planning of Economic & Political Life

In search of a model that would allow them to reach the new threshold of power as quickly as possible, the Japanese government sent many study missions abroad as much to Europe as to the United States. Nevertheless, in Japan’s eyes, the United States did not appear to be the strongest and most advanced country. For this reason, it was the European countries that mainly served as a model for the “selective modernization” of the most important sectors of economic and political life.[8]

It is necessary to clarify that, in that moment in history, Japan was on the verge of falling under the ideological-cultural subordination to the hegemonic structures of world power, given that some of the politicians and intellectuals proposed the abandonment of all that was Japanese since they considered that all that was the past, all that was Japanese, was “outdated” and “barbaric”. That sector of Japanese thought and policy even came to propose the renouncement of the use of the Japanese language and the genetic renewal of the Japanese race through inbreeding with the “superior” white race. Logically, the ideological program of that sector of Japanese thought included the acceptance of economic liberalism and the international division of labor.

In reaction to the ideas held by this group of ideologically and culturally subordinated Japanese intellectuals to the hegemonic structures of world power, the proposal was bolstered to combine “selective imitation” of the West with the recreation of a “neo-traditionalism” that would maintain the values of the national culture current. All the study committees reconfirmed the idea that Japan would only be able to free itself of foreign subordination through the execution of an accelerated process of industrialization and that that process could only be carried out, directly, by the State. The Japanese government worked in a targeted manner. The State created and managed all the first big industries. Until 1884 in Japan there only existed one entity that carried performed feasibility studies, built factories, bought machinery and managed the created businesses: the State. This was because the study committees had come to the conclusion that only through state impulse could the country industrialize rapidly. Nevertheless, it was very clear to the government that the State should not remain as a businessman forever. It was also clear, from the beginning, that when State technicians were able to created successors, when the schools could assure the coming of a new generation of engineers and managers – that would allow them to dispense of foreign assessors -, the State would abandon the management of industrial companies even though, of course, it would not abdicate from the exercise of the management of the country’s economy.

In 1884, after having created an amazing industrial park, the Japanese State decided to hand over the majority of the state companies to individuals. The process of property transfer began with the textile industry; four years later, in 1888, the government broke away from the ownership of the copper mines, later the cement factories, glass factories and other. It ceded the companies it had created at a price so low that it was practically equivalent to a gift. When the State retired from the management of the large enterprises it had created, these went on to be managed by the families of those who had collaborated with the government in the reconstruction of national power. Hence, the Mitsui, the Mitsubishi, the Satsuma, the Okura, the Furukawa, the Kuhari and the Asano became the great industrial entities. The monopolies of the State became, in the most natural way, the monopolies of the great families. In this way, through state impulse, Japan was able to create a “solid core” for its national bourgeoisie, the very same one that, apart from properties and companies, received the trained personnel to operate them and the official protection against external competition. Furthermore, the State was the main client of many of those companies, so the purchase of the bulk of their production was guaranteed. From then on the great conglomerates of industrial companies formed due to the privatization of State companies was known as “zaibatsu” – a word that means a well-off family of great fortune, – linked to a large family that gave it their name.

From then on, the national Japanese bourgeoisie, that owed everything to the State, was always willing to listen with attention to the opinion of the government and to follow the orientations that it set in economic and developmental matters. The objectives of this national bourgeoisie were always in correspondence with the interest of Japan. Furthermore, the State, in order to correct the unruly and assure itself that the businesspeople always acted while thinking of national interest, possessed an effective tool that acted as a corrector: if the interest of the companies did not correspond with the interest of the nation, the names of those companies were erased from the provider relations list of the State.

The function of the large companies as a team selected to represent Japan in the consecution of the national objective of building a strong country, capable of competing with the West, meant that they should be more aware of that national objective than everyone else, have in mind the criterion of administration and support the government under any circumstances. With this well understood, from the Meiji Revolution on and during some fifty years Japan fought as a unified country to build a modern state. (Morishima, 1997: 156)

In 1930 the army, to complement industrial development, built an important industrial complex and later repeated the methodology applied by the Meiji Revolution to transfer those companies to private owners. Thus, thanks to a new state impulse, “companies like Nissan, Nihon Chiso (Japan Nitrogen), Nihon Soda (Japan Soda), Showa Denko (Showa Electrical)” prospered under military protection (Morishima, 197: 125). Nevertheless, this second industrialization process, directed this time by the Army, would take Japan to catastrophe. With military owners of power, Japan went down the road to disaster. The militarism that, slowly but surely, took over the Nippon policy, by leading the country into a war it was not in shape to win, destroyed the work of the Meiji Revolution.

From Catastrophe to Recovery

In 1945 Japan suffers the bad luck it had escaped a century before: it iwas invaded by a foreign power, the same one that had forced it, from 1853 on, to open itself to the world. For the first time in history, the country was defeated and foreigners occupied its territory. This was a terrible trial for a people that thought themselves “chosen by God” and that was educated in the myth of the invulnerability of its territory and army.

In 1945, Japan was a materially ruined State. 50 percent of its urban zones were completely destroyed, its economy was paralyzed, its communications network pulverized and its industrial apparatus in shambles. From that date on a new political regimen was instated. The Emperor kept a symbolic role but renounced the “divinity” of his person. A new Constitution came about, but this time it was not created by the Japanese aristocracy but rather by the technicians of the foreign State that had defeated Japan. With the arrival of the supreme commander of the Allied Forces, on August 30th of 1945, and the signing of the unconditional surrender of Japan, in the ironclad Missouri, on September 2nd, Japan officially accepted the inevitable: the complete loss of its political sovereignty. General Douglas Mac Arthur would govern Japan as a true “viceroy”. Meticulously following the plan of invasion hammered out in Washington, Mac Arthur immediately commenced the task of restoring the country “to the bosom of civilized families”, a metaphor equal to undoing the work of the Meiji Revolution, meaning, dismantling the Japanese industrial apparatus.[9]

The task of democratizing Japan included total deindustrialization, leaving only those indispensable industries standing to guarantee the feeding of the population. In November 1945 General Mac Arthur gave precise instructions to Prime Minister Kijuro Shidehara in order to proceed with the carrying out of five fundamental reforms: the establishment of electoral suffrage, the beginning of liberal education, the consecration of the right of workers to have their own organizations, the abolition of the autocratic regime and the democratization of the economy. Between 1946 and 1947 several legal texts were made public for the industrial dismantling and the elimination of the zaibatsu upon which the industrialization had been built, considered by the invaders to be capitalistic concentrations that were too important. The democratization of Japan included the purging of the zaibatsuin its plans of occupancy. The proprietary families of these trusts were persecuted before the war. Some of their members found themselves individually reached by the purge and were taken to the courts. What’s more, the reorganization of the fiscal system was targeted toward limiting and even liquidating their fortunes.

Likewise, to conclude the destruction of the war apparatus of Nippon, the supreme commander of the Allied Forces began to carry out a policy of atonement destined to make Japan take responsibility for the damages caused in Asia by its terrible aggressions. The atonement policy included the disbanding of a large part of the steel and iron industry and the chemical industry and its transport to the countries that had been harmed by Japan.[10]

From 1945 to 1947 an extraordinary shortage of food was brought on in Japan. More than five million people were left without work and an important rate of inflation devastated the country. Japan was rapidly becoming a deindustrialized country and, as a logical consequence, a sub-developed country.11 Nevertheless, history offered Japan a second chance. In 1948 the international situation changed rapidly and radically. In China, the armies of Chiang Kai-Shek were defeated by the communist forces lead by Mao Zedong. In the Korean Peninsula, that had been a Japanese colony, to the south the Republic of Korea and to the north the People’s Democratic Republic of Korea are formed. In 1949 the People’s Republic of China is constituted and in 1950 the Korean War broke out. Given the new international panorama, the United States found itself forced to “rebuild” Japan as a bastion against the Soviet Union and China. The Allied Forces then turned one-hundred and eighty degrees in their occupancy policy, abandoning the initial purpose of deindustrializing Japan. As a consequence of this change in occupancy policy, the Japanese economy was reborn like the phoenix.

“From the beginning of the hostilities of the Korean War, the North American forces (forces of the United Nations) sent numerous requests of armaments, vehicle replacement parts and other military provisions to Japanese companies” (Morishima, 1977: 202). Japanese economy thus began to rebuild itself through an unexpected state impulse.

The international situation obliged the United States to promote, with urgency, “the resurrection” of the Nippon economy and for that it was necessary to suspend the policy of demilitarization and deindustrialization that it had applied until that moment. The United States then abandoned the objective of rebuilding Japan as an agrarian and semi-industrialized economy. A new plan was drawn up for the reconstruction of Japan that “consisted of creating an economy that could assume the mission of developing all of Southeast Asia and at the same time accumulate reserves capable of satisfying the urgent demands of supplies on behalf of the United States. It was a turn of one-hundred eighty degrees in the occupancy policy. According to the measures taken in the beginning, it would not be allowed for Japan to have a standard of living superior to any other country in Asia that it had harmed; as a consequence, all goods and equipment – with the exception of subsistence goods and equipment of capital- were handed over as a means of atonement, or goods for the allies, or goods for the countries that had suffered Japan’s aggression. In 1949 the atonement programs were consigned to archives” (Morishima, 1977: 204).

The policy of the dismantling of the zaibatsu – that had been a strong blow for the Japanese economy, disorganizing it on the plain of structures and depriving it of a business elite of renowned experience – was abandoned. In order to tackle the task of economically reviving Japan, Mac Arthur had no other remedy than to rely on the very businesspeople that he had persecuted before the courts of the purge shortly before. As a consequence of this oversized turn, the adopted economic policy turned out to be almost identical to that carried out during the Meiji Revolution.

An economy made up of large companies was resurrected. Starting in 1950 and for five years, Japanese companies grew rich thanks to the demand of military articles [the state impulse] for the Korean War. During the first few years the main items of this demand consisted of trucks, vehicle replacement parts, cotton fabric, but in 1952 the Allied barracks General authorized the manufacturing of armaments and this became the item mainly in demand. (Morishima, 1977: 204)

As was during the Meiji governments, Japan came back out of the pit thanks to state impulse. Six years after defeat, the production of steel, iron, textiles and the manufacturing of machinery surpassed, incredibly, pre-war levels. This time the state impulse had the name “special supplies”.12 Furthermore, as during the Meiji Revolution, in the decade of the 50’s “many of the gigantic installations that had belonged to the army and the marina, including the old shipyards, were sold off to private companies. Amongst those operations figured, for example, the transfer of fuel holdings, that the marina in Yokkaichi had, to the Mitsubishi Petrochemical Company; the holdings of the army in Iwakumi went to the Mitsui Petrochemical Company, and the workshops of Harima, belonging to the army arsenals in Osaka, went to Kobe Steelworks. In the Meiji period, the sale of state companies had determined the structure of the Meiji industrial world; no less decisive was the sale of old military assets after the war and their role in the subsequent development of the Japanese economy. The economy that was rebuilt was like the pre-war economy; government orientations were essential” (Morishima, 1977: 205).

The Ministry of International Trade and Industry & State Impulse Planning

From the Meiji era on until the Second World War, the Japanese State played a decisive role in industrial development. The State built and gave away factories and maintained them, through subsidies, when these, by some external conjuncture, were not profitable.

After the Second World War the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) re-edited the essence of the economic policy of the Meiji Revolution and Japan became an industrial power. The MITI was the general quarter and the engine of the country’s economy. It played the role of coordinator between businessmen and the political class. With a minimum budget, the MITI had a preponderant role in the reconstruction of the Japanese economy. It controlled numerous activities of production and commerce. Among the most important laws promoted by the ministry it is necessary to name the Law on Currency Exchange Control and International Business – of December 1st, 1949- that granted the MITI the right to control imports, as well as the Law on Foreign Investments –of May 10th, 1950- that empowered it as the virtual control over all capital, short- and long-term, that would come to the country. Furthermore, it was the officials of the MITI who contributed to the revision of the law against monopolies, meaning against the zaibatsu, introduced by the Allied forces of occupancy.13 Thanks to state impulse, planned from the Miti, Japan “grew between 1955 and 1969 around 10.37 percent annually” (Ohkawa and Rosovski, 1973: 27) and in 1968 it surpassed the Federal Republic of Germany, becoming the second world economy (Guillain, 1969).

The “Japanese miracle” was possible through state impulse and the establishment of a “planned market economy” (Bieda, 1970: 52).


1. A sole window to the West was left open on a small island in the bay of Nagasaki, where the Dutch were allowed to maintain a trading post. No foreigner could enter Japan, and no Japanese leave the country. Contraventions were punished with death. Nevertheless, Japanese political power wanted to know the activities of the “barbaric white men” and due to that the Dutch were allowed to remain in Nagasaki. Though these, prudently, undertook no religious preaching of any kind or ideological cultural propaganda, they were watched over with great severity. They were motivated to take new European inventions and were forced to render reports to the Shogun of what happened in the world. A small number of Wiseman obtained permission to study Dutch. This small privileged elite therefore had access to the knowledge of the changes that vertiginously happened in Europe and they therefore understood the great strategic vulnerability of Japan. Nevertheless, they lacked sufficient clout to warn Japan of the great danger that waylay.

2. When Perry retired from the waters of Japan, English, French and Russians hurried to send war ships to the Japanese coasts with the intentions of snatching the “prey” from the United States. The Russian frigate Constantinine, under the command of Captain Putiatine, even bombarded and destroyed two Japanese forts. Japan was clearly boxed in.

3. According to Hobsbawm (2006a: 160), “restoration cannot be considered in any real sense as a bourgeois revolution, though it can be considered the functional equivalent of part of one”.

4. A chronology created by InazoNitobe (2004: 54) illustrates the reach of the enormous reforms and transformations that Japan effected during the Meiji era in order to reach the new threshold of power:

1868 Abolition of internal customs and the opening of highways that until that time had been closed by feudal lords. Implantation of the monetary insignia and regulation of the Yen in relationship with foreign currencies.

1869 The equality of the four classes is declared: the samurai, farmers, merchants and tradesmen. The first telegraph line is installed and the first newspaper is inaugurated.

1870 The first steam line is inaugurated between Tokio and Osaka. Public schools are founded in Tokio.

1871 The creation of the Currency Mint in Osaka. The post office of the primary cities of the country is installed. The building of the first house of bricks. The permission for marriage between different classes is granted. The first beer brewery is created.

1872 The introduction of paper money, according to the Prussian example. The first railway goes into use. The first natural gas factory is installed. The freedom to choose profession or trade is established.

1873 The Gregorian calendar is introduced and mandatory military service is established.

1874 The petition for the opening of the Parliament is made. The first political party arises.

1875 The first meteorological station is created.

1876 Swords are banned from being carried on the streets and the first agricultural school is created.

1877 Japan enters into the universal postal union and the first telephone is installed.

1878 The first horse-drawn vehicle appears. The purchase of the patent of Hotchkiss firearms is made.

5. During the entire period of hermetic isolation from all things foreign, there was a strict control of birthrate in Japan. The State tried to control births and the Shogun, who knew the sources of Japan’s food supply well, fixed a maximum population limit of twenty-five million inhabitants. Having passed that sum they thought that great famines would ensue. Nitobe (2004: 56) Japans upholds that: “During three centuries it was not only the limitation of allowed births, but rather imposed by laws, threatening the families with excessive offspring with severe punishment”. In a conference that pronounced in the 19th session of the International Statistics Institute celebrated in Tokyo in 1930, Honjo affirmed categorically: “The Japanese people –under the period of the Tokugawa- not mattering whether in the country or in the cities, saw no difference between infanticide and killing weeds. […] In Kiushu two of every five children must have died. In the province of Hyoga only the first-born had the right to remain alive, the others were killed upon birth or eliminated before being born” (ShitheruHonjo, quoted by Herbert Bix, 2001: 173).

6. On Japanese development until 1913, see Kamekichi Takahashi (1969).

7. It was the engineer Emile Maidzuu who organized the shipyards of Yokohama, Sasebo, Maidzuu and Muroran. The first Japanese ironclad cruiser of 4,300 tons was launched in 1891” (Brossard, 2005: 515).

8. In each country the study committees that were sent out analyzed the organization of the post office and the police, and even the organization of industry and finances. The gathered information by the Japanese agents was astounding and though some returned ideologically colonized, the majority managed to make a critical analysis of all that they had heard, observed and studied. With the information collected by the committees, the Meiji government decided on the model to be followed in each area. The imitation of the West was selective and reflexive. The educational system was inspired by the French model of school districts. However, as far as University teaching went, the American style was followed in part. The army also followed the French style but the imperial navy preferred to adopt the model of the Royal Navy. The constitution followed the German model. The railways and telegraph, the British model.


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