Japan’s Constitution: Shaping the Future

At the end of World War II, Allied forces proceeded to occupy the island nation. Led by the U.S.’s General Douglas A. MacArthur, the occupying forces proceeded to enact widespread reform and rehabilitation. This time would culminate in a new constitution for Japan, with several principles that they had to follow, which would would then be checked by the United States. This new constitution would then dictate Japan’s future dealings and behavior.

The first phase of the occupation involved reforming Japan while bringing their past war crimes to trial. Their past efforts to expand were brought to court in war crime trials held in Tokyo. In addition, all former military officers were barred from ever holding a position of leadership within the new government. Within the new constitution, Japan’s military was completely dismantled, all non-defensive military forces were forbidden. Along with Japan’s disarmament was a clause that prevented Japan from ever declaring war. This section of their constitution made Japan the “peace loving nation” that it is today. Today, Japan’s military is known as the “Self Defense Force” and as a nation that was the one casualty of a nuclear bomb, the people now carry pacifistic sentiments as well as a disdain for nuclear weapons in general, having never acquired or developed one even to this day.

The occupation also ushered in changes to Japan’s government and economy. With the new constitution, the Japanese emperor was relegated to nothing more than a figurehead with little power. Instead, greater power was given to Japan’s parliament, the National Diet. In addition, the women of Japan were granted more rights and privileges as well as abolishing other oppressive laws imposed on the people, allowing for the freedom of speech, religion, etc like the United States. Efforts made to reform the economy primarily focused on making it a free market capitalist system. This transformation included breaking up large Japanese corporations that controlled much of the industries, reducing the power of the upper class, helping the farmers, as well as ushering in new tax reforms and other measures to limit inflation.

The end of the occupation of Japan in 1952 not only gave Japan back its independence, but now left it with a bright political and economic future. The nation was one that went from complete seclusion to competing with other powers for an empire to a nation of peace. This time of reformation turned Japan from an enemy of the U.S. to one of its closest allies, especially in the East. The final treaty which ended the Allied occupation allowed the U.S. to maintain their military base in Japan while also entering into a security pact with Japan. In the end Japan was left free having paid for its war crimes, undergoing sweeping changes to its society, and  housing U.S. soldiers that no longer acted as an occupying force. This island nation was now free to go on as the peaceful and technological nation that it is now known to be.