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Shōwa Period : Post-occupation

Following the end of the Allied occupation in 1952, Japan emerged as a global economic power with reach far beyond its military might of the prewar period.

Post-occupation politics and economy

The Allied occupation ended on April 28, 1952, when the terms of the Treaty of San Francisco went into effect. By the terms of the treaty, Japan regained its sovereignty, but lost many of its possessions from before World War II, including Okinawa, the Kuril Islands, Sakhalin, and a number of small islands in the Pacific. The new treaty also gave Japan the freedom to engage in international defense blocs. Japan did this on the same day it signed the San Francisco Treaty: Yoshida Shigeru and Harry Truman penned a document that allowed the United States Armed Forces to continue their use of bases in Japan.

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Three years after Japan's independence, the newly-formed Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) achieved a majority in the Diet of Japan, which would be unchallenged until the 1990s. The LDP government, through institutions such as MITI, encouraged Japanese industrial development overseas while restricting foreign companies' business within the country. These practices, coupled with a reliance on the United States for defense, allowed Japan's economy to increase exponentially during the Cold War. By 1980, many Japanese products, particularly automobiles and electronics, were being exported around the world, and Japan's industrial sector was the second-largest in the world after the U.S. This growth pattern continued unabated until the 1990s, when the Japanese economy finally began to fail.

The 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo are often said to mark the re-emergence of Japan in the international arena: Japan's postwar development was showcased through innovations such as the Shinkansen high speed rail network.

Post-occupation culture

Japan continued to experience Westernization in the postwar era, much of which came about during the occupation, when American soldiers were a common sight in many parts of the country. American music and movies became popular, spurring a generation of Japanese artists who built on both Western and Japanese influences.

During this period, Japan also began to emerge as an exporter of culture. Young people across the world began consuming kaiju (monster) movies, anime (cartoons), manga (comic books), and other modern Japanese culture. Japanese authors such as Yasunari Kawabata and Yukio Mishima became popular literary figures in America and Europe. American soldiers returning from the occupation brought with them stories and artifacts, and the following generations of U.S. troops in Japan contributed to a steady trickle of martial arts and other culture from the country.


  • 1952: Allied occupation ends (April 28).
  • 1954: Self-Defense Forces established.
  • 1955: Liberal Democratic Party is formed.
  • 1956: Japan joins the United Nations.
  • 1960: Labor strikes and student protests are held across the country.
  • 1964: Olympic Games in Tokyo. Shinkansen trains begin operation.
  • 1965: Treaty on Basic Relations between Japan and the Republic of Korea is signed. Sin-Itiro Tomonaga receives the Nobel Prize in Physics.
  • 1968: Amid controversy, the nuclear aircraft carrier Enterprise arrives in Sasebo. The itai-itai disease is formally recognize as a public hazard disease. Ogasawara Islands reverted back under Japanese control. Kawabata Yasunari received the Nobel Prize in Literature. Three hundred million Yen stolen by a man disguised as a policeman (still on the run as of 2003).
  • 1969: Meeting between Prime Minister Sato and U.S. President Nixon. Date of return for Okinawa set for 1972.
  • 1970: World Exposition held in Osaka.
  • 1971: The yen moves to a floating exchange rate, contributing to a short slump in Japan's extraordinary economic boom.
  • 1972: Okinawa repatriated to Japan.
  • 1980: Japan's car production tops 10 million cars a year, making Japan the largest car producer in the world over USA. Yomiuri Giant's Oh Sadaharu ends his career.
  • 1981: Kenichi Fukui received Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
  • 1982: the Tohoku Shinkansen was extended to Morioka from Omiya.
  • 1983: Miyakejima's volcano exploded but entire population of the island was successfully evacuated beforehand. In the Asuka-mura's Kitora Kofun, colored wallpainting of Genmu was discovered. Tanaka Kakuei was sentenced to 4 years in jail.
  • 1984: the Guriko company was targeted by the extortionist who threatened to poison its product for the sum of 60 million yen and later 120 million yen. Before this, the president of Guriko was kidnapped and 10 billion yen and 100 kg of gold was demanded as a ransom before he escaped by himself. New 10,000 yen (Fukuzawa Yukichi on the face), 5,000 yen (Nitobe Inazou), and 1,000 yen (Natsume Souseki) bills were released.
  • 1985: the first AIDS patient is officially recognized. Japan Airlines flight 123 crashed in Omitaka-yama causing 520 deaths and only 4 survivors in one of the largest aircraft related casualty.
  • 1986: Mihara-yama exploded.
  • 1987: Japanese National Railways was divided into privately owned JRs (Japan Railway) separated by regions. Actor Ishihara Yujiro died.
  • 1988: the Seikan Tunnel connecting Hokkaido with Honshu was completed. A submarine, the Nadashio, clashed with fishing vessel Dai Ichi Fujimaru.
  • 1989: the Showa Emperor dies (January 7). The following day, Akihito ascends to the throne and the new reign name 'Heisei' is declared.

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