Japan after 1960 Part I
The years after 1960 represent a very important phase in the history of Japan which, having completed its rehabilitation after the defeat, returns as a protagonist on the world political scene, no longer as a military power, but as an economic power. The rise of Japan is not, however, limited to the fields of economics and technology; the “Japanese miracle” is in fact the fruit of a general awakening of national energies. The results obtained in the cultural field have given rise to a choice destined to influence the future of the country for a long time, which has consolidated its own autonomous physiognomy, becoming the only industrialized country outside the western and socialist areas. This is a very significant result, when one thinks of the cultural pressure coming from the abroad and the possibility that the advent of the consumer society would involve the adoption of Euro-American models. Instead, despite the superficial Americanization, Japan has maintained its own cultural continuity, finding a ubi consistam in a complex of substantially premodern values. Japanese society has undergone profound transformations in this period, determined above all by three phenomena, namely urbanization, economic well-being and the pressure of the mass media. The expansion of urban centers has profoundly altered the structure of the Japan, leading to the uprooting of a large mass of the population. The pressure of the mass media has entered this phenomenon which, by acting on the greater financial resources provided by well-being, has pushed the Japanese towards new forms of life. However, it cannot be said that nowadays Japanese culture has completely lost its rural character: even in the big cities there is still a complex culture deriving from the imperfect fusion of rural and consumerist elements.
According to BEHEALTHYBYTOMORROW, this process was accompanied by a tendency to the contrary, consisting of the re-evaluation of Japanese cultural autonomy, which responds to the need to find a defense against consumerist alienation; it was stimulated by a cultural nationalism generated by the satisfaction of rapid economic expansion, and by the belief that this was made possible by the persistence of traditional cultural values. The suicide of a writer like Y. Mishima (1970), far from insensitive to the solicitations of contemporary society, is paradigmatic of this travail of Japanese culture, always divided between tradition and Westernization. It has deeply shaken the Japanese, who interpreted it as a dramatic reminder of the nation’s deepest cultural matrices. The new phenomenon of well-being has also eroded the values of the reformist left, because the successes achieved by the conservatives in improving the standard of living deprive moderate opposition of meaning. Similar considerations have convinced some of the Japanese youth that the only solution is a global rejection of modern society, and are at the basis of the student protest. This phenomenon, which was of vast proportions and also influenced the protests of other countries, reached its peak in 1969, with the occupation of Tokyo State University, and then rapidly declined after its exponents realized of the impossibility of forcefully impose a change in the country’s political system. The protest, which is still lively in universities, is now exhausted in internal struggles (killing of 14 elements considered politically treacherous by the Sekigun – ha, Red Brigades, in the winter of 1971-72) or in terrorist actions (attack on Tel Aviv airport, by Sekigun himself – ha, May 30, 1972; attack on the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries headquarters, on 30 August 1974, by a left wing group). In fact, the student protest, despite its breadth, has never managed to have a political function, precisely because it started from the assumption that the political struggle was in vain. Another manifestation of the prevalence of irrational tendencies is the spread of new religions, mostly based on Shinto or Buddhism, which found a wide following in the 1960s. They especially spread among the petty bourgeoisie of the city, among the uprooted people who were also looking for a justification for their changed social condition. The most conspicuous case is represented by the Sôka Gakkai (Society for the foundation of values) which in a short time has gathered over ten million members, to become an important political force in the country.
In domestic politics, the period was characterized by substantial stability, not least the cause of economic development. The conservative liberal-democratic party, despite a gradual but slow erosion of its electoral base, has retained an absolute majority of seats in both houses of parliament, maintaining control of the government. Throughout this period there has been a tendency to decline by the two main parties, the Liberal Democrat and the Socialist, and the strengthening of the two minors, the Communist Party and the Kômei – tô. If the decline of the socialists reflects the inherent difficulty of their role as the largest opposition party, the retreat of the conservatives is linked to the evolution of the social structure of Japan. In the big cities, in fact, the conservatives are losing ground to the point that the opposition currently controls all the large urban agglomerations. The Communist Party, which has taken a position of moderate progressivism and remains independent of Moscow and Beijing, finds its main support in the urban middle class. In the political elections of 1972 he obtained 10.5% of the votes, but then seems to have entered a phase of stagnation. The Kômei – tô, which arose as a political expression of the Sôka – Gakkai, followed its rapid expansion, reaching 10.9% of the votes in 1969, but was conditioned by its origin, which prevented it from having a greater expansion: also widespread in the urban middle class, it has recently taken on a left coloring. Despite the stability, however, the situation betrays a potential weakness, caused by the lack of a political reference point. The emperor, whose powers are limited by the constitution, does not play the role of a European head of state and no body is able to replace him. With the death in 1967 of S. Yoshida, the former prime minister who was in the position of referee in the conservative camp, the country has lost an element of stability, and if the void has been covered for some time by the ability to maneuver. of Satô, it then came to light when choosing his successors. In foreign policy, the lack of adequate military potential prevented Japan from playing the role that its economic dimension would suggest. Dependence on American military potential makes the policy of close cooperation with Washington a necessity against which not even the Socialist and Communist left are really opposed. The alliance with the United States, which gave Japan many advantages, at crucial moments turned out to be an unequal alliance, because, when pre-eminent interests were at stake, Washington did not hesitate to take its decisions independently.