Unconditional Democracy: Education and Politics in Occupied Japan, 1945–1952

Tuesday, April 27, 2004
Image credit: 
Hoover Press

On December 8 (Japan time), 1941, Imperial Japan launched a massive attack on beautiful Pearl Harbor, calling it "the preemptive first strike." The island empire, seduced by a mirage of eternal glory, had lunged forward without knowing its destination. Imperial Japan, fiercely proud, fought to the last soldier against the strongest nation in the world. Throngs of women and children who had encouraged the soldiers to kill every enemy had also died for the promise of eternal grandeur. In the heart of the empire, the Japanese, who had survived the blanket bombings by the "flying fortress" B29s and the two atomic bombs, waited for the dishonor of surrender. Born in Japan five days after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, I grew up in the terrible aftermath of Japan's first defeat in war. And, like all other children who had survived, I knew hunger, poverty, and the burden of defeat. I remember leaving Osaka with my mother for the mountainous countryside, where she, a wealthy landowner, employed many tenant farmers. The train we took had all its windows painted black to hide from the B-29s, which rained incendiary firebombs on anything visible or moving. Even with that precaution, our train crawled through the darkness of the night. Soon afterward, Osaka was reduced to smoldering ruins. President Harry S. Truman assigned the illustrious U.S. Army general, Douglas MacArthur to the unprecedented task of changing militant Japan to a peace-loving nation. We, conquered and starving, thought the tall, handsome, and charismatic MacArthur was "the missionary of democracy." The reissue of Unconditional Democracy (originally published in 1982) will, I hope, illustrate the difficult mission of a regime change: a successful metamorphosis that amalgamates incompatible cultures and religions, conflicting memories of hopes and disappointments, and then gives birth to something greater than the past.

Copyright 2004.