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Part IV

Study and Discussion Questions

  1. To what extent, in what specific ways, can the government be credited for enabling or assisting Japans sustained high rates of economic growth of the 1950s into the 1970s? What international factors were important? What importance can be attached to the roles of private initiative and entrepreneurship?

  2. In what ways did daily routines—both in some cities and in the countryside—remain unchanged in the transwar period? Do such continuities mean one should abandon a historical periodization that stresses new departures for the Japanese people on August 15, 1945?

  3. Why have the visits of Prime Ministers to the Yasukuni shrine incited so much controversy in Japan and the former colonies?  Are they any different from the visits of, for instance, and American president to the Arlington National Cemetery? What have Japanese done to atone for the nations colonial legacy? To what extent, and why, should individuals today be expected to "atone" for the sins of parents or grandparents more than sixty years ago?

  4. How have Japanese corporations responded to laws promoting equal employment rights for women, or women's own activism for such rights? What strategies and practices have women, and men, developed over time in pursuing jobs, careers, and family life?

  5. What evidence from the early postwar period exists to show that SCAP's efforts to create an egalitarian social system proved effective? Conversely, what sorts of unequal social relations were new or exacerbated in the high-growth decades of the postwar period?

  6. How did the state's management of social policy beginning in the 1950s support its parallel efforts to promote postwar economic development?

  7. Did state policies of the high-growth era reinforce the older ideal of the "good wife, wise mother"?  Did this ideology undergo any major changes from its prewar and wartime versions?

  8. How was the rhetoric of "good wife, wise mother" used by female activists in the postwar years to advance causes as varied as the anti-war movement, consumer safety campaigns, and labor rights?

  9. In both the 1920s through early 1930s, and in the 1950s–1960s, a commercialized consumer culture urged buyers to partake in a "bright new life" by exercising their powers of consumption. Did the advertising campaigns of the 1950s—as well as their intended targets—differ significantly from their prewar antecedents?

  10. State the arguments, as formulated by Japanese economists in the 1950s, for and against integration of the postwar Japanese economy into the larger global economy. How did the historical legacy of the prewar and wartime years affect judgment on this issue?

  11. What was so shocking about the "Nixon shocks" of 1971?  Did they signal a new political and economic relationship between Japan and the outside world?

  12. How did the United States respond in the 1970s and 1980s to the sizable trade imbalance reflected in Japan's emergence as a leading exporter of goods to the U.S.?

  13. How uniformly middle class has Japan been in the postwar period?

  14. How did relations between labor and capital change after the 1960 coal strike at Miike? What were the factors that allowed or enabled the Mitsui corporation to win in its struggle with coal miners' union?

  15. Which groups comprised the main social constituencies of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) since its formation in 1955? How did the LDP win the support of each of these constituencies? What programs was the party able to implement with such widespread popular support?

  16. What issues did the citizen movements of the late 1960s and 1970s take up? What tactics did citizen activists use? In what ways were these activists and tactics effective? To what extent were the efforts of grassroots activists reflected in, or co-opted by, programs of governance by elected officials?

  17. What was distinctive about the Japanese version of the movement for "quality control" compared to the somewhat earlier movement for qualify control in the United States? How did the "QC circles" of the 1960s and 1970s resemble the factory-based councils implemented under the Labor New Order of the 1930s and 1940s? What were the major differences between the wartime and postwar versions of worker/management committees?

  18. What new social problems demanded attention in the 1980s? How did social welfare policies attempt to deal with an increasingly aged population? In what ways did welfare programs of the 1980s hark back to social welfare programs of the prewar era?

  19. How have attitudes between Japan's postwar generations reflected the different formative experiences of each? How did the complaints directed at the younger generation of the 1960s resemble, or differ from, the concerns raised about the younger generations of the 1980s and 1990s or early 21st century? In what ways have the older generation's complaints and concerns reflected the ways in which Japanese society has changed over the course of the postwar decades: from the decades of high-growth, through the bubble economy of the 1980s, and into the recessionary years of the 1990s?

  20. How did the legacy of the prewar and wartime imperial institution affect public remembrance in the months leading up to the funeral of Emperor Hirohito in January 1989 and the subsequent accession of his son, Akihito to the throne one year later? Why did the symbolism and practices marking imperial rites of passage stir such impassioned debate?

  21. What national and international factors brought the LDP together? What tore it apart?

  22. What factors account for the difference between so-called "Japanese-style capitalism" and its Anglo-American equivalent? In what ways might it be argued that the Japanese model actually impeded economic recovery in the late 1990s and prevented Japanese corporations from successfully adjusting to the information-intensive economy of the twenty-first century?

  23. What led to intense asset inflation of the mid-to-late 1980s, otherwise known as Japan's "bubble economy," and what led to the bursting of that bubble? How did Japan's banks and government respond to these crises?

  24. In what ways did the American and global economic crisis which began in 2008-09 replicate the Japanese experience?  (Consider the way these crises propagated as well as the measures taken to end them.) Are there lessons for American, either positive or negative, in how Japan dealt with its crisis?

  25. What demographic challenges confront Japanese society in the twenty-first century? How will these demographic changes affect the economy? What possible solutions are available; how might they change what it means to be 'Japanese'?

  26. What are the relationships between employment structures, changes in education, and the drought of children in Japan? What responsibility do men, women, employers, policymakers bear for Japan's below-replacement birthrate?

  27. What is the crisis in higher education? And how does it relate to social stratification in the twenty-first century? How does it relate to changes in the economy pursuant to the rise of South Korea, China, and other East Asian countries?

  28. Speculate on the consequences of the following trends in Japan: a below-replacement birthrate; an upcoming surge in social-security retirees; the "furitaa" (young people who opt out of secure corporate careers—or find themselves shut out of them—and instead get by on part-time work); the rise of countries like Taiwan, Korea, and China as developers of automobile and high-tech products; the rise of political pressure for constitutional revision on the "Peace Clause." To what extents are these concerns common to late-capitalist countries in the twenty-first century?

  29. How has the inculcation of patriotism returned to Japanese schools and civic society? What about the context of contemporary Japan differentiates this development from similar programs in the late-nineteenth- and early-twentieth centuries?

  30. Which parties in present-day Japan are liberal? Which are conservative?

These study and discussions questions were adapted by Craig Colbeck from the questions prepared for the website for the first edition (with some newly added).  The original questions for Parts I and II were prepared by Jeffrey Bayliss, now assistant professor at Trinity College, and those for Parts III and IV were prepared by Emer O'Dwyers, now assistant professor at Oberlin College.

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