1. Japan's attempt to carve out a colonial empire ended with its defeat by the Allied forces. It has been argued that nuclear bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki to shorten the war. But others think the immense destruction and suffering it caused were unnecessary.
Under the US-led Occupation (1945-47) Japan was demilitarised and a new constitution introduced. This had Article 9, the so-called ‘no war clause’ that renounces the use of war as an instrument of state policy. Agrarian reforms, the re- establishment of trade unions and an attempt to dismantle the zaibatsu or large monopoly houses that dominated the Japanese economy were also carried out.
Political parties were revived and the first post-war elections held in 1946 where women voted for the first time.
2. The rapid rebuilding of the Japanese economy after its shattering defeat was called a post war "miracle". But it was more than that it was firmly rooted in its long history.
The constitution was democratised only now, but the Japanese had a historic tradition of popular struggles and intellectual engagement with how to broaden political participation. The social cohesion of the pre-war years was strengthened, allowing for a close working of the government, bureaucracy and industry.
US support, as well as the demand created by the Korean and the Vietnamese wars also helped the Japanese economy.
3. The 1964 Olympics held in Tokyo marked a symbolic coming of age. In much the same way the network of high- speed Shinkansen or bullet trains, started in 1964, which ran at 200 miles per hour (now it is 300 miles per hour) have come to represent the ability of the Japanese to use advanced technologies to produce better and cheaper goods.
4. The 1960s saw the growth of civil society movements as industrialisation had been pushed with utter disregard to its effect on health and enviornment. Cadmium poisoning, which led to painful disease, was an early indicator, followed by mercury poisoning in Minamata in the 1960s and problems caused by air pollution in the early 1970s.
Grass-roots pressure groups began to demand recognition of these problems as well as compensation for the victims. Government action and new legal regulations helped to improve conditions.
5. From the mid 1980s there has been an increasing decline in interest in environmental issues as Japan enacted some of the strictest environmental controls in the world.
Today, as a developed country it faces the challenge of using its political and technological capabilities to maintain its position as a leading world power.