The History of Japan

Contemporary Japan

Contemporary Japan begins after the end of World War II, with the seven-year occupation of Japan by the Allies. The Emperor was able to remain on the throne, keeping Japan in the Showa Era, but had to renounce his claims to divinity. The Japanese colonies were granted independence, Japan’s military was disarmed, and a new constitution was imposed by the USA in 1947, with the famous Article 9 stating that Japan has to renounce its right to wage war against other nations.

Japan’s economy was crumbling post-occupation until the start of the Korean War (1950~1953), where Japan supplied the United States of America, enabling its economy to recover and to grow again.

In 1956, Japan became the 78th country to enter the United Nations, which helped them host the Olympic Games in Tokyo 12 years later, further improving their economy. The Games were also the occasion to improve the railroad infrastructure of Japan, creating tracks from Tokyo to Osaka for the first Shinkansen.

The Japanese economy continued to climb, and entered what is known as the Bubble Era, where stock market and real estate prices were inflated. This continued into the beginning of the Heisei Era, until 1992 when it ultimately burst, dropping land prices considerably, affecting consumption and investments all over Japan. Birthrates declined and unemployment rates rose during what is called the Lost Decade, which is sometimes referred to as the two lost decades (1990~2010).

Despite the popped bubble and economic difficulties, Japan became increasingly popular worldwide because of video games, manga, and anime among other things. Japan’s birthrate, however, did not recover.

Despite several disasters, such as the Great Hanshin Earthquake, which killed over 6,000 people in 1995, and the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami claiming more than 15,000 lives, Japan was able to stay one of the largest economies in the world.

On 1 May 2019, Emperor Naruhito began his reign on 1 May 2019 after his father, Emperor Akihito, abdicated. This marked the end of the Heisei Era after 31 years, and the start of the Reiwa Era.