The Rise of Modern Japan
Discover how a nation devastated by World War II engineered an economic miracle only to face new challenges in a complex, modern world.
Dr. Mark J. Ravina is Professor of History at Emory University, where he has taught since 1991. He received his A.B. from Columbia University and his M.A. and Ph.D. from Stanford University. He has been a visiting professor at Kyoto University’s Institute for Research in Humanities and a research fellow at Keio University and the International Research Center for Japanese Studies. He has also received research grants from the Fulbright Program, the Japan Foundation, the Academy of Korean Studies, and the Association for Asian Studies. Professor Ravina has published extensively in early modern Japanese history, with a particular focus on the transnational and international aspects of political change. He has also published research on Japanese and Korean popular culture, Japanese economic thought, and the history of science. As a public intellectual, he has appeared on CNN, CNN International, NPR, and The History Channel. A former director of the East Asian Studies Program at Emory University, Professor Ravina has also served as president of the Southeast Conference of the Association for Asian Studies. In addition, he is on the editorial board of The Journal of Asian Studies. Professor Ravina’s books include The Last Samurai: The Life and Battles of Saigo Takamori and Land and Lordship in Early Modern Japan.
01: Japan’s Global War Vision Unravels
Explore the complex motives that led Japan into World War II and its risky challenge of American power. Professor Mark Ravina focusses on four Japanese officials who foresaw defeat in early 1944 and unsuccessfully urged the emperor to capitulate. Study the massive, decisive attack by the Soviet Union on Japanese forces in August 1945, roughly simultaneous with the US dropping of the atomic bombs.
02: How the US Occupation Remade Japan, 1945–1952
Probe the reasoning that led US occupying forces, headed by General Douglas MacArthur, to exonerate the Japanese emperor from any responsibility for his country’s conduct in World War II. Part of an American strategy for making Japan an ally in the Cold War, the policy misled ordinary Japanese about the causes of the war. Also, learn about other controversial decisions of the occupation.
03: The Japanese Economic Miracle: Empire 2.0
How did postwar Japan go from utter devastation and poverty to astonishing prosperity? Focus on the role of American occupation authorities in setting up Japan for success, both by design and by accident. See how the promotion of free trade and land reform paved the way for growth; political reform encouraged new blood and new ideas; and the Korean War provided a windfall of export opportunities.
04: Japan’s Civil Society Protests of 1960
Focus on the 1960 political crisis over a new security treaty with the United States that ironically brought an era of stability to Japanese politics. Then-prime minister Kishi Nobusuke used dictatorial methods to outflank leftist opponents, causing his own downfall, but also establishing an ironclad rule for his successors: Don’t be “Kishi.” The outcome helped cement Japan’s place in the international order.
05: Japan Inc. and Its Upstart Challengers
Investigate the causes of the Japanese economic miracle, especially the planning role of MITI, the Ministry of International Trade and Industry. Observe that market success sometimes came in spite of the MITI—as with an upstart electronics company called Sony. Also look at total quality management and other revolutionary practices identified with Japanese industry, which in fact originated in the United States.
06: Japan Faces the Nixon Shocks: China and Gold
Learn how a misunderstood Japanese euphemism shaped US President Richard Nixon’s relationship with Japan, leading to policies that Japanese officials dubbed the “Nixon shocks,” notably the ending of the gold standard and America’s reproachment with China. Combined with the 1973 Arab oil embargo, these measures threatened Japan’s economic and strategic position. Discover how the nation coped.
07: The Rise of Japanese Cinema
Trace the shifting public mood in Japan through its popular and award-winning films. Mark highlights some of his favorites—from dramas made immediately after the war with their focus on loss and survival, to satires of middleclass prosperity in the 1970s and ’80s, and finally to dark comedies in the 1990s that chronicle economic stagnation and the futility of playing by the rules.
08: How Japan’s Carmakers Outmaneuvered Detroit
By the 1980s, Japan seemed poised to overtake the US lead as the largest and most innovative economy in the world. Emblematic of Japan’s preeminence was car manufacturing, which outcompeted US automakers thanks, in part, to Detroit’s missteps. This lecture also delves into Japan’s failures, including its inability to match American successes in the crucial high-tech field of software development.
09: From the Heights of Japan’s Bubble Economy
The Japanese economic miracle fueled steady growth in asset and stock values that crashed spectacularly in the 1990s, eventually dropping by a catastrophic 75%. Study what made Japan’s resulting economic slump far more long-lasting than similar crashes in the United States. The differences have partly to do with the public mood in Japan and, also, the ineffective responses of government, banks, and industry.
10: Jobless and Divorced in Japan: “Wet Leaves”
See how Japan’s financial collapse led to protracted unemployment, petty crime, and broken families. As in Lesson 7, Mark uses popular culture for insight, including the 2008 film Tokyo Sonata, about an office worker who doesn’t tell his family he’s been fired. Instead, he goes to the park every day with other laid-off businessmen in suits, who all pretend to hold jobs while vainly seeking work.
11: Japan Confronts the Collapse of a Bubble
Since the end of World War II, Japanese voters have favored the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and its coalition partners more than 90% of the time. What accounts for the LDP’s success through good times and even bad times, suffering only a short setback after the collapse of the asset bubble in the 1990s? Also, why haven’t rival left-wing parties been able to gain a significant political foothold?
12: Japan after the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster
Learn that Japan’s equivalent of 9/11 is 3/11—March 11, 2011—when a severe earthquake rocked the country’s largest island, triggering a tsunami that led to the Fukushima nuclear power disaster. Like 9/11, the calamity has had repercussions far beyond the loss of lives and property. Mark concludes the course by analyzing Japan’s resulting political, economic, and social challenges.