Over four hundred years ago, the first Occidentals to come to Japan, the Portuguese, wrote letters home stating that the Japanese were different from other Asians and Africans and more like Europeans than any people yet discovered. Visitors from Europe and the Americas are still writing the same kind of letters, but whether the Japanese are really more like Europeans is open to question.
Japan's twenty-four year rise from the ashes of burned-out cities is a remarkable story: the base on which to rebuild was weak, the methods followed often unorthodox and their success inexplicable by the criteria normally applied by Americans.
Let us look at the base-102 million people crowded into mountainous, quaky islands with an area equal to that of Montana; 84 percent of the land not arable, and possessing almost no valuable mineral resources. Her two great neighbors are members of a bloc with which trade is restricted, the raw materials and petroleum on which Japanese industry depends must be brought many thousands of miles, and exports must compete in markets where tastes are usually different from those of the homeland.
In examining the methods employed by the Japanese to achieve their economic recovery, one is continually discovering cultural influences at work that must be traced back to their origin to be understood. An example is the dominant role played by the Government. During the feudal period, the Shogunate and clan governments sponsored mining operations and some factories. At the time of the Meiji Restoration in 1868 these were transferred to the central government which, aided by foreign engineers, installed up-to-date machinery in the mines and built modern factories. Although the Government sold these in 1880, it continued to exercise firm control over big business through both lawful and extra-legal devices up to the end of World War II. During 1945 much of Japan's industry was bombed out of existence, and early in the Occupation the Zaibatsu combines, which 65 years before had bought many of the government enterprises, were dissolved. These acts
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