Analyzing Japan from different perspectives, one could ask a question, what makes Japan so unique? What is the set of factors that led Japan to take such position among other countries? During the first years after the World War most of the developed countries were characterized with a crisis situation, the duration and the degree of which were determined by the losses sustained during the war.
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The most tangible losses were for the countries that lost the war, and Japan was among them. In the book “Japan in transformation, 1952-2000” by Jeff Kingston, the author specifically takes the after – war period in order to analyze the success of Japan phenomenon. This paper presents a reflection of the ideas presented in the book providing an insight on the uniqueness of Japan’s economical wonder.
The main idea of the author in analyzing Japan’s phenomenon is the emphasize that this success is not a result of separate factors, but rather the end result of a cumulative effect of set of factors that were combined together. Nevertheless, if taking Japan’s area and compare it to the influence it has in the world, there has to be something special and unique about it. Taking the factor of the loss, then Germany and Italy were among the countries that lost. Also all of the countries were occupied by Allied forces. Germany, in that sense, can be considered close in that term.
The author mentioned many theories regarding the “economical miracle” after the 1950s of the past century. There is a certain factor of Japan’s population mentality which is traced back to history. This can be apparent in analyzing the two views presented in regards of the technological development. The first one is the role of the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) played in sponsorship. The main role can be seen in “brokering technology licensing deals with US corporations on attractive terms, thus sparring Japanese firms the time and cost of research and development” (Kingston 36). Despite the high technological level and dynamism, the economy of Japan remained as an economy of an industrial country and continued developing based on industrial dominants.
The second view is the consideration that Japan was a developed country even before the war, thus it had the required knowledge since “Meiji drive for modernization in the late nineteenth century.” (Kingston 37). Personal opinion on development leans toward the first view, putting the second one as an accelerating factor.
Taking the examples of countries such as Korea (fourth largest economy in Asia), India (one of the fastest growing economies), and China (the second largest in the world), it can be seen that their technological development started in the same manner. Japan licensed technology, then excelled it until reaching the state of being independent products.
The same goes with Korea (South Korea), copying technology (mostly from Japan) and mastering it until it becomes a totally different product with its own technological creativity. The same goes to China, India and other countries in South Asia. In that sense, many countries in the South Asian market were known for counterfeit brands and now being one of the most technologically developed in Asia.
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Although other factors should not be ignored, the main factor mentioned in the previous paragraph which is the mentality of the population could be one of the major. “This is a society with a tremendous capacity for change and growing tolerance of diversity, and the advent of the twenty first century is a perfect period to witness this dynamism at work.” (Kingston 3).
The feel of identity can also be sensed in the personality of the Japanese people. There are many things to list which became popular in the world and which was created with unique Japanese attributes. Japanese animation, Japanese pop, video games, Japanese food and many more elements can be descriptive in analyzing the mentality of the Japanese. All these elements as well as Japanese products were always oriented on foreign markets leaving the internal not capacious comparing to other developed countries.
Summarizing the many ideas presented by the author in his book, it cannot be argued on the integrity of many elements in the success of Japan. This paper omitted some major points such the political changes, the demography changes and the alliance with the US. The focus on the technological development could be explained in that it is the most popular known fact about the Japan for ordinary people.
Watching scientific programs of extraordinary breakthroughs always implied the involvement of Japanese scientists. It could be now argued whether Japan would reach its current status so fast considering their pre-war experience, if the United Sates did not occupy Japan for a certain period. Would Japan reach its current technological progress without the involvement of MIIT in licensing technology? All the answers would be just assumptions, as external factors might have changed, but the people’s mentality and history would have remained the same.
Kingston, Jeff. Japan in Transformation, 1952-2000. Seminar Studies in History. New York: Longman, 2001.