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Japanese historical period: SHOWA (1926-1989)

10th August 2010

We are preparing series of articles about Japanese historical periods for those, who like Japanese antiquities. The fifth part is focused on Shōwa period.

The great depression in late twenties and thirties did not keep from Japan too. The most toughly hit was countryside, where peasants, in order to solve desperate financial crisis, even sold their daughters to amusements quarters. Not a few Japanese thought that this crisis was caused by the rule of the political parties, thus they started to incline to believe in more radical military movement. Army became stronger and stronger and then it stopped obeying the commands of Tokyo government. For example it was the case, when army, without any consultation with Tokyo government, invited conflict in Manchuria, in which at the end Japan won and thanks to establishment of puppet state of Manchukuo this area got under the rule of Japan. However owing this action Japanese set European powers and America against themselves. This hatred toward Japan even grew, when in 1936 Japan signed Anti-Comintern pact with Germany, which Italy acceded to one year later and so-called Tripartite pact. On account of unwillingly evoked war with China their relationship with previous partners were definitely broken. America even laid an embargo on import of oil to Japan and stood against Japanese behaviour. Consequently Japanese decided to get America to the situation, in which it would be easy to conclude truce and to force to admit Japanese domination in eastern Asia.   

Therefore they decided to destroy American marine base in Pearl Harbor. The attack was done on 7th December 1941 and Japanese managed to destroy all ships, which were anchored in harbour. Unfortunately for Japanese three best equipped ships were the ominous morning out of the harbour. It is said, that a few people, including President Roosevelt, knew about the attack, however the excuse, why America should enter the war, was needed, so they decided to do nothing against the upcoming attack. The success in Pearl Habor let Japanese open up in eastern Asia, where they managed to occupy territory from New Guinea to Aleutina Island in the north and from China and Burma to Marshall and Gilbert Island in Pacific Ocean till summer 1942. On the conquests they tried to create Great East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere under the Japanese domain. The primary aim was to satisfy their raw-materials‘and economic needs. They did not have any well-planned conception, so it is no wonder, that they were considered as hostile occupation force.

The momentum of the war was changed in summer 1942. At first Japanese lost the battle of Midway and the series of defeats were continuing. Two years later there was maybe the biggest battle in history by Philippines, which Japanese lost almost everything at and thus they decided to set in the battle well-known kamikaze ( divine wind ). However even they were not able to bring the change of momentum. After blood-letting America managed to occupy Okinawa islands in April 1945, and when Germany capitulated in Europe, the decided to occupy the main islands of Japan as well. However President Truman did not want to risk any other lives of American soldiers, so he resorted to use newly developed weapon – atom bomb. The first one was dropped on Hiroshima on 6th September 1945, the second one was dropped on Nagasaki on 9th September. Moreover Soviet Union attacked Manchukuo, Kuril Islands and Sakhalin on 8th September. Although the situation was inconclusive some of leaders of army and government wanted to continue the war. The whole situation was finally solved by the Emperor, who promised to accept Potsdam declaration and capitulated on 14th September. And next day he announced in the broadcast that „Japanese nation has to bear unbearable…“.

Japanese were afraid, that the occupational team will be making hell from their lives, however it was completely different. Originally all fifty states, which were fighting against Japan, should have participated in the occupation, however in the end it was done only by American direction headed by General Douglas Mac Arthur. Plenty of reforms were done, the first ones were demilitarization and adoption of new constitution, in whose 9th paragraph there is that Japan can not possess army. Later Japanese signed Security treaty with USA, which has been with small changes valid till these days. In the new constitution there was even changed the position of the Emperor, who became only symbol of the country and unity of nation. Since those days government has been accountable to parliament. Then the reforms of voting right, land and economic reforms, which should have helped Japan to get out of the crisis and to get near to the level of Western powers.

In the fifties Japan acceded to international trade and monetary system and with the motto „wealth and military strength of country“ they tried to catch up the level of Western countries. It changed from agrarian to industrial and consumer country. Japan exported its products, especially electric appliances and automobiles, mainly to USA. At the same time Japan protected its industrial sectors against competition with all sorts of barriers to entry, so Japanese industry was growing. Economic growth started to show more than 10% growth, which continued till the first Oil crisis that is why this fact is said to be economic miracle. Even shock after the second Oil crisis was surmounted and Japan overcame all its competitors in the height of gross national product, its international balance of payments was highly positive and Japan became the most important world creditor in 1970. In 1985 it was concluded among the countries of G7 that Japan had do open its market to the foreign competitors and stimulate the domestic demand. As well these measures lead to so-called bubble effect.   

Sources:
Reischauer Edwin A.; Craig, Albert M., Dejiny Japonska, Lidove noviny, 2006, 476s. ISBN 80-7106391-6
Labus David; Japonsko, Strucna historie statu, Libri, 2009, 184s. ISBN 978-80-7277-426-5

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