Made in Japan

Building the engine of a future Asian superpower

They lay in ruins—a testament to Allied victory in the East. It was the worst annihilation any two cities had ever experienced in history. The crushing, atomic blows left the most powerful and destructive nation of the Orient in ashes—with no choice but to surrender. The Asian front of World War ii, also known as the Pacific War, had come to an end.

Hiroshima and Nagasaki, though the most devastated of Japan’s cities, were not alone in their destruction. Nearly every large city had its industries and transportation networks severely damaged. A major food shortage continued for several years after the defeat.

Asia in Its Clutches

Imperial Japan wreaked havoc in Asia in 1931 when it ignored a post-World War i agreement to respect Chinese national integrity and invaded Manchuria (China’s large, northeastern province), taking full occupation of the area and establishing it as a puppet state.

In 1937, Japan invaded China—the most notorious event being the Rape of Nanking (China’s capital then), where the ferocious Japanese brutally massacred nearly 370,000 people in just four months (one author calls this the “forgotten holocaust of World War ii”). Japan eventually succeeded in occupying the whole coast of the great Red nation. The empire was expanding westward; its control eventually extended to the border of India.

In its imperial heyday, the land of the rising sun established the Greater Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, by which it aimed to rid Asia of all Western colonial powers and forge a new Asia (led by Japan) living together in peace, harmony, self-sufficiency and prosperity.

In 1940, Japan occupied French Indochina (now Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia) and joined the Axis powers of Italy and Germany. The United States and Britain responded with an oil boycott against Japan—a nation heavily dependent upon oil imports. So Japan moved south—conquering the oil-rich Dutch East Indies (Indonesia).

Japan captured many of the islands to its east, most notably the Marshall Islands. Then, 60 years ago this month, Japan attacked the U.S. Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Some speculated that Japan could have kept marching east to cripple, if not conquer, the “sleeping giant.” Though this was definitely possible with their mighty forces, the Japanese stopped at Hawaii, giving the U.S. time to build up armaments and lead the Allies in a counterstrike powerful enough to conquer the tenacious Asian foe.

The turning point of the Pacific War came in 1942 at the Battle of Midway (just northwest of the Hawaiian Islands), where the Japanese Navy—which had not lost a major battle in 300 years—was defeated. From that time, the Allied forces began regaining control of the Pacific islands, pushing Japan back westward.

In 1944, intensive air raids began on the island nation, culminating in the nuclear attack on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. The Japanese refused to surrender, although the European arm of the Axis powers had already done so two months prior. On August 8, the Soviet Union joined the war to squelch Japanese domination of Asia. Another blast hit Nagasaki on August 9, and Japan realized the Allies could leave every one of their cities in atomic annihilation. It admitted defeat and surrendered unconditionally.

The Allied forces, as well as the Asians who were victims of Japanese aggression, wanted to ensure that Japan would never be able to disturb the peace of the East and the world again. Under U.S. General Douglas MacArthur, the Allied forces began to occupy Japan immediately after its surrender in 1945, an occupation which lasted until 1952, when a U.S.-Japanese security treaty went into effect. At this time Japan regained full sovereignty.

Few realize the awesome power this relatively small nation wielded over the Orient early in the 20th century. This is most evident in the amount of territory Japan had to give back after the war’s end in 1945: Taiwan, which China had ceded to Japan at the end of the first Sino-Japanese war in 1895; the southern part of the rich Sakhalin Island and the Kuril Islands (just north of Japan), which Japan had seized from Russia at the end of the Russo-Japanese war in 1905 (where the Japanese underdogs came out highly victorious against the giant Russian bear); Korea, which Japan had annexed in 1910; and Manchuria, the province which Japan had taken over in 1931.

A “New”Japan

In 1946, MacArthur oversaw the writing of a new, “Western” constitution for Japan—one modeled after (if not superior to, some argue) the U.S. Constitution. This was very different from the constitution promulgated in 1889 by Emperor Meiji, which gave the emperor divine and unquestionable power over the nation. Japan’s emperor was relegated to a symbolic head of state with no significant political or military power. The document also clearly separated church (mainly the Shinto religion) and state. It established a more Western and democratic governmental structure—from the national government down to local, municipal governments.

Most significantly, the new Constitution stated that “the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes.” It even went so far as to command that “land, sea and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized” (Chapter ii, Article 9; emphasis mine throughout).

The trade-off worked well for Japan. It would need no military, because the U.S. would fight its battles. Because of Article 9, Japan did not participate in the great Asian conflicts of Korea and Vietnam. The U.S. also had another agenda in placing troops on these islands: It could maintain strategic positioning during the tense Cold War era.

An Economic Empire Strikes Back

Meanwhile, Japan—like Germany at the time—played along with the military restrictions America placed on it, pouring all its efforts into economic and industrial recovery. Its plan, which paralleled Germany’s, was to work for greatness and dominance as an economic giant.

The April 1968 Plain Truth, a magazine which, with Herbert W. Armstrong as its editor in chief, was always ahead of its time in analyzing world events, stated, “Japan is again on the march! The latest offensive has already driven further than Japan’s military efforts did a quarter of a century ago!

“Japanese weapons today are not military but economic. Japan has launched a three-pronged offensive of trade, aid and investment. The very same battle that Germany is now using to succeed in dominating Europe, where formerly the blitzkrieg method failed.”

After seeing Japan’s cities and industries in ashes and rubble after the war, no one would have guessed that they would become such a powerful economic empire.

Japan’s remarkable recovery arose from its notably strong work ethic, having an unwritten rule to spend very little of its Gross Domestic Product (gdp) on the military (more on this later), and government-industry cooperation. The latter is a significant part of Japan’s economic history. This cooperation of manufacturers, suppliers and distributors in closely knit and politically powerful groups is called keiretsu—termed zaibatsu (literally”financial clique”) before the war.

The zaibatsu were the great family-controlled banking and industrial combines of Japan (the five leading families being Mitsubishi, Mitsui, Okura, Sumitomo and Yasuda up to World War ii), which had a position in the national economy unparalleled in any other country. These enterprises were heavily involved in weapons production during the war and responsible for the inhumane use of slave labor and pows in mines and factories. General MacArthur intended to dismantle the zaibatsu to stifle any post-war economic rise by Japan. But the group only went underground and resurfaced in the 1950s and ’60s with a different name.

Since Japan is scarce on raw materials and fuels within its own country, it must bargain with numerous others for resources. It then turns those raw materials into manufactured goods that are competitive with and even superior to those of other nations.

Japan is among the world’s largest and most technologically advanced producers of motor vehicles, electronic equipment, musical instruments, machine tools, steel and nonferrous metals, ships, chemicals, textiles, toys, processed foods—and the list goes on. It has become one of the leading exporting nations on the globe.

By 1951, just six years after total defeat, Japan’s industrial output was back to prewar levels. In 1963, it stood as the world’s fourth-largest industrial power, unchallenged as the largest in Asia. Throughout the 1960s, it revolutionized and dominated the shipbuilding industry. In 1964, when the Olympics were held in Tokyo, Japan unveiled the first high-speed bullet train service. In 1967, it passed West Germany to become the world’s second-largest producer of automobiles.

“Japan is no longer the vassal of her former conqueror,” the January 1968 Plain Truth heralded. Since then, Japan has become even more independent.

Economically, Japan has worked to push the West out of Asia—as it tried to militarily in World War ii, only to be defeated.

The March 2, 1960, New York World Telegram and Sun stated, “Japanese industrialists are preparing to fight Britain for the economic lead in Southeast Asia.” And within several years, Britain pulled out of Singapore (the “gateway to the East”), where, at that time, Japanese firms already controlled one quarter of all investments. Analysts warned that only Japan could fill the power vacuum—and it did.

Almost 30 years later, in July of 1997, the British abandoned what then was perhaps the main hub of capitalism and economic growth: Hong Kong. Relinquished to the Communist Chinese, Hong Kong, whose banks provided critical capital for the smaller Southeast Asian nations, took a turn for the worse. This action was the main catalyst for the Asian financial meltdown just a few months later.

British influence in Asia is now gone, and Tokyo—which survived the whole financial crisis quite well—now stands to call the financial shots in Asia.

Japan’s Economy Today

Japan’s economy ranks as the world’s second-largest national economy, a position held since the 1970s. At present, it is bigger than all other Asian economies combined.

Other Asian nations are well aware of this. In June 1999, Philippines President Joseph Estrada proposed a single currency for Asia. Seven months later, a Malaysian government official spoke for the Association of South East Asian Nations (asean), stating that the combine of ten nations would support the internationalization of the yen to compete with the U.S. dollar and the European euro. Though Japan rebuffed the idea at the time, the remark shows a direction in Asia—and a respect for the Japanese monetary unit.

Later in the year, Japan put forth the idea of an Asian Monetary Fund—to complement the International Monetary Fund. The U.S. and European Union opposed the notion. Asia is still considering the idea, though it is not yet feasible. In the meantime, Asia is working toward greater economic unity in other ways, with Japan at the helm.

The ten asean nations, plus China, Japan and South Korea, have agreed to expand their web of bilateral currency-swap agreements, designed as a safety net to help prevent future financial crises. Right now, most of the bilateral agreements are between Japan and other Asian nations. In May, Japan agreed to currency-swapping with South Korea, Malaysia and Thailand. In July, the Philippines was added. A Japan-China agreement is expected to be added by the end of the year.

Asia relies heavily on the yen. Watch for an Asian financial and trading bloc to be built around the yen in the near future.

But Asian countries are not the only ones relying on the yen. So is the only nation with an economy larger than Japan’s—the United States.

Although the U.S. economy is larger than Japan’s, Japan has surpassed America on several economy-related playing fields. Take Japan’s manufacturing, for example. Japanese manufacturing output in 2000 totalled $1.26 trillion for the year—about $50 billion more than that of America. U.S. manufacturers, in fact, are highly dependent upon Japanese components and high-tech materials—adding to Japan’s trade surpluses and America’s trade deficits.

Another commonly overlooked fact is that, in the 1990s, the yen rose by 39 percent against the U.S. dollar.

Keep in mind that, as many financial experts have warned, Japan owns a good deal of America’s debt. According to the U.S. Treasury Department, foreign countries hold about 41 percent of America’s public debt. Of that, Japan owns 11 percent—$340 billion.

America is closely watching the Japanese economy, because, as a March 15 report on stated, “The danger [to the U.S. economy] would be Japan pulling its money back from American bond markets.

“‘What does that do to the United States? It would rip a path through it that would be very ugly indeed,’ said James Abegglen of the Asia Advisory Service. ‘I think that’s the real underlying danger. Never mind what some Wall Street trader is saying.’”

The once-strong Japanese economy is faltering. In April, Japan’s Cabinet Office issued its monthly report describing the economy for the first time as “weakening”—the cause being the “U.S. economic slowdown” (Agence France Presse, April 13). Despite its size—despite other Asian countries looking to it for support—Japan’s economy is on the verge of its fourth recession in a decade.

The terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center—icons of the global economy—have further adversely affected this weaker Japanese economy. The day following the attacks, Tokyo shares fell 5 percent, with the benchmark Nikkei trading under the 10,000 level for the first time in 17 years. Even before the attack, Japan’s trade surplus had fallen nearly 50 percent since last August—14 consecutive months of decline. Imports fell for the first time in 22 months, illustrating a decrease in domestic demand.

A September 20 Reuter report stated, “Economists expect the attacks to have a negative impact on already fragile U.S. consumer sentiment and in turn hit Asian economies, causing the trade surplus to shrink well into next year.”

What is ahead for the Japanese economy? Will it regain any strength in the near future?

Nationalism and Militarism

It was a great economic crisis that began Japan’s military revival before World War ii. The great Kanto earthquake, devastating Tokyo and Yokohama in 1923, and the worldwide depression of 1929 (originating in the U.S.) had sent Japan’s economy into dire straits. Its military had taken control of the government—with navy and army officers occupying most of the important offices, including prime minister. This situation led to Japan’s wartime conquests throughout Asia.

Now, the increasing unemployment rate in Japan is sending many of its workers to the fledgling military, just as it did 70 years ago. Japan, partly because of economic weakening, is seeing a resurgence in nationalism.

Though Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi was elected just last April promising economic reform, he has since abandoned this mandate. Stratfor predicted that, in its place, Koizumi would “embrace Japanese nationalism to maintain his popularity and hold on power.” This, they state, is “a far more attainable strategy for Koizumi than his economic reform plans, and falls into his populist image.”

Koizumi, while saying that he believes ties with Asia are vital to Japan, is reopening old diplomatic wounds with his neighbors as he seeks the acceptance of his people. One instance was in August, when he visited the controversial Yasukuni shrine, a memorial honoring Japan’s war dead and a symbol to other Asian nations of Japanese right-wing militarism.

Just two years prior, the parliament had legalized as national symbols the imperial flag and anthem associated with its wartime militarism. Some astute analysts likened this to the ominous move of Germany’s parliament back to Berlin that same year.

“In the 1970s and ’80s, [Japan’s] success reached a zenith and was a source of great pride, similar to Japan’s earlier colonial conquests. But since the economic crisis of the 1990s, Japan has begun searching for a new source of greatness. The wartime generation is dying out, and the younger generation cannot understand why it should be punished for the policies of its forefathers” (World Press Review, Jan. 2000).

Modern history books still gloss over the atrocities and glorify Japan’s war past. Unrepentant public officials insist the Pacific War was one of self-defense on Japan’s part; others insist Japan was merely working for the decolonization of Asia.

As the world witnesses a rise in nationalistic sentiment in Japan, it also witnesses a parallel rise in militarism. Japan has many reasons for stepping up its military activity:the experiences of the 1990-1991 Gulf War (when other countries sent troops and Japan just sent a large check to its American ally); the 1996-1997 hostage crisis at the Japanese Embassy in Peru, followed by North Korea’s launch in August 1998 of a Taepo-dong missile over Honshu, Japan’s main island; Japan’s ongoing dispute with Russia on sovereignty over the Kuril Islands (which Japan still claims, though Russia was awarded them after the Japanese surrender in 1945); the rise of China on the world scene and the modernization of its antiquated military.

Increased piracy along the vital Strait of Malacca, through which approximately half of Japan’s oil supply passes, has also sparked Japanese interest in dispatching its powerful Navy to patrol the area. Japanese ships have been the most victimized by the pirates. In November 2000, Japan, without U.S. involvement, began its first drills near India and Malaysia to crack down on pirates.

In 1999, Japan’s government enacted a law to allow the Self Defense Forces (sdf) to lend logistic support to U.S. forces if “a situation posing a serious threat to Japan’s security” erupts in “areas surrounding Japan” (Japan Times, Sept. 21).

That year, while participating in U.S. exercises in Guam, the Air Force division of Japan’s sdf deployed fighter aircraft outside its territory for the first time since World War ii. On the naval side, Japanese ships fired shots for the first time since World War ii when two suspected North Korean spy boats went into Japanese waters.

This year, Japan was also encouraged by other nations to be more involved in major UNpeacekeeping missions, such as the one in East Timor. Australia’s foreign minister, AlexanderDowner, pushed for Japan, which has one of the best-equipped and -financed militaries in the world, to act as more than just a “bank” for peacekeeping operations.

But America’s war on terrorism has really forced Japan to face the issue of its 55-year-old pacifist Constitution. Koizumi had pledged “unconditional support” to President George Bush for the U.S.’s military campaign in Afghanistan, despite its constitutional limitations. This promise was made possible on October 29, when Japan’s parliament approved a set of laws to allow elements of the sdf to support the U.S.’s war. And in early November, naval destroyers were dispatched to the Indian Ocean to aid the U.S.

Although the Japanese forces are restricted to non-combat areas—to missions that involve search-and-rescue, medical and other logistical support— this is the first notable legislative step the country has taken to revise Article 9. The international coalition is thankful for this step, but South Korea and China are showing deep concern—saying Koizumi’s loose interpretation of the Constitution and the term “self defense”will lead to greater military expansion in the region.

A Formidable Force

“All dressed up with nowhere to go” has described Japan’s military up to this point. Now, with their involvement in the present war, however non-combative, we see just how “dressed up” this military is. Many, perhaps assuming Japan has been living jot-and-tittle by Article 9 of its Constitution, do not realize the advanced Army that Japan possesses. It is one of the most modern armies in the world, lacking only long-range bombers and rockets, since it is still geared mainly for defense. Experts agree, however, that it has the financial and technical means to provide those easily and quickly.

“A U.S. military report found that the Japanese are becoming more technologically capable of operating alongside U.S. forces—something that can’t be said of many European forces”(, May 28). The size of its Navy is second only to the U.S.; Japan’s ground forces outnumber the British Royal Army and Royal Marines combined.

How can the Japanese government fund such a powerful army when it spends only 1 percent of the gdp on defense? Simple: Its economy is just that huge. One percent of its gdp amounts to nearly $50 billion in annual defense spending—more than any nation, except the U.S., spends on its military. How astonishing that Japan can keep within that 1 percent and still easily maintain this ranking.

Backing Japan’s mighty Army is its mighty industry—its companies producing many of its own war planes and missiles. Note that before World War ii, Japan’s peacefully oriented heavy industry was able to convert into full-scale production of war equipment practically overnight!

Will Japan go so far as to become a nuclear force?Shingo Nishimura, former vice director-general for political affairs of the Japan Defence Agency (he stepped down because of the following), “sparked public furor when he asserted … that it is advisable for ‘Japan to have nuclear arms,’ and Japan should expand the ‘Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere’ worldwide,”according to a January 8, 2000, bbc report.

The Japanese have not forgotten their goal of the Greater Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere—of a Japan-led united Asia. The bbc report declared:”Japan, regarding nuclear weapons as almighty for revival of the old empire that controlled colonies,is fully ready to become a nuclear power any time. Japan, camouflaged as a pigeon, has thrown off the mask and is about to emerge as a nuclear eagle .”

As early as 1955, Japan was saying that “the use of nuclear weapons was not illegal under all circumstances” (Times of India,Nov. 23, 1999). How paradoxical, coming from the first and only victim of nuclear warfare.

The Future of Japan

Winston Churchill said that the further you look into the past, the further you can see into the future. History does have a tendency to repeat itself. Japan’s future will be no exception.

Will Japan ignore its Constitution, revive its imperialist routes and seek a great Asian empire? The answer from history is yes! And that is also what the Holy Bible prophesies.

God’s Word shows that, despite national, religious and political differences among Asian nations, the region will one day consolidate quickly, due to a preemptive strike on Asia from the revived Holy Roman Empire in Europe which will have achieved military success in the Middle East (Dan. 11:40-41) and be wary of its enemies to the north and east (v. 44)—Russia and the Orient.

This attack will unite Russia and the rest of Asia, amassing the most populous army in man’s history—one of 200 million men (Rev. 9:16).

What part will Japan play in this Eurasian force?

Unlike in World War ii, Japan will not ultimately ally itself with Germany and the European Union it leads. This does not contradict history, since Japan fought against Germany in World War i. Japan only allied itself with Germany in World War ii for self-serving purposes—and Germany then was a pariah of Europe, not a leader of a Europe-wide conglomerate that threatened Japan’s plans for imperial world dominance!

Japan needs Russia and China because they possess valuable resources and fuels that Japan needs. On the other hand, as the “Germany of Asia,”Japan “is the only Asiatic nation equipped to provide the industrial know-how and leadership to harness the almost unlimited resources of this neglected, sprawling, unbelievably rich part of the world” (Plain Truth, Feb. 1963). These are two major reasons these nations will ally themselves.

Though Russia and China, because of sheer numbers and land mass, will be the main players in this combine, Japan’s economic and industrial strength will give the alliance the potent, significant, global strength it possesses. So says history. So says the Bible.

So say even news analysts who see this forming Soviet alliance. In a report titled “Europe or Japan:The Missing Geopolitical Piece,” Stratfor stated, “China and Russia, bound together into the tightest alliance, can change the regional balance in Eurasia but cannot affect the global balance. … What will Europe do? What will Japan do? One of these, drawn into an alliance with Russia, China or both, could create a dramatic shift in the global balance …” (April 16).

The report then predicted that Japan —the “vigorous, talented, and above all, maritime power”—will be the missing piece to the Sino-Russian combine.

Japan will not only ally itself with the Asian combine, it will have a major part in its leadership. Why would this industrialized, capitalistic island nation could allow itself to be swallowed up by these major communist nations?

The Plain Truth of February 1963 foretold, “The Bible does show these nations, with Russia, firmly allied together in the latter years—but does not plainly state the type of government which will be responsible for unifying them!”

Because of Japan’s capitalistic genius and industrial strength, it is the perfect match for the hungry, ailing nations of communism and the many other troubled Asian nations—despite any volatile relations these nations have now.

For more detailed information on this coming Asian combine and where world events will lead from there, write for our free booklet Russia and China in Prophecy.