Occupation of Japan

The Occupation of Japan (連合国占領下の日本, Rengōkoku senryō-ka no Nihon) was a military occupation of Japan in the years immediately following Japan's defeat in World War II. Led by the United States with the support of the British Commonwealth and the supervision of the Far Eastern Commission, the occupation lasted from 1945 to 1952 and involved a total of nearly 1 million Allied soldiers.[1] The occupation was overseen by American General Douglas MacArthur, who was appointed Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers by US President Harry Truman; MacArthur was succeeded as supreme commander by General Matthew Ridgway in 1951. Unlike in the occupation of Germany, the Soviet Union had little to no influence over the occupation of Japan, declining to participate because it did not want to place Soviet troops under MacArthur's direct command.[2]

Occupation of Japan
Rengōkoku gunji senryō-ka no Nihon
Map of Japan under Allied occupation
  1. Japanese archipelago, placed under the authority of the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers (de facto United States), effective 1945–1952 (Note: Part of Japanese territories were put under US' administration after 1952 in accordance with Article 3 of San Francisco Peace Treaty: Iwo Jima (till 1968) and Okinawa (till 1972), such arrangement was treaty based, not part of the Allied Occupation)
  2. Japanese Taiwan and the Spratly Islands, placed under the authority of China
  3. Karafuto Prefecture and the Kuril Islands, placed under the authority of the Soviet Union
  4. Japanese Korea south of the 38th parallel north, placed under the authority of the United States Army Military Government in Korea, granted independence in 1948 as South Korea
  5. Japanese Korea north of the 38th parallel north, placed under the authority of the Soviet Civil Administration, granted independence in 1948 as North Korea
  6. Kwantung Leased Territory, occupied by the Soviet Union 1945–1955, returned to China in 1955
  7. South Pacific Mandate, occupied by the United States 1945–1947, converted into the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands in 1947
StatusMilitary occupation
Official languagesJapanese
Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers 
Gen. Douglas MacArthur
Gen. Matthew Ridgway
Prime Ministers 
Naruhiko Higashikuni
Shigeru Yoshida
Tetsu Katayama
Hitoshi Ashida
Shigeru Yoshida
15 August 1945
 Occupation Begins
August 28 1945
25 October 1945
3 May 1947
15 August 1948
9 September 1948
28 April 1952
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Empire of Japan
United States Civil Administration of the Ryukyu Islands
United States Army Military Government in Korea
Soviet Union
Soviet Civil Administration
Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands

This foreign presence marks the only time in Japan's history that it has been occupied by a foreign power.[3] However, unlike in Germany the Allies never assumed direct control over Japan's civil administration. In the immediate aftermath of Japan's military surrender, the country's government continued to formally operate under the provisions of the Meiji Constitution. Furthermore, at MacArthur's insistence, Emperor Hirohito remained on the imperial throne and was effectively granted full immunity from prosecution for war crimes after he agreed to replace the wartime cabinet with a ministry acceptable to the Allies and committed to implementing the terms of the Potsdam Declaration, which among other things called for the country to become a parliamentary democracy. Under MacArthur's guidance, the Japanese government introduced sweeping social reforms and implemented economic reforms that recalled American "New Deal" priorities of the 1930s under President Roosevelt.[4] In 1947, a sweeping amendment to the Meiji Constitution was passed which effectively repealed it in its entirety and replaced it with a new, American-written constitution, and the emperor's theoretically vast powers, which for many centuries had been constrained only by conventions that had evolved over time, became strictly limited by law. Article 9 of the constitution explicitly forbade Japan from maintaining a military or pursuing war as a means to settle international disputes.

The occupation officially ended with coming into force of the San Francisco Peace Treaty, signed on September 8, 1951, and effective from April 28, 1952, after which the U.S. military ceased any direct involvement in the country's civil administration thus effectively restoring full sovereignty to Japan with the exception of the Ryukyu Islands. The simultaneous implementation of the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty allowed tens of thousands of American soldiers to remain based in Japan indefinitely, albeit at the invitation of the Japanese government and not as an occupation force.[5]

The occupation of Japan can be usefully divided into three phases: the initial effort to punish and reform Japan; the so-called "Reverse Course" in which the focus shifted to suppressing dissent and reviving the Japanese economy to support the U.S. in the Cold War; and the final establishment of a formal peace treaty and enduring military alliance.[6]

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