Asia in Age of Decolonization and Globalization: Japan (Technology and National Identity)

Asia in Age of Decolonization and Globalization: Japan (Technology and National Identity)





Asia in Age of Decolonization and Globalization: Japan (Technology and National Identity after WWII)


According to Nishiyama (2003), Japan’s unconditional surrender in the Second World War was an ominous sign for the people employed in the state’s military sector. A large number of engineers and scientists who had been working for the air force became unemployed after the United States forbade the Japanese from carrying out any airborne activities including the development and production of any kind of aircraft (Nishiyama, 2003). In addition to this, Japan’s loss in the war discredited their military industry and this meant that the jobs held by experts in that field were no longer secure.

Following their unemployment, a large number of the wartime engineers turned to civilian industries for work. One industry that was happy to absorb these experts was the railway industry through the company, Japanese National Railways (JNR) (Nishiyama, 2003). The company had started making plans to recruit soldiers into the industry as early as 1945. One institution that benefitted from this recruitment was the Railway Technical Research Institute, as it increased its engineering workforce by 400% through the hiring of former wartime experts. Through this recruits from the military, Japan’s railway industry was able to advance to the level that it has reached today (Nishiyama, 2003).

Japan’s imperialism in the years surrounding the Second World War also helped to advance the nation’s technological state. Siguhara (2004) argues that in the years leading up to the Second World War, imperialism acted as an institutional device that facilitated trade and capital flows between the west and Asia. The west exploited Japan and used the nation’s labor-intensive industries for its needs. The Japanese government supported this exploitation to serve its own economic ambitions. Siguhara (2004) notes that the same ambitions motivated the government into adopting the aggressive policies that led to the Second World War. After the war, however, the state still had these aspirations and to achieve its targets, the government chose to use foreign trade to boost the nation’s high economic growth. This policy proved successful as Japan made the transition from labor-intensive industries to production facilities that were based on resource saving technology (Siguhara, 2004).

Siguhara (2004) notes that Japan’s technological advancements have had a positive impact on the state’s relations with other countries. Firstly, neighboring Asian countries have profited from the transfer of Japanese technology. Urban living conditions in East and Southeast Asia have improved over the decades, partly because of Japan’ economic and technological advancements. Additionally, the Free Trade agreements that international organizations introduced into the world have helped Japan become a technological powerhouse and the nation’s trade with other countries has enabled it to foster good relations (Siguhara, 2004)

National Identity

            The Japanese war effort during the Second World War was guided by nationalistic fervor. The Japanese military employed ethnologists within its ranks to help the army in its nation building efforts throughout Asia (Doak, 2001). Matsuoka (2003) argues that the fervor was a result of the isolationist policy that the Tokugawa rulers employed for centuries. The limited contact with foreign cultures turned Japan into a breeding ground for ethnocentrism. This sentiment of Japanese superiority over other cultures persisted during the Meiji period (Matsuoka, 2003).

The end of the Second World War saw the ideals of superiority come crashing down on the Japanese. The nation lost its sovereignty and its identity. The unconditional surrender saw Japan suffer a number of humiliations at the hands of the United States (Matsuoka, 2003). Firstly, the Japanese had been led to believe that their emperor was a god but after the war, they saw him submit himself to the will of the allies. The Japanese were also forced to sign a peace constitution that made them renounce war forever and abolish their army. This meant that they would have to rely on the United States for their national security needs (Matsuoka, 2003).

Relief for Japan came in the form of economic success. The state’s industrial sector experienced a sharp growth right after the war. The technological advances that the nation made allowed the Japanese economy to grow exponentially (Matsuoka, 2003). The government focused on the economic growth to stave off any discussions concerning the state’s relationship with the USA. This prevented internal conflicts between Japans generations, based on their opinions of the war. Additionally, the economic boom prevented a total collapse of the state’s identity as the Japanese people saw their standards of living rise and this lessened the public anger that surrounded their surrender (Matsuoka, 2003).





Doak, K.M. (2001). Building national identity through ethnicity: ethnology in wartime Japan and after. Journal of Japanese Studies. 27(1), 1-39.

Matsuoka, Y. (2003). Historical memory and national identity comparison between Austria and Japan. Retrieved from

Nishiyama, T. (2003). Cross-disciplinary technology transfer in trans-World War II Japan: The Japanese high-speed bullet train as a case study. Comparative Technology Transfer and Society. 1(3), 305-325

Siguhara, K. (2004). Japanese imperialism in global resource history. Working Papers of the Global Economic History Network (GEHN), 07/04. Department of Economic History, London School of Economics and Political Science, London, UK.



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