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A culture born of honor and respect, the Japanese combine the creativity of dreams with cold hard science to produce technological marvels.

Like its capital city, Tokyo, rebuilt after the earthquake of 1923 and then after the American bombing in 1945, Japan has succeeded in constantly reinventing itself to the rhythm of scientific and cultural innovations. Left in ruins and occupied by the United States at the end of the Second World War, the country pulled off the incredible feat of developing into the world’s second biggest economy in under twenty years.

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The Americans, who occupied Japan until 1952, first forced the country to develop along democratic lines. While there were questions raised about whether Emperor Hirohito should abdicate, in the end he was only required to renounce his divine status, thus retaining a symbolic place in Japanese society. Around the same time in 1947, a new constitution transferred most state powers to parliament and guaranteed respect for human rights. Industry was also restructured, notably through dismantling the Zaibatsu: the great industrial conglomerates of the interwar period. However, the beginning of the Cold War and the communist expansion in Asia resulted in the United States soon becoming favorable to the idea of rebuilding Japan’s economy. The Korean War and subsequently the Vietnam War energized the Japanese economy as the nation’s factories were used to mass-produce the American military equipment required in the region. Starting in 1968, the country became the second largest economy in the world, a position that it would retain until 2010. In 1973, however, the energy crisis and the rising price of raw materials encouraged Japan to steer its development toward scientific innovation and technological transformation as part of a profitable high-tech economy. Sectors such as automation and computer science became key economic sectors and were targeted by several major national research and development programs.

Did you know?

The famous monster Godzilla, star of more than thirty movies since the 1950s, was inspired by the trauma of the nuclear bombing of Japan. In the original movie, nuclear testing in the Pacific is attributed with the awakening of the monster, a theme that was widely censored in the United States to minimize the accusatory overtones.