The postwar American occupation of Japan completely changed the political and social foundations of this Far East country as its institutions were reshaped to adapt to a new democratic government and lifestyle. On August 15, 1945, after the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Emperor Hirohito had announced the unconditional surrender of Japan through a recorded speech broadcast by radio. As a result, the US troops landed unopposed on the shores of Honshu, Japan’s main island, on August 28, 1945, as the Japanese laid down their weapons and complied with the US military regulations. Two days later, the Supreme Commander of the Allied Pacific Powers, General Douglas MacArthur, arrived in Tokyo to priside over the formal surrender of Japan, on September 2, 1945, and take over the occupation forces command.

Invested with full power to exert complete authority through the Japanese emergency government, MacArthur had three main problems to solve: feeding the starving Japanese people, repatriation of Japanese troops from overseas territories, and the creation of a new, Western-oriented, democratic Constitution. For the first problem, MacArthur ordered that all surplus food supplies, which had originally been assigned to Allied troops should the war lasted longer, be delivered to soup kitchens organized in cities and towns to allay hunger and avoid famine. Hundreds of merchant ships were employed to repatriate millions of Japanese soldiers and civilians from territories that had been conquered by Japan and later liberated by the Allies; they returned to civil life to work on the reconstruction of Japan, which was demilitarized.

To draw up a new Constitution, which guaranteed women equal rights and individual freedoms, Douglas MacArthur appointed a number of American lawyers to form a constitutional assembly, which drew up a democratic Constitution. At the beginning, the conservative Japanese politicians refused to approve it, since it contained articles that granted women political and social freedom. However, in 1947, the parliament finally passed the Constitution at the behest of Emperor Hirohito, who held influential power over the Japanese people and whom MacArthur had exonerated from any responsability of war crimes. By 1952, the year the American occupation in Japan ended, an agrarian reform had been implemented and labor unions had also been organized. During this period, the overwehlming majority of Japanese political leaders cooperated with MacArthur as most people were friendly to Allied troops.

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