First published in Asian and African Studies (Journal of the Israel Oriental Society), Vol. 18, No. 1, March 1984
This revolution of the spirit among the Japanese people represents no thin veneer to serve the purposes of the present. It represents an unparalleled convulsion in the social history of the world (General MacArthur, 2 September 1946). 1
The worst thing possible about Japanese politics today is the fact that the same class of people who led and guided the mistaken war policies of Japan from the start of the Showa period still continue in positions of power-overbearing in their arrogance and stubborn in their refusal to reflect upon the past. Like the suppurating roots of carious teeth, these people exude an offensive stench…. The stench of these rotting teeth rises to the high heavens (Utsunomiya Tokuma, April 1969). 2
AT FIRST SIGHT these two statements may seem little more than extreme examples of hyperbolic political rhetoric. Both, in their own ways, however, are equally astonishing. Did General MacArthur, Supreme Commander, Allied Powers, really believe that the Occupation of Japan had the momentous significance that he suggested? And did Utsunomiya, the long-serving maverick Diet Member, who for much of his career had been affiliated with the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), really mean that the leaders of his own party were just as bad as those Japanese leaders who had brought war and destruction to Japan up to 1945? No doubt both these men believed their rhetoric at the time they uttered it, though whether either would have given vent to quite these sentiments after a period of mature and sober reflection is another matter.
In extreme form, however, they each represent polar views of the achievements and significance of the allied Occupation of Japan. Boiled down to essentials, the first statement says that the Occupation wrought fundamental change, that Japan would never be the same again, that the experience was essentially revolutionary. The second statement, in contrast, essentially expresses the view that the old guard won out, that revolution was avoided or defeated, that continuity is more prevalent than change.