Japan in the 1970s

A period of economic growth

The growth in this period for Japan is phenomenal. At the beginning of the 1970s, in terms of both volume and diversity, Japan’s industry had become one of the most advanced in the world.1 The growth of electrical machinery products is spectacular during this period.

Needless to say, the lives of the Japanese people in this period were generally good – the ratio of job openings reach their peak in 1973. In particular, the rise in employment rate is most apparent in the steel industry, electrical appliances industry, and construction industry, etc. In order to meet the rising demand, large enterprises like Matsushita employ a large number of new graduates like Shima in the manga. These graduates were looking forward to working in large companies, which most of them would guarantee lifetime employment.

In this period of economic growth and general improvement in people’s standard of living, there was a new vision adopted by the Japanese; they no longer feel inferior towards the western countries. They have great hope for their future as shown in the comic. People feel that Japan will soon become the superpower which will be superior even to the west. Rapid economic growth also bought a change in people’s lifestyles. They slowly began to shift to a more westernized lifestyle, which in turn led to the growth in certain industries. (for eg, electrical appliances).

Students rebellion and unions becoming more powerful

In the late 1960s to early 1970s, a series of student’s rebellion broke out in Japan. This is a generation that grew up in a state of economic growth. The state of affluence enjoyed by people began to lead them in search of other things in life, as material comforts were no longer the major concern for many Japanese. In addition, many work unions were also getting more powerful as they were organized in large groups2; they began to demand more rights, as illustrated in the comic. They wanted not only benefits and higher salaries for their members, but at the same time also demanded more power and control.

The 1973 Oil Crisis

The 1973 oil crisis has bought the Japan’s period of rapid economical growth to a halt. It was the worst inflation Japan ever had since the Korean war. Japan was hit quite badly by this crisis because at that time, three- fourths of its energy needs were supplied by the Middle East. As a result, there were outright panics in Japan, the prices of oil related and unrelated products increased in large fold. People began stock piling. There were fear and insecurities among people, a feeling which they had long forgotten ever since the economic growth in the post war era. Yet Japan managed to recover much faster than some of the western countries. As a result, they began to see themselves in a different light, thus reinforcing their vision in the beginning of the 1970s about becoming the super power.

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Environmental pollution

Rapid industrialization during this period had bought about environmental pollution. Almost all toxic substances designated as harmful to humans were originated from the factories. This is illustrated in the manga when Shima was told by his superior to throw the old unwanted television into the river, which he declined to do so. Slowly, people began to realize the side effects of rapid economical growth, which led to a series of protests; one of which is the boycott of Matsushita Electronics’ products. Everywhere the complaints about air and water pollution began to be heard. In the early 1970s, there was a backing away from economic growth at the expense of everything else, and the general introduction of antipollution legislation. There were also initiatives to protect the natural environment.2 In general, the awareness of environmental protection had increased among the people during this period.

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About the author

Nadia Petrova

I'm running this blog because I love Japanese culture, especially the art of geisha. When I was a little girl, I used to dream of becoming a geisha myself. In my spare time, I enjoy watching good anime and reading some manga.

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