Clash and Compromise
by Rit Nosotro
between the United States and Japan
Change Over Time essay
Discuss the changes in politics, religion, or technology as two cultures (Japan and the United States) clash and trade.
When Commodore Perry first arrived in an isolated Japan in 1854, no one could
have imagined the influences the cultures of the United States and Japan would
have on each other. But since that time, through revolts, wars, and peaceful
trade, the two cultures have interacted to shape each other's modern cultures.
Since its opening to the outside world in 1858, Japan has evolved from being an isolated country into one of the world's leaders in technology. This rapid change took place in large part because of the United States' efforts to open Japan up to trade and, after that had been accomplished, to help modernize the country by providing the necessary technology and finances.
Obviously a period existed prior to and during World War II when the United States and Japan were not on friendly terms, but, especially after the war, the United States was instrumental in helping Japan advance in democracy, technology and economics.
After Japan signed a treaty in 1858 agreeing to open some ports to foreign trade, most of the major European nations immediately formed trade agreements with Japan, as did the United States. However, whereas the United States was primarily interested in trade in peaceful commodities, Japan's trading system was controlled by the government and as such the most desired items were those that would advance the military. Even after private trading families took control of Japan's trade, the main imports were those that would improve their military.
By the late 1920's, Japan had the most advanced military in East Asia. Japan's open interest in expansion and military treaties with Italy and Nazi Germany caused great unrest in the United States. Relations quickly deteriorated and eventually the Japanese attacked Pearly Harbor which ultimately led to the dropping of the atomic bombs and the defeat of Japan in 1945.
When Japan was defeated, its economy, government, and military were in shambles. This is where the United States has, in effect, heavily influenced modern Japan. General Douglas MacArthur, the American commander of the occupying force in Japan, was given almost dictatorial powers to reform Japan's economic and political structure. MacArthur is responsible for Japan's democratic constitution as well as helping to reorganize its industry.
After the occupation ended in 1951, Japan was already on its way to becoming one of the world's most advanced and industrialized nations. It quickly developed a large trade with the United States, primarily in foodstuff and electronics.
Obviously the United States has had a great effect on Japanese culture, government, and industry. But has the United States received anything from its decades of interaction with Japan? Indeed it has! Many of America's cultural "fads" start in Japan. Japanese technology companies are often more advanced than many American companies in their relevant fields. Most Americans buy products made in Japan or designed in Japan. Without many of the technological devices from Japan, life would not be as easy as it is.
The ways in which Japanese culture have been affected by American culture are easily seen in modern Japan. Besides its government and economic structure, every day life in Japan is as much influenced by American items as the Americans are by Japanese items. Fast food is popular in Japan as are many American "fads", such as certain music styles and blue jeans.
To assume, however, that these cultures are practically identical would be a mistake. Although now quite similar, each culture maintains its own independence and uniqueness. Japanese culture is almost an even blend of its own native culture and American/Western culture, although Japanese culture is slowly becoming more and more like American culture as time goes on.
Religious beliefs have also been exchanged between the two cultures. Christianity was almost unknown, and even outlawed, in Japan before its opening in 1858. But since then it has spread to almost 5% of the population. Although still less than 1% of the USA population, Zen Buddhism has experienced dramatic growth among young Americans.
Since the United States opened the Japanese to world trade in the mid 1850s, Japan and the United States have shaped each others fads and technology. Japan, once a distinctively Eastern isolationist country, has ironically become a leader in the westernization of a global culture.
Questions over essay:
#1: What American General helped rebuild Japan after World War II?
A. Douglas MacArthur
B. Dwight Eisenhower
C. Bill Clinton
D. George Patton
#2: What two religions were exchanged between the two cultures?
A. Buddhism and Hinduism
B. Zoroastrianism and Islam
C. Christianity and Buddhism
D. Islam and Christianity
#3: What year did Japan sign a treaty allowing trade in some of its ports?
A. 2089 A.D.
B. 1858 A.D.
C. 1889 A.D.
D. 1911 A.D.
#4: Japan's trading system was originally controlled by -------- and then --------.
A. Large trading families and the government
B. The Ninja Power Rangers and then Pokimon
C. The government and large trading families
D. Large trading firms and Mitsubishi
1.A, 2.C, 3.B, 4.C
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