Morpheus on… The Rise And Fall Of Japan

This story really begins with the attack on Pearl Harbour (Harbor).

It seems incredible today, that a tiny country like Japan would even CONSIDER taking on the might of Uncle Sam – until you realize in 1941, both the military and population of America were considerably SMALLER than they are today.

Furthermore, most of that population was concentrated near the coasts and while the heartland was large, it was sparsely populated and strategically unimportant.

However,  Japan was more concerned with neutralising the U.S. fleet so that its S.E. Asian campaign could continue, unimpeded by the interfering Americans, than taking over Washington – at least, for that moment.

As a Warrior Society, it had conquered large areas of S.E. Asia – and with its formidable navy, Japan considered itself unstoppable.

Whether Churchill – or even Roosevelt – actually KNEW Pearl was coming, is now a matter of speculation. But what is certain is that no-one foresaw the DESTRUCTION that would be visited on the U.S. fleet that day.

Indeed, if Yamamoto had pressed his advantage, the Battle For The Pacific (oxymoron?) might have ended with a Japanese victory. But Isoroku had caught the Americans with their trousers down – and CLOBBERED them, with little loss to his own forces – and he did not care to push his luck.

This fatal move resulted in America pulling her collective trousers back up and fighting tooth and nail, island by island – at enormous cost, in both men and machines – to drive the Japanese back to their homeland.

And when the cheeky Russians offered TERMS to Japan if she would surrender to THEM, Roosevelt understandably went BALLISTIC – and dropped a few mega-tons of persuasion onto the Japanese population.

But when hostilities ended, America felt guilty for having perpetrated this genocide and so began funding Japan’s industry, in order for her population to rebuild their country. Any industry – provided it was not likely to result in a rebirth of Japan’s military.

Thus Japan began manufacturing EVERYTHING. At first, the products were merely cheap knock-offs of standard American goods. “Made In Japan” was a JOKE in the Fifties.

But by the Seventies, the joke had soured.

The reasons were varied. The Japanese car industry got its boost in England when companies began allowing reps, engineers and the like to choose their company cars from lists. Each employee would be given the choice between a particular “level” of Ford, GM or Toyota.

Now these levels were CRITICAL for these men. Spending eight hours a day in their vehicles gave them a PASSION for the “toys” that came with them. And motorways soon became playgrounds for Ford Cortina GXL-driving reps who would wind their windows down and yell “Wanker!” at reps driving lowly Ford Cortina XLs.

But as Toyota’s workers were paid less than their British counterparts, Toyota could afford to “load” their entry-level model with the same toys Ford and GM’s “L” model had. And their “L” model with the same toys Ford and GM’s “XL” had. And… you get the picture.

Of course, the reps and engineers could hardly admit their choice of the rice-burner was driven by their desire for TOYS – so they claimed their preference favoured the Japanese cars’ RELIABILITY.

But the truth was the Japanese mass-production cars were built to the same quality as the British ones – LOW, where all parts were designed to be BARELY strong enough – but the lie guaranteed that sales rocketed among private buyers as well.

Meanwhile, in The States, the rocketing price of OIL was making Americans think. If they had REALLY thought, they would have realised their gas prices were STILL A FRACTION of those in many other countries – but as usual, they knew nothing of what went on outside America.

All they knew was pump prices were going up – and cars from Japan (where petrol has always cost a FORTUNE) achieved FOUR TIMES the mileage their gas-guzzlers got. And being small, they made better use of cabin space. Plus they had the same toys as American cars (Japan made sure of THAT).

Then there was Japan’s micro-electronics industry. The transistor and its smarter brother, the integrated circuit – or “chip” – were essentially invented and developed in America. But it was the Japanese who developed their use in TVs, radios and “music-centres”. Then in computers, mobile phones, etc., etc.

And once again, what started as a joke quickly became a mega-industry.

Ironically, with their cars and consumer electronics, the Japanese did WAY more damage to America than the entire Japanese fleet could EVER have achieved in ’41. Just ask any old person who has lived their life in Detroit.

By the Eighties, Japan was on a roll. Their big corporations had cleverly taken advantage of the Japanese “tribal culture” – replacing the traditional tribes with corporate ones. Japanese workers took pride in being “A Honda Man” – or Suzuki, Toyota, Nissan, Yamaha, JVC, Mitsubishi, Toshiba, Sony, Panasonic, Technics, etc., etc.

But all good things come to an end.

Slowly, the Japanese workers came to realise the boss who got down and did floor exercises with them every morning was making a sh*tload more money than THEY were. And so they began organising. Unions started. Wages went up. And soon, the Japanese giants began looking elsewhere for cheap labour.

“Outsourcing” is thought of in the West as new – but the Japanese pioneered that science too (did you see what I did there?) First in Hong Kong. Then when THEIR workers got organised – in Taiwan. Then Korea. Finally, they hit the newly opened-up China.

The result of this was for the first time, Japan had less than full employment – something previously unheard of. The Japanese workers were SHATTERED.

And worse was to come. The myth concerning Japanese reliability – always a tenuous one – began falling apart when it became known certain companies (court cases are pending, so I’ll avoid specificity) had sent goods out KNOWING they were defective.

It will be interesting to see how a current American court case plays out – given the kicking America’s industrial base has taken from the company involved.

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2 responses to this post.

  1. A most valuable Post once again! I did not realise that the Japanese were early out-sourcers. I recall hearing radio ads in 1968 (on holiday in Victoria, BC, Canada) over CKLG, CFUN, KOL, KJR for a motor car called the Toyota Corolla. Did it do well? Anybody? I never had four wheels. I am two-wheeling lad. Get past the jams. That’s me. Actually, I could not pass the driving test. Oh, you guessed…

  2. Posted by theworldaccordingtomorpheus on March 6, 2010 at 9:59 pm

    I’m gonna ASSUME you weren’t joking about the ubiquitous Toyota Corolla. About ten models on, they are still going (nearly half a century, now!) and are one of the (occasionally THE) most popular car(s) on the PLANET. Virtually all Bangkok taxis are Corollas (occasionally called “Limos”).

    Like all cars, they have GROWN over the years. Most manufacturers do this – increase the size every make-over. Then they discontinue their biggest model and introduce a new subcompact.

    It’s a bit like that trick with a piano where the notes APPEAR to go up – but as you fade out the high notes, you fade IN the low ones. So the piece lasts forever and although it appears to be going somewhere – it never does!

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