By Ryann Connell, Mainichi [22 January 2001]

Playing GI and prostitute, black marketeer and left-wing agitator were the nation's three most popular children's games in 1946, one report said a year after the start of the U.S.-dominated Allied Occupation.

Japan seemed to have been ready for the changing values the occupation would bring. The same government that would later vehemently deny, admit, then deny again, the forced prostitution of comfort women for its warriors, would set up for Allied troops within three days of the Aug. 15, 1945, surrender the Recreation and Amusement Association, the world's largest prostitution trust, employing 1,360 hookers in Tokyo alone.

But young women selling their bodies to conquerors for a bar of soap or a pair of nylons merely scratched the surface of the nation's wholesale clearance of traditional morality in an effort to please the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers (SCAP). But the nation's astounding transformation from bitter enemy to fawning ally would probably not have alarmed SCAP—the name given to both the organizational body charged with carrying out the occupation and Gen. Douglas MacArthur, the demigod who headed it—as it was hardly a paragon of consistency, either.

The U.S. Army started the occupation pledging to demilitarize and democratize its feudalistic foe. Through to 1947, it did just that. Among its achievements—provision of widespread civil liberties; introduction of universal suffrage; agricultural reform; legalization of labor unions; dismantling of the zaibatsu business conglomerations that fed the war effort and purges of militarists.

The occupation also gave the nation the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, which punished those deemed guilty of leading Japan into war. But arguably the greatest gift of the occupation was the war-renouncing Constitution, upon which the influence of MacArthur's General Headquarters was so great some deemed the charter to be more SCAPanese than Japanese, though GHQ censors forbade anyone from saying so at the time.

SCAP changed spots as the cold war developed. The war- crimes trials turned into a farcical scene of victor's justice. The defendants were effectively guilty before the start of their trial—many facing charges that hadn't existed before the end of the war. Moreover, Emperor Hirohito, the man in whose name the nation had waged war, escaped indictment. Indeed, defendants did all they could to protect the Emperor, who repaid their faith by having dinner with Joseph Keenan, the trial's chief prosecutor, the day the death sentences on seven of them were confirmed.

Purges proved to be flexible, too. Many accused Class-A war criminals arrested before 1947 had returned to public prominence by 1949. Among them, Nobusuke Kishi, who became Prime Minister in 1957; Yoshio Kodama, an ultranationalist who emerged as the postwar godfather of the yakuza; and Ryoichi Sasakawa, who later made his name as a philanthropist.

Personality of the Period

Gen. Douglas MacArthur (1880-1964), Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers

Fortunately for a Japan that had been ruled by a god for eons, when Emperor Hirohito renounced his divinity on New Year's Day 1946, MacArthur swept in to take his place, remaining in supreme control of the nation until firedby U.S. President Harry S. Truman in April 1950. MacArthur was idolized across the nation, though he saw little of it, rarely leaving his headquarters in the Dai-Ichi Life Insurance Building. When MacArthur departed from Japan, there were calls to make him an honorary citizen and suggestions to erect a massive statue in his likeness beside Tokyo Bay. The Tokyo Metropolitan Government also issued the general with a letter of gratitude. Soon after, testifying before a U.S. Senate committee, MacArthur likened the Japanese to 12-year-olds. There was outcry across the nation and the proposals to honor MacArthur, though not dying, simply faded away.