Founded in the early 1930s for the purpose of

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Unformatted text preview: whether or not it was fully supported by all of the Japanese people—on a truly national issue, and the United States as Big Brother had been at least partly rebuffed. 334 Culture in the Present Age This is not to suggest that 1960 marked the charting of a new course for Japan or the definition of a new national purpose. Japan was on the threshold of its decade of greatest material fulfillment, a decade that propelled its gross national product to third highest in the world. What started as a “leisure boom” attained the level of an almost undreamed of prosperity, measured in terms of washing machines, television sets, motor cars, and overseas travel. At the same time, the Japanese were afflicted by those apparent inevitabilities of progress: urban sprawl, pollution, and the psychological tensions and social malaise of the modern condition. Japan had become a society of mass culture (taishû bunka) by at least the late 1920s. Newspapers, books, and magazines had achieved huge circulations; people flocked to department stores and to the movies and theatres; and radio broadcasts were reaching into households throughout the country.36 Goods of all kinds were being produced, and advertising and marketing were geared to stimulate desire for them and encourage mass consumption. A decade or so later Japan, like other participants in World War II, used the tools of mass culture to promote its aims in what can perhaps be called the first “mass-culture war.” But mass culture as a medium to foster the production of consumer goods declined precipitously during the war. Having chosen to fight a country (the United States) whose economy was some ten times greater than its own,37 Japan was forced to direct virtually all its wealth and resources into the war effort. By war’s end, as we have seen, the Japanese people suffered dire shortages of food, clothing, and the other basic necessities of everyday life. In that sense, mass culture had ground nearly to a halt. As mass culture gradually revived in the postwar period, it was accompanied by a substantial “Americanization” of life—...
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