Last Updated on May 8, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 615
The Japanese Economy After World War II, Japan made a rapid and impressive economic recovery. Many factors contributed to the country’s success. Instead of concenF trating on producing inexpensive textiles sold to other Asian countries, Japan began to produce advanced technology for a world market. Japan’s workforce was skilled and...
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The Japanese Economy
After World War II, Japan made a rapid and impressive economic recovery. Many factors contributed to the country’s success. Instead of concenF trating on producing inexpensive textiles sold to other Asian countries, Japan began to produce advanced technology for a world market. Japan’s workforce was skilled and highly motivated. The government also cooperated and supported industry.
By 1960 Japan had become the fifth-largest among the world’s market economies; by 1968 it was second only to the United States. Also by the middle of the decade, Japan was exporting more goods to the United States than it was importing. While a brief depression took place mid-decade, between 1965 and 1970, the economy saw an average growth of over eleven percent per year.
Society and Wealth
The distribution of individual income moved toward greater equality in the 1960s. Post-war land and labor reforms and the dissolution of the zaibatsu (a Japanese conglomerate or cartel) all worked to bring this greater equality in income distribution. During this period, Japan, among all the advanced industrialized nations, became the country with the most equal income distribution. Indeed, nearly ninety percent of Japanese felt that they enjoyed a middleclass standard of living. Along with this rise of middle-class consciousness came a rise in school and university enrollment, personal savings, desire for home ownership, and the purchase of consumer goods, such as televisions.
The Japanese population did see some downsides to the economic growth. The Japanese worked longer hours than workers holding similar jobs in Western countries. The cost of living in Japan was also much higher than it was in other industrialized nations.
Rapid industrialization and population growth emerged as a major issue in Japan in the 1960s. In the early 1960s, many rural residents began to migrate to the cities. Urban areas grew overcrowded. Space and housing were scarce, and prices began to rise dramatically in the 1960s. In the six largest cities, the price index for urban land increased more than twenty times between 1955 and 1970.
As thousands of people flocked to the cities, rural municipalities sought ways to increase their tax base and revenue. To this effect, they encouraged industries, through monetary incentives, to move into their areas. Rural Japan thus underwent a period of industrialization. Pollution became commonplace, and the government took no measures to prevent it. By the mid-1960s, citizens had begun to form grassroots organizations to put a stop to potentially deadly polluting of the environment.
The U.S.-Japan Mutual Security Treaty
The United States organized the reconstruction of the Japanese government after Japan’s surrender in World War II and maintained military troops there as provided by the U.S.-Japan Mutual Security Treaty. In 1960, however, Japan and the United States sought to revise the treaty. Some of the terms were changed, and the objective of economic cooperation between the two countries was added. Political leftists were opposed to the treaty on the grounds that Japan, which would continue to allow the United States to maintain military bases in Japan, would be forced to follow whatever military action the United States might want to take in Asia. The administration of Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi, however, supported the amended treaty in order to appease American wishes. In his desire to ratify the treaty when U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower visited the following month, Japan’s prime minister pushed the treaty through without consulting the opposition parties. Tens of thousands of students and workers joined in protest, and rioting broke out in the streets. Eisenhower cancelled his visit because his security could not be assured. The prime minister flew to Washington, where the treaty was ratified. Upon his return, Kishi resigned.
Last Updated on May 8, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 566
Point of View
The story is told from the third-person point of view. Everything that happens in the story is filtered through Akio. The reader only learns his thoughts and ideas. Because Akio is so unperceptive and so uninterested in Masako, the reader learns very little about her. The only indications of what she is thinking come through her brief opportunities for dialogue and the few times that Akio describes what she is doing. For instance, in her most important moment, Masako responds to the news (redelivered) that Akio is breaking up with her: ‘‘Really? Did you say that? I didn’t hear you,’’ she says in a ‘‘normal’’ voice. This moment undercuts all the feelings that Akio has been going through and turns the joke— both of them, in fact: wooing Masako in order to break up with her and making her confront the fountain—on himself.
The fountains are the story’s primary symbols. They are described in sexual terms. The main columns of the fountains, which ‘‘shot upward from the center of each basin,’’ are phallic symbols representing the male genitalia. The basins that surround the fountains, with their ‘‘radiating curves’’ are representative of the female genitalia. Akio’s fascination with the fountains belies his stated indifference to sex. His ambivalence is further revealed to be in sexual orientation as well. He first describes the columns of water but then claims to be ‘‘less taken’’ with them than with the surrounding waters. Watching all the water’s ‘‘untiring rushing,’’ Akio goes into a sexual reverie, ‘‘being taken over by the water, carried away on its rushing, cast far away.’’ That reverie continues when the big central column captures his attention. He sees within the column the water rushing upward. Unlike the male genitalia, however, this phallus experiences a ‘‘kind of perpetual replenishment.’’ Despite this, the column will be ‘‘frustrated.’’ However, the column has something that Akio wants: ‘‘unwaning power.’’
The story is set in Tokyo, even though the location is not named. By not labeling the city, Mishima shows that this story could take place anywhere, and, indeed, in nearly any culture.
The anonymous setting is also important because it underscores Akio’s isolation in relation to himself and to others. In the tea house, the setting is amid overwhelming noise and bustling activity. The sounds produced inside the tea house—the customers’ voices, the clattering dishes, the cash register— ‘‘clashed with each other all the more violently . . . to create a single, mind-fuddling commotion.’’ These sounds—and this emotion—reflect Akio’s feelings at the moment. He is overwrought and excited by his ending of the relationship, yet he is not as at ease with his actions as he would like to be. The setting is also important because the noise created in the tea house provides the reason that Masako doesn’t hear Akio’s words.
When the pair leave the tea room, the setting changes. Outside, Masako follows Akio ‘‘silently’’; he himself walks ‘‘in silence.’’ The sidewalks are empty; thus at this moment Akio and Masako exist in complete isolation. When they reach the garden, ‘‘not a soul’’ is around, but ‘‘beyond the garden, there was a constant procession of wet truck hoods and bus roofs in red, white, or yellow.’’ Akio is aware that the world goes on, but at this moment he is not part of it.
Last Updated on May 8, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 188
Anderer, Paul, Review in Los Angles Times, December 17, 1989, p. 2.
Bester, John, Preface to Acts of Worship, Kodansha International, 1989, pp. vii–xii.
Ditsky, J. M., Review in Choice, April 1990, p. 1329.
Mishima, Yukio, ‘‘Fountains in the Rain,’’ in Acts of Worship: Seven Stories, translated by John Bester, Kodansha International, 1989.
Napier, Susan J., Escape from the Wasteland: Romanticism and Realism in the Fiction of Mishima Yukio and Oe Kenzaburo, Harvard University Press, 1995.
———, ‘‘Mishima Yukio,’’ in Dictionary of Literary Biography, Vol. 182: Japanese Fiction Writers Since World War II, Gale Research, Detroit, 1997, pp. 121–34.
Shabecoff, Philip, ‘‘Everyone in Japan Has Heard of Him,’’ in New York Times, August 2, 1970.
Starrs, Roy, Review of Acts of Worship, in The Journal of Asian Studies, August 1990, p. 659.
Scott-Stokes, Henry, , Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, New York, 1974. This is the first biography of Mishima published in the west, and it was written by a friend of the author’s.
Yourcenar, Marguerite, Mishima: A Vision of the Void, translated by Alberto Manguel, Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, New York, 1986. In this essay, the noted French writer discusses Mishima’s work and life and the often blurred boundary between them.
Last Updated on May 8, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 170
1960s: In 1960, the population of Japan is 93,419,000.
1990s: In 1998, the population of Japan is 126,486,000.
1960s: By 1970, seventy-nine percent of students continue to attend school past the compulsory level, and twenty-four percent of students go to college.
1990s: In 1998, 96.9 percent of students continue to attend upper secondary school, and 44.2 percent of students go to university.
1960s: In 1960, 32.6 percent of the Japanese labor force are employed in primary industries, such as farming or forestry.
1990s: By the 1990s, less than ten percent of the Japanese labor force are employed in primary industries, and more than half of the labor force is employed in tertiary industries, such as research or management.
1960s: Most Japanese women enter the labor force early, work for a few years, and then retire by their mid-twenties to marry and have children. For many companies, retirement upon childbearing is mandatory.
1990s: Many married women re-enter the workforce when they are in their mid-thirties, after their children are of school age. Women make up nearly forty percent of the workforce.