control of the nation reversed Japan's zealous colonial ambitions earlier in the twentieth century to subjugate neighboring Asian populations in the name of Hakko Ichiu (Nishi 22). The moral goal of Hakko Ichiu, construed by the Japanese national religion of Shintoism, was a perceived mandate of manifest destiny for Japan as the first created Asian state, to bring the corners of the world together under kodo, the unity of the Imperial Way, in subservience to the divine Emperor. In fact, Japanese military aggression in the Pacific purportedly had the inspired objective of freeing Asian neighbors from western European and American imperialism to create a peaceful and prosperous eastern constituency. Japan's war-time government envisaged an imperial empire as the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere (Tsunoda 294). As outlined explicitly in the plan:
It is necessary to foster the increased power of the empire, to cause East Asia to return to its original form of independence and co-prosperity by shaking off the yoke of Europe and America, and to let its countries and peoples develop their respective abilities in peaceful cooperation and secure livelihood. (Tsunoda 294)
At the At the dnouement of the ill-fated endeavor, with Japan forced to laid down its arms, the nation was occupied by foreigners for the first time in the long annals of its history. Townsend states that the fact that the Supreme Command of the Allied Powers was short of qualified personnel to administer Japan compelled General MacArthur to make judicious use of the time-honored Japanese civic structure and existing public agencies to implement his post-war objectives (207) after first purging vast numbers of Japanese military and civilians who had been complicit in the war. MacArthur dismissed five million Japanese troops from military service, set hearings for war crimes, identified nationals as known co-conspirators within the military command and suppressed the zaibatsu, but discreetly spared Emperor Hirohito (Townson 207).
In the years before surrender the Japanese people had lived under a repressive regime whose fierce ambitions were fueled by an obsessive nationalism through its radical misreading of Japan's future as embodied in the manuscripts of its ancient Shinto religion. The prominent zaibatsu controlled almost all its commerce (Price 18). Journalism had been censored, academic freedoms were curtailed and dissidents had been mercilessly suppressed by the secret police, while every facet of Japanese social life had succumbed in subservience to the self-sacrificing civic compliance mandated by the war effort (Nishi 22).
The zaibatsu were powerful family-owned banking and industrial syndicates that played key roles in Japanese economic development in the decades before the onset of World War II. By 1937 the four chief zaibatsu had cemented tight relations with the main political parties and firmly dominated half of all Japanese shipbuilding and maritime transport, a third of all bank assets, a third of all foreign trade, and virtually all of Japan's heavy industry (Sugita 21). Under the U.S. occupation, the termination of the zaibatsu topped one of the chief objectives in the postwar strategy of the