Is Japan’s Prosperity Genuine?
By “Awake!” correspondent in Japan
IN THE summer of 1945 Japan lay in ruins. Atomic bomb blasts over Hiroshima and Nagasaki culminated dramatically the devastation of her major cities. The nation was destitute.
Yet twenty-three years later, in 1968, Japan climbed to third place among the world’s industrial powers. And judging by her astounding rate of economic growth, some predict that in thirty to fifty years Japan could bypass both the Soviet Union and the United States to become the richest nation on earth. Materially, Japan is indeed prospering.
Evidences of Prosperity
Recovery from almost total devastation was unbelievably rapid. Already by the mid-1950’s Japan led the world in shipbuilding. Today she so dominates the industry that she builds over half of all the world’s new ships, including the largest ones ever constructed!
Japan also has set the pace in rapid train transportation. In 1964 the Japanese opened the world’s fastest railroad line. Superexpress trains cruise between Tokyo and Osaka at 125 miles per hour, and can travel as fast as 157 miles per hour.
Remarkable progress, too, has been achieved in the manufacture of motor vehicles. By 1955 Japan was in eighth spot among the world’s top producers, but now she is Number Two, ranking behind only the United States.
Japan produced less than 150,000 motor vehicles in 1955, but by last year had raised production to an amazing total of nearly five and a half million! In April of this year some 43,000 Datsuns and Toyotas were sold in the United States. If that total were equaled each month, over half a million Japanese cars would be sold in the United States in 1971! No wonder there is talk of Japan, in time, becoming Number One in auto production.
The growth of Japan’s steel industry has also been phenomenal. In 1970 her output of steel jumped to 103 million net tons from 90 million the year before, while the United States’ production dropped to about 132 million net tons in 1970. By 1975 Japan is expected to match the output of the world’s biggest producers, the United States and the Soviet Union. Already the Nippon Steel Corporation is the biggest in the world. Its largest blast furnace has twice the capacity of the biggest one in the United States.
The construction business in Japan, too, is booming. Skyscrapers thirty, forty and even more than fifty stories high are going up. In Tokyo alone a skyscraper luxury apartment is completed every day of the week!
Material prosperity is also evidenced by the TV sets in more than half of Japanese homes, and radios in nearly every household. Also, people throughout the world watch Japanese-made TVs, listen to Japanese radios, play Japanese cassette recorders, ride Japanese motorcycles, and use Japanese cameras. The familiarity of the names “Sony,” “Panasonic,” “Honda,” “Nikon,” and so forth, indicates the Japanese success in capturing world markets.
The economic outlook has indeed appeared bright in Japan. The main cloud on the horizon at this time is what effect the August 15 decision of America’s President Nixon will have. Then, you may recall, he increased by 10 percent the tax on items imported into the United States. His action also resulted in Japan’s currency, the yen, being made more costly in relation to the dollar. All this, Japanese leaders fear, may work to restrict sales to the United States. That would have a dampening effect on Japan’s economy. Nevertheless, there is still, at this time, a high degree of material prosperity.
But is this prosperity in Japan genuine? At first glance it might appear so. But let us take a closer look.
Japan’s material prosperity has meant the choking of her streets and highways with millions of motor vehicles. The blaring horns and terrible traffic jams are enough to fray anybody’s nerves.
But worse yet, millions are maimed, crippled and killed in accidents—over a million being either killed or injured in 1970 alone. Japan’s traffic death toll is nearly 20,000 a year—a direct result of the booming auto industry.
Prosperous industries have also meant putrid, poisonous air to breathe. The number of babies born deformed has been found to be twice as high in areas of much air pollution as elsewhere. It has also been learned that 20 percent of Tokyo schoolchildren suffer physically from air pollution.
When pollution levels reach a critical point, sound cars tour city streets advising people to stay indoors. Traffic policemen wear gas masks, or they return to their station for whiffs of oxygen between tours of duty.
Prospering industries have also poisoned the waterways, spreading deadly pollutants to growing rice, vegetables, fish and eventually to man who feeds on these things. The Welfare Ministry reported this spring that cadmium pollution of rice has spread to all areas of Japan. Hundreds of persons have already been crippled and killed by these widespread pollutants.
But why cannot Japan control this terrible pollution? It is due to material self-interest, which has also brought other nations to the edge of ruin. As the Japan Times said regarding a meeting of leading nations this year: “The conference revealed that many nations are unwilling to take the lead in investing heavily in antipollution devices, since the added costs involved would weaken the competitive position of their industries on the international market.”
But traffic and pollution are not the only problems. Families are no longer as closely knit. Fathers do not give children the attention they require. Pointing toward a reason for this, one survey revealed that 68 percent of Japanese managers polled said that business was more important to them than their families. Can it be said that Japan’s business prosperity is genuine when it has contributed to a breakdown in family life?
There has also been a terrible deterioration in morals. In the climate of prosperous big-city life immorality has become widespread. Declared the director of the Public Sanitation Bureau of the Health and Welfare Ministry, Tadashi Takizawa: “It is estimated that there are roughly 2.5 million syphilis patients in Japan now.”
Crime has also become rampant. Apartment dwellers are fearful of every caller. Adult gangsterism flourishes. There are over a hundred gangs with some 34,000 members in Japan. Also, juvenile crime is increasing sharply. But has material prosperity really contributed to this situation?
The Japan Times noted: “Economic prosperity has produced a leisure youth class such as traditional Japanese society never had before. We are not accustomed to the problems innate in this. Thus, to underscore another point in the (National Police) agency’s report, the upsurge in juvenile delinquency is marked by an increase in ‘crimes for fun.’”
Although Japan has been successful in becoming one of the richest nations on earth materially, many of her citizens are saddened by the deterioration in the quality of life. Material prosperity has not brought happiness, but rather greater anxiety, fears and distress.
Realizing Genuine Prosperity
This is not to say that material prosperity itself is bad. But if one’s goal is to be Number One in material riches, and one neglects all else to attain that goal, then the prosperity achieved will not be genuine. It will not bring true contentment or happiness, but rather trouble.
The inspired sayings of God in the Holy Bible show this, explaining: “Those who are determined to be rich fall into temptation and a snare and many senseless and hurtful desires, which plunge men into destruction and ruin. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of injurious things, and by reaching out for this love some have . . . stabbed themselves all over with many pains.”—1 Tim. 6:9, 10.
This is what has happened to Japan. Her quest for material riches has resulted in a stabbing of herself all over with many pains. These pains have included not only a ruining of the nation’s land, water and air, but also the ruining of the moral fiber of the people. Yet, happily, this has not been true of all the people.
Many Japanese are seeing the senselessness of determining to be rich. Some of these are turning to God’s Word the Bible to see what He says about life and its purpose. What happiness and contentment this is bringing to them! They are obtaining genuine prosperity, the type that comes only with knowing and serving one’s Creator, Jehovah God.
For example, one young man in Yokohama owns a thriving business that handles food packaging. He had the prospects of enlarging and becoming even richer materially. But by studying the Bible he saw the foolishness of determining to be rich. So he has halved his business operation, and now both he and his employees spend their afternoons and evenings helping their families and others to grow in appreciation of Jehovah God and his purposes. Serving as witnesses of the true God is bringing them true contentment, yes, genuine prosperity.
Thousands of persons in Japan are now enjoying this prosperity, including a number of medical doctors. Some of them now arrange to work just a day or two a week in a local hospital. The rest of the time they spend with their families and in the Christian ministry helping others to learn the purposes of God.
Do you, too, desire genuine prosperity? To obtain it, knowledge of Jehovah God and his purposes is necessary. Why not, therefore, accept the invitation to study the Bible with the next one of Jehovah’s witnesses who visits you? You, too, can learn how to enjoy genuine prosperity!