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The Influence of American Jazz in Japan after WWII


We will examine the westernization of Japan after WWII and how the American art form of jazz music eased the tension between Japanese people and western ideals.  It will also examine how jazz music contributed to the merging of both Japanese and American culture to create a foreign-friendly landscape in Japan that had previously not existed.

Prior to WWII, Japan was closed off and willingly disconnected from the rest of the world.   With the dropping of the atomic bombs, which is what ended the war in the pacific and with Japan, Japan’s infrastructure was crushed.  It was Douglas MacArthur who was charged with the responsibility of rebuilding Japan.  MacArthur, the soldiers and people helping him  naturally brought the ideas and concepts from the western world into Japan for the first time.  It was because it was on such a large scale that it helped shaped the future of the nation.  This was in the late 1940’s and so as new generations grew up with the prevalence of western society culture and values, they began to accept it more and more through each generation.  With each new generation, westernized culture became much more normal and  the Japanese people were much more open to it which was a contributing factor to opening trade and exportation. This led to Japan becoming a leading nation in exports as they pioneered the majority of electronic innovations and they still have new technology long before the United States to this day. 

Along with these new customs, came the spread of music.  In  the late 1940‘s, rock and roll had yet to really begin, so the most popular style  of music at that time was jazz.  As the soldiers helped rebuild the infrastructure of Japan after the way, they would be playing or talking about jazz music and thus new Japanese people would learn about it and it spread largely by word of mouth.  Even though jazz had been around since the late 1800’s, the Japanese had never heard it because they had been resistant to the western world, whereas at this point after the war they were much more open to learning about other cultures and even slightly eager to explore the music and the western culture which was strengthened by avenues such as trade and travel. 

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