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Need, greed, and protest in Japan's black narket, 1938-1949.

Early one sunny April morning in 1947, Shukan Asahi journalist Akiyama Yoshinori boarded a black market train (yami ressha) in Chiba City to examine firsthand life in the black market (yami ichi). (1) His observations provide fascinating insight into a phenomenon that had become a way of life, intimately woven into the social fabric of early postwar Japan. For Akiyama, the black market was not solely the site of hardship and despair, as is often recalled in historical memory, but was also a place of opportunity and entrepreneurship, a dynamic space that symbolized the energy of a people "living in the turning point" (fukkanki ni ikiru). (2) While Akiyama's interpretation contrasted sharply with most early postwar accounts and later historical writings, his equating of the black market with the turning point of defeat anticipated a position that has become enshrined in the mainstream narrative of postwar Japanese history. Contemporary scholarship, while acknowledging the existence of a wartime black market, ha s generally viewed it as the tragic product of early postwar hyper-inflation, which was itself a consequence of the chaos and deprivation of defeat. (3) Most Japanese people, too, remember the black marker as a symbol of their society "standing at a crossroads." This perspective was summed up clearly by another journalist, Mishima Yukio, who wrote twenty years after the war that the black market was "one of the unmistakable points of origin for postwar peoples' history." (4)

The image of the black market as a historical marker, forged in the crucible of defeat, is powerfully persuasive, but also misleading. It did not arise, phoenix-like, from the ashes of defeat but grew steadily into a compelling structure of daily life from the late 1930s to the late 1940s. My paper analyzes this development and argues that the black market was, in fact, a structure of continuity linking war and defeat as a single historical era. (5) As such, the black market was more than just a physical space, or collection of spaces, created by the laws of supply and demand where people engaged in various acts of illegal exchange. It was in fact a network of social practices identified by specific forms of behaviour and defined by a particular language, virtually all of which predated Japan's defeat. This is not to deny the dramatic changes ushered in by Japan's defeat but rather to argue that defeat as a turning point was less a moment--the atomic bomb, the Emperor's speech, or MacArthur's arrival, for exa mple--than it was an entropic process, the movement of which can be plotted through the evolution of the black market itself. For more than a decade, from the late 1930s to the late 1940s, the black market increasingly dominated the lives of the Japanese people, expanding in inverse proportion to Japan's deteriorating war condition. By the time the people heard the scratchy recording of the Emperor's stilted prose on August 15th, the black market had already become the principal social space in which the drama of daily life was played out.

This perspective also highlights the fact that the black market was not merely the end product of socio-economic chaos. It was more accurately both the cause and effect of that chaos. Originating in the "economy of dearth" (6) created by government efforts to mobilize the nation for total war against China in 1938, the black market quickly took on a life of its own. As both monopoly and monopsony, it drew into its orbit the government official, the military officer and the corporate baron just as it did the farmer, the salaried man and woman, and the entrepreneur. The systematic destruction of Japan's cities and towns by the American civilian bombing campaigns beginning in 1944 then saw the black market emerge as structure of necessity. This horrific experience, rather than defeat itself, defined the beginning of the "era of scorched earth" (yakeato jidai). (7) Japan's defeat in August 1945 marked another transition when the policies of Japan's elites, and the American decision to let the Japanese solve their own economic problems, combined with the complete breakdown of wartime social infrastructure to create a chaotic, anything goes world of chronic scarcity, hunger, and opportunity.

On this latter point, I agree with Akiyama and Mishima. Drawing on their. collected stories, I also argue that the black market was not just a world of hardship but also one of protest and opportunity, a world driven by conflict and self-interest where sacrifice "for the sake of our nation" (waga kuni no tame ni) seemed as scarce as white rice became in the latter years of the war. (8) Long before the destruction of urban Japan, millions of Japanese flouted the law and braved arrest to procure goods, services, labour, and profits, the pursuit of which their government told them repeatedly was immoral and unpatriotic during a time of national crisis. Following the American bombing campaigns and eventual defeat, life in the black market took on a tragic urgency and, collectively, the actions of the Japanese people created a self-sustaining phenomenon where the weight of necessity/despair (kyodatsu) and the promise of opportunity/new life (shinsei) coexisted in uneasy balance. (9) In terms of material existence and the daily struggle to survive, the black market became the location for the dialectic interplay of these two extremes. Amid widespread hunger, material shortages, and the complete breakdown of social controls, millions of Japanese were forced to find daily sustenance on the black market while still others, taking advantage of this painful reality, sought a new start as purveyors to the needy, selling goods to those who had no other choice. To use philosopher Tanabe Hajime's description of repentance as a metaphor, the black market became "the site of an absolute light source that shone without ever extinguishing the darkness." (10)

Finally, as one of the defining structures of crisis, the black market represents a world decidedly un-Japanese, at least according to perceptions of Japan on this side of the Pacific. These images of homogeneity and conformity are not merely the product of viewing an enemy "other" through the lens of war and occupation. Rather, they have roots in the deeper past and continue to dominate popular perceptions of Japanese society down to the present day. At the same time, the black market also reveals the shallowness of Japan's own wartime propaganda regarding the special Japanese spirit of harmony and the "one hundred million," and the hypocritical postwar exhortations to repent and sacrifice to rebuild the nation. The Janus-faced behaviour of Japan's ruling elites in both war and defeat and the collective acts performed by the Japanese people on the black market stand as reminders of how great a gap can exist between rhetoric and reality.

Enriching some, impoverishing many, and compelling most, the black market was the very antithesis of Japan's allegedly "beautiful customs" of harmony and selflessness.

The Black Market in the Economy of Dearth

The black market emerged from the ill-fated attempts of successive Japanese governments to mobilize the nation for all-out war against China following the Marco Polo Bridge Incident in July 1937. Despite the outward appearance of unity projected by government propaganda, incessant infighting and turf wars among the military (gun), the bureaucracy (kan), and business (zai) crippled national mobilization from the outset. The black market benefitted directly from this conflict, and from the welter of regulations designed to channel all economic activity into war production. As the battles for control and allocation of increasingly scarce resources intensified throughout the war, the black market further undermined national mobilization efforts by drawing goods, labour, and later, food, out of the official wartime economy. As a barometer of national unity, the black market's rapid growth suggests that selflessness and cooperation were among the scarcest commodities in wartime Japan.

In March 1938 the government of Prince Konoe Fuminaro established the Central Price Committee (Chuo Bukka Iinkai) under the direction of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MAC) to curb excessive profiteering and price gouging by setting official price limits on a wide range of commodities. At the outbreak of the European War in September 1939, the Price Committee had set official prices on some ninety commodities, including rubber-soled shoes, metal housewares, matches, and soap. In October 1939, article 19 of the National Mobilization Law, the infamous "9-18 Stop Ordinance," extended controls to include transportation, storage, and processing fees, leasing rates, and insurance premiums. (11) By 1940 the government's ever-expanding web of wartime controls encompassed a wide variety of services and consumer goods, including gasoline, tires, tubes, hides and leather, textiles, and copper for household utensils. Production and sale of luxury items--jewellery, silverware, velvet, and silk lace--were prohibite d outright, while price ceilings were set for other goods and services such as watches, neckties, fountain pens, and even restaurant meals. By the time Tojo Hideki came to power in October 1941, more than 100,000 goods, services, and materials were under some form of regulation, including the rationing and distribution of staple goods (coal, charcoal, matches, gasoline, clothing and soap) and food. (12) Rationing of matches and sugar began at the local level in 1939 and then nationally in 1940. (13) By the end of that year, charcoal and gasoline joined the list. Rice rationing began as a temporary measure by the government of Admiral Yonai Mitsumasa in early 1940 in response to poor harvests in Korea and unusually heavy military demand. This measure, which restricted each adult to only 330 grams of rice per day, was so unpopular that Yonai's government was sarcastically dubbed the "no-rice cabinet." (14) The "notice" label lampooned Yonai's policy by changing the last character of his name from "inside" (nai) to "no" (nai), which, combined with the first character, rice (Yo), became "no-rice." The joke no doubt generated its share of laughs but it did not obscure the deeper meaning: sacrifice for the nation should not begin at the dinner table.

This protest, however, had no effect. Rice rationing became a permanent fixture of daily life in April 1941 in Japan's six major urban centres and by February 1942 it extended nationwide. That year the government enacted the Foodstuffs Administration Law (Shokuryo Kanriho), a broad system of rationing under the central control of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry that covered all grains, beans, and potatoes, which were often used as substitutes to fill the per diem rice ration. (15) Rationing of fruits, vegetables, shoyu (soy sauce), miso (soy bean paste), and fish also commenced at this time, which brought the consumption of all basic foodstuffs under some form of government control, at least in theory. In reality, the black market expanded with each new layer of control, gradually becoming a structure where protest against wartime sacrifice intertwined with nutritional necessity. At the time of the Pearl Harbor attack in December 1941, Japanese adults consumed about 2100 calories per day. This figure declined only slightly to 1927 by the summer of 1944. However, whereas official rations accounted for the bulk of the daily per capita caloric intake in late 1941, by mid-1942 they provided only about 1400 calories. (16) With the deterioration in Japan's war situation during this time, due to mounting shipping losses and bad harvests at home and in the colonies, the black market loomed larger in peoples' daily lives. In the fall of 1944, the Institute for the Science of Labour reported that factory workers were purchasing 38% of their fish and 69% of their vegetables on the black market. (17)

The maintenance and oversight of the government's increasingly complex control structure demanded ever-greater amounts of time, money, labour and vigilance, as the Japanese people proved themselves to be skillful, creative, and willing violators of the system. To enforce retail price controls on consumer goods, for example, the government created a system of "freeze marks" (marutei ma-ku), small, circular stamps sellers affixed to their products indicating that the items in question were being sold at official prices. Similarly, for special categories of goods approved for sale at higher than official prices, sellers were required to affix either a "cooperation mark" (marukyo ma-ku) or a "permission mark" (marukyo ma-ku) for exceptional cases. (18) Given the ease with which the stamps could be counterfeited or transfered from one product to another, the entire system was ripe for subversion. As the war progressed, violations of the ordinance became as commonplace as the "marks" themselves.

To combat this problem and to patrol the entire control structure, the Konoe government created the economic police (keizai keisatsu) in July 1938 under the control of the Home Ministry. Charged with enforcing compliance with the "9-18 Stop Ordinance," the economic police maintained offices in every prefecture, working independently of the regular police and with much greater authority. In the first three months of its existence the economic police averaged more than 94,000 arrests per month and in October 1939 alone they arrested 244,000 people. All told, the keizai keisatsu arrested more than two million people in the first fifteen months of the ordinance--three and a half percent of the total population of seventy million. (19)

Likely just the tip of the iceberg, these figures demonstrate that, well before Pearl Harbor, black market activity had become something of a national pastime. Moreover, the fact that this activity took place long before the black market became a structure of absolute necessity suggests that protest and greed were initially more powerful motivators than was need. If the nail that sticks up does get hammered down, according to the old saw about Japanese conformity, then perhaps Japan's authorities were banging too hard on each nail. Viewed through the wartime black market, Japanese society resembled more the popular amusement park game where each peg hammered down causes two or three more to pop up in its place. This phenomenon may have been the motivation for Inomata Keizo's 1940 study of black market transactions, documenting the artfulness with which the Japanese people subverted the control system. (20) Inomata identified more than a dozen separate types of transactions ranging from simple barter (butsubut su kokan) and pawning (daki awase) to extracting fees for paying off loans (fusai no katagawari) and overdrafts (karikoshi no kaisai). Other practices such as exchanging or re-covering labels (re-teru no harikae) allowed vendors to sell restricted products at higher prices under another name. More commonly, vendors simply forged or counterfeited the "freeze," "cooperation," and "permission," stamps used by the government under the "9-18 Stop Ordinance."

Many Japanese also adapted the time-honoured tradition of gift-giving (omiyage) to circumvent the price ceilings. Through a clever reinvention of tradition, buyers would purchase a good or service at the official price and then give a gift or small payment of cash to the seller, which effectively raised the price of the item in question to its black market level. Another tradition adopted and modified by buyer and seller alike was the payment of thank-you money (shareikin torihiki). This scheme often involved the police themselves who then became drawn into the expanding black market through their participation in the schemes sellers devised to subvert price controls. Shortly after the outbreak of the war in Europe, the black market price of coal was [yen]1300 per bag, thirty percent higher than the official price of [yen]1000. To secure the additional [yen]300 profit without running afoul of the law, a vendor, for example, might arrange for a customer to "accidentally" drop [yen]3000 next to the vendor's sta ll. He would then take the money to the nearest official who would instruct the buyer to pay ten percent in thank-you money ([yen]300) to the vendor. (21) This scenario, taken from Inomata's book, demonstrates how buyer, seller, and police all colluded to undermine the control system. Of course, some police were not nearly as subtle or performance-oriented. While bemoaning their lack of power to catch the really big fish, especially zaibatsu firms, many police made their living by extorting "exemptions" from black marketeers in return for looking the other way. (22)

Along with food and consumer goods, black markets for industrial materials, producers' goods, and labour also sprang up in the late 1930s. Some companies even created special departments for black market purchases when military demand depleted company stocks. (23) Throughout the war, black market transactions, hoarding, and false reporting of inventories exacerbated the economic problems created by Japan's failing war effort. These acts, too, can be understood as forms of protest, indicating that Japanese business was no more enamoured with national mobilization and sacrifice than was the average citizen. One of the most thriving black markets in the industrial sector, utilized by both the military and business, was that for day labour. Much maligned as the lowest form of industrial worker, day labourers gained significant power, especially during the last eighteen months of the war when the chronic shortage of skilled workers created intense demand for their services. (24) The chief culprits in bidding up th e price of labour were the Army and the Navy, both of which frequently competed against each other to secure the necessary workers for their projects. Munitions factories and local government agencies also engaged in the practice and, collectively, these acts made a shambles of the official wage control structure. (25) A 1943 Welfare Ministry survey reported that wages for day labourers were forty to sixty percent higher than official rates in agricultural prefectures and double the official rate in industrial prefectures. (26) Despite labour conscription for males, begun in 1939, and the practice of "freezing" workers into their jobs at designated factories, absenteeism rose as workers simply called in sick at the factory to work elsewhere as day labourers at much higher wages.

It is ironic that in the face of union busting, labour conscription, freezing employment, economic police, and all manner of controls and regulations, labour still maintained a degree of autonomy by selling its services on the black market to the highest bidder. This was largely due to the fact that the same agencies which created and policed the wartime system, for which all were told to selflessly cooperate, were its most flagrant violators. Japanese workers, in turn, responded to this hypocrisy with a combination of opportunism, protest, and, later, necessity. Factory absenteeism, either to gain higher wages or to buy food illegally in the countryside, not only hampered wartime productivity but, coupled with the actions of business and the military, defined a world driven, not by sacrifice, selflessness or harmony, but by conflict and self-interest.

"One Hundred Million" ... in the Black Market

Accompanying this flawed system of controls and prohibitions came the inevitable government propaganda warning against the dangers of self-indulgence, waste, and overconsumption. From 1939 onwards, such slogans as "Desire Nothing Until Victory," (Yoshigarimasen katsu made wa) and "Luxury is the Enemy!" (Zeitaku wa teki da!) began to appear on street corner banners in Japan's major cities. (27) Sometimes, this call was taken up by patriotic corporations which ran anti-luxury campaigns in the print media. One of the most incongruous of these was the August 1, 1940 "Luxury is the Enemy" ad sponsored by the Meiji Confectionary Company, Japan's largest candy maker. (28) Exhorting readers to "close their eyes to luxury items" buy bonds, and save [yen]20 billion for the war effort, the company asserted that "in wartime, all should live a wartime life." On the left side of the ad was drawing of a book with a large "X" through the word for luxury (Zeitaku). Next to that, the final message read: "Let's eradicate the tw o characters for luxury [zei and taku] from our dictionaries." To escape the grey drudgery of the rigid wartime system, however, some people may well have chosen to eradicate, not luxury, but the "enemy" (teki) itself. As the editors of a Asahi Weekly "Showa History Series" pointed out fifty years later, one only had to write the character "su," denoting simple or naked, in front of "teki" to render "Luxury is the Enemy!" (Zeitaku wa teki cia) into "Luxury is Splendid!" (Zeitaku was sureki da). (29)

Anti-luxury campaigns also targetted clothing, with many officials advocating the adoption of a "peoples' uniform" (kokumin fukuso) consisting of a simple pair of trousers, jacket, shirt, and cap for men and monpe or peasant pantaloons for women. In 1940, the year the government also banned such indulgences as cosmetics and permanent waves, the National Defense Women's Association began posting middle-aged matrons on street corners to shame well-dressed women into exercising greater restraint in their daily life. (30) That same year, the Welfare Ministry's Prevention Bureau Chief, Takano Rokuro, wrote a piece in the Shukan Asahi urging the Japanese people to adopt a national uniform. In addition to arguing for its simplicity and convenience, Takano also claimed that a uniform would outwardly manifest the "unified spirit of the one hundred million." (31) The alleged evils of luxury and extravagance were never eradicated of course but what the government could not achieve by fiat or propaganda was accomplished by chronic textile shortages which, well before Pearl Harbor, forced the manufacture of clothing made from bark and wood pulp mixed with a little cotton. As Thomas Havens has astutely pointed out, the only "law" that forced men to don civilian uniforms or women to wear monpe was the "law of supply and demand," the very same one that drove the development of the black market.

The "one hundred million" to which Takano referred became the centrepiece of the government's propaganda arsenal, a deliberate inflation of Japan's population of seventy million. In the heady days following Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor, the government of Tojo Hideki reinvented the tradition of selflessness and national harmony with the phrase "one hundred million hearts beating as one" (ichioku isshin) , designed to spur the people to ever-greater feats of sacrifice for the nation. (32) The "one hundred million" was a demographic exaggeration, including as it did the thirty or so million decidedly unwilling Koreans, Chinese, and Taiwanese living under Japanese colonial control. It also belied the fact that among the Japanese people themselves need and greed were often as powerful a motivation as was patriotism, at least where material life was concerned. The black market was clear evidence of this by becoming the stage upon which increasing numbers of Japanese performed, not for selfless devotion to the war effort or to the state, but from a pragmatic need to survive and, at times, to profit from or protest a world of scarcity, incompetence, corruption, and hardship.

For six years, from 1938 to 1944, the black market grew despite propaganda, restrictions, and controls. Yet, until mid-1944 black market prices for food were not appreciably higher than official prices, hovering around a 1:1.2 ratio between December 1942 and March 1944. (33) With the fall of Saipan in July 1944, however, the situation changed irrevocably. Now, the United States finally had a base from which it could launch air strikes against Japanese cities. Culminating in the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, these campaigns reduced urban Japan to rubble, left its wartime infrastructure in tatters, and turned the black market into a structure of necessity. In the last year of the war the Americans unleashed 160,800 tons of bombs on Japan's sixty-six major metropolitan areas, two-thirds of which were dropped in the last six months. On the night of March 10th alone, 250 B-29s obliterated fifteen square miles of Tokyo, destroyed one million buildings, and killed or wounded 185,000 people: all in two a nd a half hours. Nationwide, American bombing destroyed half of the total urban areas targeted, thirty to forty percent of all private homes and one quarter of all consumer goods and personal belongings. An urban tragedy on a massive scale, the bombings damaged or destroyed more than two million buildings, ninety-five percent of which were in Japan's cities. (34) This was the beginning of the yakeato jidai, which connoted the charred rubble of Japan's urban spaces.

In early 1945, government propaganda shifted from "one hundred million hearts beating as one" to "one hundred million slashing into the heart of the enemy" (ichioku kirikomu) (35) and "one hundred million as a suicide squad" (ichoku tokkotai). This phrase referred to the Special Attack Forces (tokkotai or kamikaze) created by Vice Admiral Onishi Takijiro in the wake of Japan's defeat at Leyte Gulf in the fall of 1944. In January 1945, a cartoon by Terao Takeo in Manga Nihon depicted this new role for the "one hundred million" (fig. 1). Above a caption of "The One Hundred Million Kamikaze Special Attack Force," Tero's drawing showed men and women, clad in uniforms and monpe, soaring heroically into the sky to subdue a B-29 in flight with bamboo spears, metal hoes, swords, and even buckets of water. (36)

Believing an invasion of the home islands to be imminent, the government added another slogan to its propaganda repertoire. Now, the "one hundred million" were told to act as "a shattered jewel" (ichioku gyokusai), which was a euphemism for dying in a honourable blaze of glory. The invasions never materialized and the only blazes to be seen were the conflagrations in Japan's cities. Rather than dying in a final heroic battle, the Japanese people merely struggled to survive amid the destruction they were told could never occur. In their wake, the bombings gave new life to the black market that spouted from the charred rubble of Japan's urban spaces, rapidly making it one of the only signs of civilian economic activity. The bombings magnified the artifical shortages created by seven years of national mobilization and sent food prices soaring. One study by Morita Keizo of the Bank of Japan reported that in the six years between 1938 and 1944 black market prices had risen fifty times, but by early 1945 they were one hundred times higher. (37) The cotton textiles, silk, watches, and jewelry which had been hoarded earlier, and had survived the destruction, now became hard currency for purchasing black market food.

As food became the central preoccupation for most urban Japanese, new forms of protest began to seep through the cracks of government censorship with one of the most common phrases being "empty bellies can't fight a war." (38) As if to demonstrate this, millions of Japanese embarked on regular trips to the countryside to buy or barter food directly from farmers, frequently calling in sick at their work to make the journey. This practice, called kaidashi (going out to buy), quickly became part of the language of the black market, although it has been mistakenly enshrined in historical memory as a postwar phenomenon. (39) Farmers, for their part, obliged urban dwellers by withholding or hoarding part of their crop and selling it at many times the official price. Not only did this practice fan the fires of wartime inflation but it thoroughly undermined the rationing and distribution system for staple foods. Ironically, like the day labourers whose stock soared during wartime, farmers also found themselves on top of the traditional rural/urban split and, for a time, enjoyed the power that food production brought with it. (40)

Defeat and the "Treasure Trove"

When the end finally came with the Emperor's recorded radio broadcast on August 15th, the black market had grown from an anti-structure embedded in the wartime economy to the de facto civilian economy itself. As one of the defining symbols of defeat, the black market was both a powerful expression of the "conditions of despair" (kyodatsu jotai) and a place of new life (shinsei) for the unemployed, the opportunist, and the entrepreneur. Within a few months of surrender an estimated 17,000 individual black markets were scattered throughout Japan's cities and towns. (41) By October 1945 Tokyo alone was home to some 45,000 open-air stalls (roten), employing about 80,000 people. (42) Naturally, the black market also gave new life to Japan's many criminal gangs (yakuza). Traditionally gamblers for the most part, yakuza quickly took advantage of the chaos of the early postwar years and came to dominate the black market trade by extorting protection money, or "shoba sen," from vendors much in the way that the economi c police had sold "exemptions" during the war. (43) According to one account, nearly ninety percent of the street stalls in Tokyo came under the control of yakuza gangs through the Street Stall Tradesmen's Cooperative Union (Roten Dogyo kumiai). (44)

Perhaps the most famous black market in Japan was Ameyokocho, which stretched under the elevated train line between Okachimachi and Ueno stations in central Tokyo. (45) Some four hundred cardboard and sheet plywood open air or "blue sky" stalls, each about fourteen yards square, jostled each other in a confused jumble over the quarter mile between the two stations. One of the delicacies for which Ameyokocho got its name was candy (ame) but everything could be bought and sold there: currency, tobacco, alcohol, clothing and food of every variety. Together with the ubiquitous potato, shoppers could purchase grilled fish, rice porridge, dried squid, peanuts, fresh noodles, and, of course, bowls of steaming white rice. As the terminus of all traffic from northeastern Japan, Ueno was one of the busiest stations in the country. Each day tens of thousands of Japanese poured through Ameyokocho's maze of shops buying, selling, haggling, and creating a din almost loud enough to drown out the sound of the trains passing by overhead.

With the official food distribution system running as much as twenty days behind schedule in some cities, brokering and transporting of illegal goods became essential to large black markets like Ameyokocho and provided badly need employment for those who had no other option. (46) Some Japanese found employment as agents charged with overseeing the movement of goods from country to city. Others worked directly as smugglers of rice and other foodstuffs. These "mules" were frequently women who carried the goods on their backs as if they were babies. Occasionally, unlucky ones would be caught when their bags sprang a leak. Edward Seidensticker relates a story of one hapless women caught by a policeman who informed her that her "baby" was "wetting its pants." (47) The dangers of arrest notwithstanding, Japanese of all ages and from all walks of life were drawn into the expanding web of the black market world.

The tragic irony for the Japanese people was that the venality and selfishness of their leaders, the same group which exhorted them to sacrifice in war and again in defeat, were directly responsible for the intensity of their early postwar suffering. Sadly, this point is often lost in the postwar narrative of defeat, despair, and life in the turning point. While the American bombing campaigns, rather than the act of surrender, began the final transformation of the black market into the principal social space in which the drama of daily life was played out, the actions of Japan's elites in the two weeks between defeat and the Americans' arrival literally breathed new life into the structure. Their behaviour, and the American decision to let the Japanese fend for themselves economically, reconfigured the black market into a powerful symbol of defeat and the "era of scorched earth."

The sheer magnitude of destruction and crippling food and material shortages led many people to ask where the immense volume of black market goods came from. Most of the food that found its way into the urban labyrinth of street stalls came from farmers and fishers. However, as was the case during the war years, the early postwar black market was also the repository of a vast array of raw materials, producers goods and industrial materials, none of which came from farms and fishing villages but from military arsenals and munitions companies which had effectively shut down production after August 15th. The following reminiscence of a small-time gambler provides a glimpse of what was at stake in the chaotic days immediately following Japan's defeat and why the black market offered the promise of new life for some:

It [the Emperor's broadcast] started it all off. It made thieves of everyone. There were some who wept, of course, but most people were pleased as punch. Up 'till then you couldn't so much as fart without written permission ... But now there was this treasure trove ... Waiting to be cleaned out before the Yanks got it. (48)

The "treasure trove" of which the gambler spoke was none other than the enormous stockpile of food and material held by the military at the end of the war. For nearly a year the Japanese military had been preparing for an American invasion of the home islands and had stockpiled huge amounts of military supplies, production goods, raw materials, clothing, and food in anticipation of a long, bloody battle. At the end of the war, these supplies remained untouched in arsenals, warehouses, schools, and even Buddhist temples scattered throughout Japan. (49) Some of this was recovered by the occupation forces after they arrived at the end of August but much of it vanished, only to reappear again in the myriad black markets throughout Japan.

In December 1947, a special Diet committee chaired by Socialist Party member Kato Kanju issued a report documenting wholesale theft and looting of food and material in the two-week period between Japan's defeat and the arrival of American occupation troops. (50) Overnight vast stockpiles of material, enough to equip a four million-man army, disappeared without trace, to be held back until prices rose or to be leaked piecemeal onto the black market. Goods held as inventory at munitions companies and other factories also disappeared through a process of "civilianization" whereby the goods in question simply reverted to company ownership as if they had never been the property of the military in the first place. (51) The sheer volume of material involved meant that its disappearance was nor simply a case of piecemeal theft and hoarding. Many, like our gambler, undoubtedly partook in looting the "treasure trove" whenever they could, but theft on such a grand scale clearly demanded transportation and storage capabi lities found only among big firms, government agencies, and military groups. The true monetary value of these goods is unknowable but estimates at the time ranged widely from [yen]50 to [yen]500 billion, most of which was never recovered. (52)

Tsuru Shigeto, vice-minister of the Economic Stabilization Board in 1947 and author of Japan's first postwar "Economic White Paper," claimed that hoarding of critically scarce materials was the major cause of postwar inflation. (53) Minobe Ryokichi, Socialist Party member and later mayor of Tokyo, echoed Tsuru's opinion. He argued that an inexorable circular logic had gripped postwar Japan whereby the business community had concluded that sitting on its stocks or selling them on the black market "would be far easier and decidedly to [its] interests." (54) These critics charged that business, and the zaibatsu in particular, eschewed economic reconstruction in favour of black market speculation while, at the same time, closing factories, laying off workers and crying poverty in the face of Japan's postwar economic kyodatsu jotai. (55) The material shortages that Japanese firms claimed as the reason for stagnating production were in fact the result of the business community's conscious decision not to produce. B y its actions, Japanese business helped to create the kyodatsu jotai of which it claimed to be the victim. The end product of this behaviour was an invigorated black market which became so deeply embedded in early postwar Japanese society that it closed off many other avenues of economic activity. Like its wartime counterpart, the early postwar black market compelled the businessman just as it did the everyman.

Japan's first two postwar governments, headed by Prince Higashikuni Naruhiko and Baron Shidehara Kijuro, further contributed to the black market's centrality in the peoples' daily lives by handing out huge sums in indemnity payments to Japanese companies for their support of the war effort. Both governments argued that these monies would allow companies to resume production, curb inflation, and solve the unemployment problem. (56) Business leaders and bankers naturally supported the official position, maintaining further that the indemnities would forestall bank failures and massive bankruptcies of small and large investor alike. Ultimately, occupation General Headquarters (GHQ) (57) cancelled the indemnity payments but not before Japan's early postwar governments had paid out an estimated [yen]26.5 billion to dozens of companies, much of it disbursed, like the hoarded goods, before GHQ was up and running. (58) The disposition of this money will never be known but clearly very little of it went into economic reconstruction. According to the 1947 Economic White Paper, the worst declines in industrial productivity and the highest unemployment rates occurred after defeat, with industrial production bottoming out at less than ten percent of 1935-37 levels in the fall of 1945. (59)

The Higashikuni government compounded Japan's economic woes by relaxing wartime price controls on perishable goods in September 1945. Controls had been the cause of the black market in wartime but amid the chaos of defeat their elimination sent official prices through the roof. In the following months the wholesale price index rose an astonishing 295 percent. With an August 1945 base of 100, the wholesale price index rose to 273 in 1946, 874 in 1947, and then ballooned to 2377 in 1948. (60) Wages, too, rose but they could not keep pace with the inflation rate. Wages were twelve times higher in 1947 than they had been in 1945 but retail prices were fifteen times greater. (61) These calculations, however, were based on official prices which were substantially lower than those of the black market and therefore bore little resemblance to the actual cost of living for most Japanese. In October 1945, for example, black market prices for miso (bean paste) and shoyu (soy sauce) were forty-five times higher than offic ial prices. Satsumaimo (sweet potatoes) were forty times and fresh saba (mackerel) sixty times higher, while hakumai (white rice) was a staggering one hundred and thirty-two times greater than official prices. (62)

The cost of services also jumped in the early postwar years. Between 1946 and 1948 the price of electricity, when it was available, increased twenty-two times, water fifty times, and rail transportation thirty-five times. Not only were Japanese urban residents financially worse off than in the past but they were dirtier and more dishevelled than they ever had been in living memory. By 1947 the price of a hot bath, assuming enough soap could be found to make a bubble, was nearly fifty times more than it had been when the war ended, while a haircut was about forty times higher. (63) The price explosion in personal services also gave rise to the era of black market barbers, or yami toko. With the chronic shortage of fuel, some barbers offered a cold-water shampoo and cut at the official price and the hot-water variety at the black market price. A January 1946 cartoon in Shin Manga captured this practice humourously. Responding to a barber's question as to whether he wants cold or hot water, the seated customer h olds up his hand and says, "Give me cold, it's cheaper." (64) In addition to the established barbershops, some enterprising individuals, armed with just shears and comb, offered haircutting services out of their homes. The cash earned from these enterprises usually then found its way back onto the black market where the "home barbers" bought their food.

The final act of the Higashikuni and Shidehara cabinets which contributed to the black market's dynamism was to inflate the money supply. Finance Ministers Tsushima Juichi and Shibusawa Keizo both argued that postwar inflation was, in fact, not true inflation but a distorted form brought about by the shortage of capital and materials. (65) Ignoring the fact that these were artificial shortages due to hoarding and black market speculation, both men maintained that increased currency circulation would provide the necessary stimulus for companies to resume production, which in turn would balance the supply and demand of goods. Between August 1945 and February 1946 the circulation of yen notes doubled from [yen]33 to [yen]65 billion. (66) However, the flood of new yen had exactly the opposite effect and the government was eventually forced to act at the insistence of GHQ. In February 1946 the Shidehara cabinet introduced the Emergency Financial Countermeasures (Kinyu Kinkyu Sochi Rei) to stabilize the economy and bring inflation under control. Among the major changes was a currency conversion plan whereby all notes in denominations of [yen]10 and over were to be deposited in financial institutions and then converted into new currency. Deposits were also frozen so that only [yen]300 per month for a household head and [yen]100 for each additional family member could be withdrawn. In addition, the authorities instituted a [yen]500 per month wage limit for government employees which became known as the "500 yen life" or "gohyakuen seikatsu." (67)

Initially, this reduced the amount of currency in circulation from [yen]62 to [yen]15 billion but, except for a minor buying spree prior to the currency conversion and a brief drop in prices afterward, the countermeasures had no beneficial long-term impact on the economy as a whole. Even the positive short-term impact was partially negated by government incompetence and/or corruption. For example, advance news about the currency conversion gave enterprising Japanese the opportunity to convert their old notes into denominations of [yen]5 or less. (68) Even more absurd was the fact that the Bank of Japan discovered that it did not have enough paper with which to print the new notes. GHQ then approved the use of stamps that could be affixed to the old notes, thereby converting them into new currency. However, aside from the fact that the stamps were easy to counterfeit, they were also all identical initially. Anyone could remove a stamp from a [yen]10 note and place it on a [yen]100 note. The stamped notes remai ned in circulation until November 1946. Within six months the volume of new currency had exceeded that of the old prior to conversion and continued to rise steadily thereafter. Naturally, prices also rose, rendering the "500 yen life" unmanageable. As inflation proceeded apace, the government raised the wage limit to [yen]1200, [yen]1800, and then [yen]2920. By the summer of 1948 the wage rate for government employees stood at [yen]3791. (69) The black market accelerated this inflationary spiral by drawing into its vortex goods, commodities, and even the new currency, which speculators chased after with such dedication that their behaviour gave rise to another phrase connected with the black market, "shin-en kasegi" or "hustling after new currency." (70) By June 1947, the Bank of Japan estimated that black marketeers held 37 percent of all new yen, while farmers and fishers held an additional 29 percent. Urban consumers, in contrast, held only 10 percent. (71)

The Peoples' Voice: Kyodatsu and the Black Market

The actions of Japan's political and economic elites, motivated as they were by self-interest and greed, allowed the black market to flourish as an omnipresent structure in the peoples' daily lives. Even more tragic, many of the authorities who helped themselves to the "treasure trove" or crippled the economy through incompetent management, were the same ones issuing hypocritical moral injunctions exhorting the people to eschew the black market and sacrifice, yet again, "for the sake of reconstructing our nation" (waga kuni no saiken no tame ni). Morality notwithstanding, most people had little choice but to participate in the black market. Their actions created a self-sustaining phenomenon which grew in power with every transaction, and which became the principal force exacerbating inflation, unemployment, and stagnating production. (72)

For the generation that came of age during this time, the black market, together with the charred rubble of Japan's urban spaces, was the most direct expression of the kyodatsu jotai. This was manifest by the practice of kaidashi mentioned earlier. It was even more painfully defined by the take no ko seikatsu or "bamboo shoot life." More than just a metaphor for defeat, take no ko seikatsu referred to the process of hungry Japanese buying food by literally peeling off their belongings, item by item, until nothing remained. Bamboo shoots are, in happier times, a crisp and tasty delicacy, one of the favoured flavours of springtime, which can be peeled and eaten one layer at a time. In the early postwar years, however, the Japanese parted with their jewellery, clothing, and family heirlooms, not for some fleeting taste sensation, but simply to fill their empty bellies.

Following defeat, Japan's newspapers were filled with stories and letters to the editor describing the take no ko seikatsu and the impossibility of living at current wage levels or existing on official rations. In December 1945 a young elementary schoolteacher offered her monthly budget to the Tokyo Shimbun as evidence of her plight. Expenses of more than twice her monthly income ([yen]l26) forced her to purchase most of her food and fuel on the black market. (73) The following March a Kofu railway dispatcher and father of four told a similar tale. Although his wages were double that of the young school teacher, his expenses were three times higher, with two-thirds of his salary going to black market purchases, usually transacted by his wife. (74) Another teacher, writing in a local weekly magazine at the end of 1947, reported that his monthly expenditures exceeded his income by forty percent, with almost sixty percent of those expenditures going to buy food and fuel on the black market. The deficit, he said, was made up by his wife selling their belongings. Lamenting the lack of books for study or entertainment, the teacher said, "if my wife and child are duly fed, my soul must hunger; and if my soul is to be satisfied, my family must starve." So spoke Oda Ichinosuke whose life, by his own account, faced "imminent collapse." (75)

In late 1945, the press was awash with rumours of mass starvation and wild speculation that as many as ten million would perish. (76) Many did die that first year but mass starvation was averted by the large-scale importation of staple foodstuffs from the United States in the spring of 1946. (77) These imports were especially crucial because a few months earlier in December 1945 the government had announced the worst rice harvest in forty-two years, sufficient only to feed a nation of thirty-nine million. (78) Tatami maker Akiya Tetsu remembered scouring the fields near his home for rice grains and rice straw. "Ichikawa had mostly escaped the bombings," he said, "but we never had enough to eat and I could never find enough rice straw to make the tatami mats to sell for food ... Today, no matter how full I am, I still like to eat a bowl of white rice at the end of a meal." (79) In the spring of 1946, Japan's national broadcasting system, NHK, began its "Man on the Street" (gaito rokuon) interview series. Not s urprisingly, the first question posed was, "How are you eating?" (80)

The answer to that question for millions of Japanese was likely a single word: potato. With rice in chronic short supply and too expensive for most, the lowly potato (imo), and its cousin the sweet potato (satsumaimo/kansho), came to symbolize the early postwar struggle for existence and the centrality of the black market in that struggle. One prefectural survey estimated that kaidashi travellers lugged some eight million pounds of sweet potatoes on their backs from the countryside to Tokyo in the latter part of 1945 alone. (81) That October, an anonymous cartoon in the journal Manga Nihon satirically presented the potato as the new "god of the times" (toki no ujigami), depicting the various ways the year's harvest of potatoes would be used for everything from food to alcohol to fuel (fig. 2). Under the main headline was a man sitting down to a "traditional" Japanese meal: potato fish (sakana imo),potato rice (imo gohan), potato soup (imo shiru), and potato sake (imo zake). Below this drawing stood a farmer happily proclaiming that a full belly [of potatoes] would help the process of re building the country. (82) A food-starved nation's preoccupation with potatoes did not escape other manga artists either. A November 1945 cartoon in the magazine Hogarakacho titled "New Love Street" (Shin Renai Gai) showed a young man on his knees professing undying love as he appeared to offer up a potato to a swooning young woman standing next to him (fig. 3). The headline on the right read "he ate so many potatoes that he fell in love" but it was unclear whether the young man was making a potato love offering to the woman or whether he was simply in love with the potato itself. (83) In the Christmas Day issue of the same magazine, Yamamoto Tomio's drawing entitled "Dreams of the New Year" (Hatsuyume) showed a smiling man spread-eagled on the floor, chopsticks at hand, surrounded by the food that everyone craved but few could eat: Sake, fish, meat, white rice, fruit, caramel, and strawberry cake (fig. 4). Nary a potato could be seen. (84)

These satirical depictions of daily life in the black market often illustrated the uneasy and unequal relationship that existed between farmers and cityfolk. As the ones with the food, farmers enjoyed on the whole a better standard of living than did urban dwellers and were therefore frequently the object of moral condemnation and anger for making their urban counterparts pay exorbitant prices for food. Another of Yamamoto's cartoons in the same issue of Hogarakacho titled "Oh Honourable Farmer" illustrated this relationship, showing a young man, prostrate and quaking in front of a pipe-smoking, sumo-sized farmer (fig. 5). As he holds an article of clothing above his head for the farmer's inspection, the young man says, "Oh honourable farmer, please sell me one daikon (white radish)." (85) Given the captive market for food, many farmers naturally favoured selling their produce on the black market rather than at official prices through the regular distribution system. While they were often singled out for crit icism, farmers' actions were no different than those of other Japanese like the gambler or the businessman, all of which further undermined the food distribution system and fanned the fires of inflation.

In the last eight months of the war, millions of people had fled Japan's cities and towns to escape the relentless bombing campaigns. With the war's end, this trend then reversed itself as many returned to the cities in search of their homes and their loved ones. (86) Shanty towns of every description sprang up from the rubble of Japan's cities but the food shortages resulted in daily pilgrimages to the country to buy, barter, beg, and sometimes, steal food from local farmers. This was kaidaishi at its most urgent. One of the more common sights in those days were the kaidashi ressha, of which Akiyama spoke, trains leaving the cities jammed with people clinging to the sides, balancing on the roofs, and hanging out of windows. One report estimated that as many as 900,000 people made the trek from Tokyo to the countryside via kaidashi ressha on a single Sunday in the winter of 1945. (87) In November 1945, the Asahi Grafu magazine published a series of pictures showing the kaidashi trains frequently carrying thre e or four times the number of usual riders. Accompanying the photographs was a narrative describing the kaidashi crowds as a "whirling eddy of shouts and roars." (88) In a satire on the kaidashi ressha, Hogarakacho, always a leader in the humour of hardship, published a cartoon in its January 25, 1946 issue depicting the mass chaos of rucksack-toting Japanese clambering into and on top of a train with one hapless would-be rider in the foreground sprawled on the platform, sweet potatoes and fruit spilling from his bag (fig. 6). To the right of the drawing a headline read: "The Collapse of Moral Harmony--Women, Don't Ride!" (Dotoku Shitcho--Onna, Norubekarazul!). (89)

Such injunctions notwithstanding, women were in fact among the most frequent riders of kaidashi ressha. While men worked or struggled to find employment in the cities, women became central actors in the black market. Their role was also illustrated through satire and parody, the humourous refuge of a defeated people. One popular serial, "The Lens of Freedom" (jiyu no megane), published in Minpo magazine depicted the chaotic free-for-all of the early postwar years through the narration of two small dogs, one black and one white. A December 14, 1945 issue showed a monpe-clad woman loaded down with an enormous sack of goods, falling off a jammed kaidashi ressha (fig. 7). The conductor jumps from the train to assist her and in the final frame he is shown puffing his way along the track with the woman on his back, accompanied by a canine commentary about the great responsibility of the conductor. (90) Another popular comic strip, Todoro-sensei, also used the kaidashi ressha as a context to explore gender relations , juxtaposing the scheming, but lazy Todoro-sensei with his practical, hardworking wife. In an October 20, 1945 strip titled "Kaidashi Rehearsal" (Kaidashi yoko enshu), Torodo-sensei's wife explains that she has finally been able to buy a train ticket to go to the countryside to buy food (fig. 8). Reflecting on the horribly packed trains, Todoro-sensei decides that going in and out through the window would be his wife's best bet and so builds a mock train window out of wood for his wife to practice on. The last frame shows Todoro-sensei's wife struggling to climb in the window as he shouts instructions to her from the other side: "Your foot! Get your foot up!" (91)

New Life in the Black Market

Cartoons and comics provided some humorous relief for the all too real struggle of finding food, warmth, and shelter. Other, more serious commentaries, like that of Akiyama Yoshinori, focused on the black market and kaidashi as social practices which engulfed the nation and defined the times. Akiyama's story began aboard the black market train which ran from Chiba City to Choshi on the Pacific coast, where he recorded the behaviour and conversations of his fellow passengers. As the train was pulling out, he noticed a middle-aged man toting the ever-present rucksack clambering on the train, belting out a ditty about life in the black market. "In bright and sparkling Tokyo," he sang offkey, "there are three things I don't have. Rice, Fish, and Vegetables. We're told not to use the black market. But we have no future if we can't eat." The man's irrepressibly cheerful demeanour elicited nods and chuckles from many of the passengers, all of whom understood the impossibility of trying to live on official rations wi thout recourse to the black market.

Looking around at the more than ninety people crammed into car no. 435, Akiyama struck up conversations with nearby riders as the packed train wound its way through the fields and paddies which dotted the Chiba countryside. One middle-aged man explained bitterly that he had lost thirty pounds of rice to a police inspection the previous day when a power outage had stranded his train, making escape from the officers lined up on either side of the train impossible. Down the aisle, Akiyama overheard two young women clad in colourful skirts discussing a dapper-looking man whom they disparagingly identified as a black marketeer. "He must be doing well," one woman sneered, "with those fine clothes." Akiyama reflected on their hypocrisy, given that they themselves were well-dressed and off to sell their official rations on the black market. Across the way, an old lady listened reluctantly to a man's boasts about the fortune his son was making on the black market. When he finally ceased his monologue and asked what a woman of her age was doing on the train, she replied that her son's family was too busy too look for food. Besides, she said, "seeing my grandchildren eating happily makes me forget my pains." Presently, a young demobilized soldier approached the woman, offering her suggestions on how to adjust her rucksack so she could carry home more potatoes. Later that day, Akiyama noticed a small group of men crowded around a single speaker, listening earnestly as he regaled them with tales of a small village that became rich making potato candy (imo ame) and selling it on the black market: "The Little Village That Could."

Akiyama observed hundreds of people and conversed with dozens as his travelling companions changed constantly throughout the day. Men, women, and children of every kind and description, all sharing different versions of the same common tale: the black market as a way of life. As the train pulled into Choshi Station, Akiyama was finally able to stretch his legs a bit and enjoy a smoke. As he relaxed, he reflected on the character of those who made their living on the black market. Perhaps, he thought, they did not see themselves as black marketeers at all but rather as "public forwarders" (maru tsu) or "facilitators" (benriya) without whom "producers and consumers would be destitute." The whole country, Akiyama mused, should consider this.

Akiyama's comments suggest a curious paradox about the black market, one that reflects the inseparable coexistence of despair and new life. On the one hand, it grew to become a defining structure of war, defeat, and occupation, impoverishing many who struggled to keep body and soul together, particularly from 1944 onward. As such, it has become a powerful symbol of the yakeato jidai and of the victim's consciousness (giseisha ishiki) which has characterized Japanese thinking about war and defeat throughout postwar history. On the other hand, as virtually the only thriving sector of the early postwar economy, the black market was also one of the few outlets for entrepreneurial activity and employment available to the Japanese people. This was not necessarily out of choice, but out of the simple need to survive, particularly for those who had no jobs, no families, and no belongings to sell. Hundreds of thousands gravitated to the black market because it offered the promise of survival, and should therefore be u nderstood as part of the language of shinsei and the new Japan.

The relationship between unemployment and the black market illustrates this paradox. Immediately following Japan's defeat, most factories closed up shop and laid off their workers. Within a few months an estimated two-thirds of all industrial workers were unemployed. (92) Added to this was the massive influx of repatriated soldiers and civilians who swelled unemployment rolls. In January 1946 the Ministry of Welfare reported that the number of unemployed Japanese stood at between five and six million and by mid-1946 the press was circulating estimates of ten to fifteen million. (93) With industrial production slowing to a trickle, many unemployed naturally turned to the black market in search of work. More lucrative than regular employment, black marketeering was one of the few jobs that promised a decent living and thus became an important outlet for entrepreneurial creativity. Despite the wage gains made by labour in the first few years after the war, black marketeering often offered better, albeit riskier, remuneration, not to mention providing easier access to scarce food and consumer goods. Consequently, the black market both exacerbated and ameliorated the unemployment problem because it offered higher wages as well as an escape from the drudgery of what little regular employment was available. A study conducted by the Labour Department of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Bureau in November 1945 reported only 25,913 applicants for 37,000 vacancies in the city. Even more telling, the number of applicants actually employed out of this total was 6,240, a mere seventeen percent of the number of job vacancies. The study speculated that the majority of those not employed had likely moved into the black market. (94) This trend was echoed by the Foreign Ministry's influential Special Survey Committee in 1946, which maintained that "the tendency of workers to engage in business transactions [on the black market] rather than in productive work created a contradictory phenomenon" whereby unemployment rose while job vacan cies went unfilled. (95)

Stories of those who found employment in the black market are not as numerous as those of despair but they do form an important component of early postwar Japanese history which has been under-recognized. Anada Yoshihachiro, for example, escaped the poverty of tenant farming in Toyama Prefecture during the war and, following his older brother Yutaro to Tokyo, found a job as a rice merchant in Yotsuya under the jurisdiction of the Staple Foods Corporation which oversaw the rice rationing system. (96) Following the firebombing of Tokyo on March 10th, during which Yoshihachiro and Yutaro were badly burned and Yutaro's wife and daughter were killed, Yoshihachiro was fired from his job because the man he replaced had returned from the war. After kicking around at odd jobs in Tokyo he opened a shop outside the makeshift barracks where he lived, selling oden, a fish and vegetable soup, and plenty of alcohol, purchased on the black market and called "the bomb" (bakudan) because its effects on the body mirrored those of the air raids on Japan's cities. Following Japan's defeat, Yoshihachiro took his oden profits and started a new business at the Ameyokocho black market selling tomorokoshi manju, a steamed bun filled with sweet corn. But manju was just the beginning, as Yoshihachiro explained: "After selling all my manju, I'd take the money and buy steamed potatoes. Then I'd move about forty feet down the way, line up the potatoes, and sell them too. With that money, I'd buy some sweet potato candy and do the same thing, moving further down the line each time selling out my new product in no time. Each day I'd make between [yen]100 and [yen]800."

Eventually, Yoshihachiro opened his own shop called "Yoshihachiya," where he sold sweet potato candy and sarashi ame, a candy made from rice gluten, to a sweet-starved populace. Through contacts, he was also able to procure chewing gum, chocolate, and American cigarettes, called yo moku, from American GIs who brought the goods to Ameyokocho by the jeepful. Camels sold for [yen]50 for a pack of twenty while the most popular among Japanese, Lucky Strike, went for [yen]80 a pack. In 1949, Yoshihachiro purchased a load of black market lumber from his hometown in Toyama and built himself a two-story house in Kudanshita, not far from Ueno. Later, he recalled somewhat guiltily that amid the surrounding rubble his house looked like a "black marketeer's palace." Yoshihachiro's two brothers also found new life on the black market. Yutaro started selling coarse soap cakes under the tracks near Ueno Station and then opened his own candy shop, "Iseiya," in Ameyokocho. After being repatriated from Taiwan, his younger broth er, Tetsu, started a jewellery shop in the black market near his hometown station of Toyama. When he heard from his brothers about the fortune to be made in Ameyokocho, he moved to Tokyo, working first for Yutaro and then opening his own candy store called "Maruichi." Three brothers and three new lives begun in the black market during the "era of scorched earth."

Morii Sugeo, too, found new life on the black market. A self-employed lac-querer conscripted into one of wartime Japan's many factory armies, Morii took his small sum of separation money after his factory shut down at the end of the war and began buying up lacquer goods on the black market. In a few months he was back in business: an old job in a new life. Morii unabashedly remembered himself as one of the many "opportunists" (jikyoku binjosha) in the early postwar years. For those like Morii and the Anada brothers, the black market was indeed a place of opportunity. (97) Their stories illustrate the dynamism of the early postwar years when the black market became one of the few outlets of entrepreneurial energy for many Japanese.

Some children also began their new postwar lives in the yami ichi. Ten-year old Fujita Akiko from Osaka recalled how her entire family existed off the black market after her father lost his job at an auto factory at the end of the war. One day her parents received a package of clothes and foodstuffs from their relatives in Aiichi Prefecture. Carefully secreted between the items were layer upon layer of huge yellowish-brown tobacco leaves. At first, Akiko's parents were frightened since sending and receiving tobacco, a controlled commodity, was illegal. Nonetheless, the precious leaves provided badly-needed support for their family of six. As the weeks passed, cigarette production became a family enterprise. Akiko's mother would finely cut the leaves, while Akiko and her elder brother would practice rolling. After many false starts and ruined cigarettes, they finally mastered the skill. "It was just like rolling sushi," she said. Dad would carefully cut the ends and then everyone would package the cigarettes i n bundles of ten, secured with paper tape: 10 cigarettes, 30 yen. Later when Japan's economy had begun to improve, the family used its illicit tobacco profits to turn their makeshift shop into a legitimate business, but in those early days black market tobacco was all that stood between the Fujita family and possible starvation. "It let us breathe a little," Akiko remembered. (98)

The Black Market and Historical Memory

In late 1949 Ameyokocho burned down, a symbolic ending perhaps to the "era of scorched earth." It was quickly rebuilt and by the mid-1950s it had become a sort of clearing house for American war surplus goods, clothing in particular. The transition from foods and candy to foreign goods was reflected by its new nickname: Amerikayokocho. Over the intervening years it again reverted to a market selling a miscellany of goods as it had done in its heyday. Ameyokocho still stands today and shoppers still navigate the maze of rickety stalls, under the constant rumble of overhead trains running between Okachimachi and Ueno stations, buying Asian specialty foods, fish, clothing and, of course, candy.

The year 1949, the same year that Yoshihachiro built his "palace" in Kudanshita, also marks the end of this story. By that time, the black market's grip on Japan's urban population had begun to ease considerably. With inflation slowing and production increasing, the worst of the take no ko seikatsu had abated for many Japanese. Homelessness and poverty were still major social problems, rationing of staple goods continued, and unemployment remained high, but the black market ceased to exert the stranglehold over the Japanese people that it had done since l944. (99) Food rationing ended in the early 1950s but the black market for currency, imported and luxury goods, and even rice, continued on a much smaller scale into the 1960s. (100)

China's great revolutionary writer Lu Xun once wrote of Japan in the l930s that "under a tyrannical government, everyone is a tyrant." (101) It is not much of an exaggeration to say that under Japan's tyrannical wartime economy, everyone was a black marketeer. In the postwar free-for-all that was defeated Japan, the black market itself became an economic tyrant, demanding absolute allegiance of everyone and creating victims and victimizers of all who entered its realm. Often the only escape was death. (102) It is perhaps for this reason that today many Japanese remember the black market as a symbol of defeat, while forgetting its ever-expanding power from the dark valley of war to the scorched earth of defeat. As I strolled through Ameyokocho in the winter of 2001, I wondered how many of my fellow shoppers paused to reflect, as did journalist Akiyama on the Chiba train in the spring of 1947, about role played by the black market as both a source of light and darkness some fifty years earlier.

The purpose of this paper has not been to negate or refute the historical memories of the generation that came of age during Japan's dark valley. On the contrary, it has been to show that as a structure of continuity in Japanese daily life, the black market can be understood as a symbol of the process of defeat rather than as the event of defeat. I have further argued that the black market was a place of opportunity and, during the war years, of protest where many Japanese acted in a manner contrary to our accepted images of them. Neither slavishly obedient nor selflessly devoted to their nation, the Japanese showed remarkable creativity and enterprise in finding solutions to the struggle of daily life amidst an unprecedented national crisis. As such, I hope this study encourages the exploration of subjects that have only been touched on here, particularly the contentious rural/uban divide and the role of women and children as producers and consumers. This work also offers possibilities for comparing Japanese experiences with those of people from other countries. Black and grey markets are ubiquitous throughout world history, as forms of protest and as symbols of worlds in crisis. Times of crisis may not always be representative of the history of a people, but as extremes they do provide fascinating insight into a world stripped of all pretence, a world that, in the words of Akira Kurosawa, is "most alive." (103) For more than a decade, the Japanese black market was a world of extremes and one that was unquestionably alive. While it remains symbolic of a new postwar beginning for the generation that came of age during that time, it also stands a structure of continuity linking the hopes for a bright future with a dark past that most would rather forget.


(1.) Akiyama Yoshinori, "Yami ressha ni jokyaku no shaberi o hirou (Collecting the Chatter on the Black Market Train), Shukan Asahi, April 6-13, 1947, reprinted in Asahi Shimbunhen (ed), Shukan Asahi no showashi: Jihen, jimbutsu, seso" (The Showa History of the Shukan Asahi: Events, People, Society), vol 2. Showa nijunendai (The Showa Twenties [1945-1954]), (Asahi Shimbunsha, 1989), pp. 54-64. Unless otherwise noted, the place for publication of Japanese sources is Tokyo.

(2.) The belief among many Japanese that they were living in a turning point or "standing at a crossroads" (kiro ni tatsu) was commonplace in the early postwar years. These phrases comprised part of the language of defeat which reflected a widely-held sentiment that life had changed irrevocably.

(3.) No English-language studies treat the black market as a subject in itself and those that discuss it at all, do so as part of the larger social, economic, or political climate of the early postwar years. The definitive work on this period is John Dower's masterful and compelling Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II (New York, 1999), winner of both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize for Non-fiction. More than any study thus far, Embracing Defeat addresses the labrynthian nature of the black market but only as a postwar phenomenon. My own dissertation research ("Reconstructing Self and Society in Early Postwar Japan, 1945-1949," University of British Columbia, 1999) includes a chapter on the black market, but only as a postwar phenomenon. Other works that mention the early postwar black market include Theodore Cohen, Remaking Japan: The American Occupation as New Deal (edited by Herbert Passin), (New York, 1987) and, to a lesser degree, Laura Hein, Fueling Growth: The Energy Revol ution and Economic Policy in Postwar Japan (Cambridge, Mass., 1990). Thomas Havens' Valley of Darkness: The Japanese People and World War Two, (New York, 1986) is a fascinating study of wartime social life which discusses the black market during the war but does not delve into the postwar years. The one exception to this trend is Jerome B. Cohen's classic but rarely used study, Japan's Economy in War and Reconstruction (Minneapolis, Minn., 1949). Among Japanese scholars, the black market has received more attention but exclusively as a symbol of defeat and/or as a product of inflation. See, for example, Tokyo Yakeato Yami Ichi Kiroku Suru Kai (eds), Tokyo yami ichi kobo shi (A Record of the Rise and Fall of Tokyo's Black Market), (Sofusha, 1978).

(4.) Oshima Yukio, Ningen kiroku: Sengo minshushi (A Human Document: Postwar Peoples' History), (Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976), p. 38. Unless otherwise noted, all translations are mine.

(5.) While Dower, in Embracing Defeat, emphasizes the enormity of defeat for the Japanese people and the "chaotic vitality" of the early postwar years (p. 28), he does stress continuity, especially in terms of governance (p. 27). In a much earlier piece he also argued that continuity in war, defeat, and occupation was as central to Japan's modern history as was change. "The Useful War," in Dower (ed), Japan in War and Peace: Selected Essays, (New York, 1993). pp. 9-32. This article was originally published in the Summer 1990 issue of Daedalus.

(6.) The phrase comes from Havens, Valley of Darkness, p. 94.

(7.) This phrase described Japan's cities in the aftermath of the bombings and is associated with another phrase, yakeato sedai, which refers to the generation of Japanese that came of age during this time.

(8.) For an excellent discussion on other forms of domestic wartime protest in Japan, see John W. Dower, "Sensational Rumours, Seditious Graffiti, and the Nightmares of the Thought Police," in Dower (ed), Japan in War and Peace: Selected Essays, pp. 101-54.

(9.) In a 1992 graduate school paper, I developed this theme after coming across a reference to Shinsei tobacco, one of the first early postwar cigarettes, in Laura Hein's Fueling Growth and my initial discovery of the kyodatsu jotai in Arisawa Hiromi's economic histories. I presented my intial idea at the Qualicum History Conference in Qualicom Beach, B.C., Canada in 1993 and then a revised version at the Japan Studies Conference, International House of Japan, Tokyo, Japan in July 1996 under the title, "Kyodatsu, Shinsei, and Japan's Place in the World, 1945-1948." More recently, John Dower has skillfully weaved the the interplay of kyodatsu and shinsei in the early postwar years in Embracing Defeat.

(10.) Tanabe Hajime, Zangedo toshite no tetsugaku (The Way of Repentance as Philosophy), (Iwanami Shoten, 2nd, edition, 1947), p. 2.

(11.) Ibota Toshimichi, "Maruko - marutei - marukyo: bukka o kyosei kugitsuke" (Official Seals, Official Stops, Official Permissions: Tightening Price Controls), in Arisawa Hiromi (ed), Showa keizaishi (Showa Economic History), (Nihon Keizai Shinbunsha, 1976), p. 166.

(12.) Ibid., p. 167.

(13.) Cohen, Japan's Economy in War and Reconstruction, p. 362.

(14.) Havens, Valley of Darkness, p. 50.

(15.) Ouchi Tsutomu, "Shokuryo sosan (Increasing Production), in Arisawa (ed), Showa keizaishi, pp. 229-30.

(16.) Ibid., p. 229.

(17.) Cohen, Japan's Economy in War and Reconstruction, p. 385.

(18.) Ibid., p. 166.

(19.) Maeda Yasuyuki, "Zeitaku wa teki da: Sebiro, kamera, kikinzoku" (Luxury is the Enemy: Business Suits, Cameras, Jewellery), in Arisawa (ed), Showa keizaishi, pp. 186-87.

(20.) Inomata Keizo, Yami torihiki to keibatsu (Black Market Transactions and Punishments), quoted in Ibid., p. 186. In the postwar years, Inomata was a lawyer and Diet member for the Japanese Socialist Party.

(21.) "Episo-do: Yami yorimashi? (Tsukiyo soba)" (Episode: Black Market Offerings? (Moonlight Marketing), in Arisawa (ed), Showa keizaishi, p. 188.

(22.) Police were also in charge of enforcing wage controls but met with only limited success, especially against large firms. One police report complained that "[c]ertain industrialists ate engaging in illegal practices under the pretext of supreme necessity ... blindly relying too much on military protection." Yamaguchi Prefecture, Police Bureau, Labor Control Department, "Present Situation As Regards Control of Wages," May 20, 1944, quoted in Cohen, Japan's Economy in War and Reconstruction, p. 334.

(23.) Ibid., p. 64.

(24.) An indication of the effect of black market wages on overall wage rates is demonstrated by the fact the highest rate for experienced workers in 1942 ([yen]4 per day) became the entry wage for inexperienced workers in 1944. Kaneko Yoshio, "History of Wage Control by Day Laborers," Wage Section, Administrative Bureau, Welfare Ministry, November 17, 1945, quoted in Ibid., p. 337.

(25.) Cohen relates the story of a wartime scandal when the Tokyo Municipal Government was found paying day labourers [yen]70 per day to build firebreaks. When confronted with this, the officials' defense was that the military had been getting away with similar practices for years. Ibid., p. 340.

(26.) Quoted in Ibid, p. 338.

(27.) Maeda, "Zeitaku wa teki da," in Arisawa (ed) Showa Keizaishi, p. 186.

(28.) Asahi Shimbun (Tokyo edition), August 1, 1940.

(29.) Asahi Shimbunhen, Shukan Asahi no Showashi: Jihen, jimbutsu, seso" (The Showa History of the Weekly Asahi: Events, People, Society), vol 1, "Showa junendai" (The Showa Tens [1935-1944]), (Asahi Shimbunsha, 1989), p. 252.

(30.) Havens, Valley of Darkness, p. 20.

(31.) Takano Rokuro, "Kokumin fukuso hyohanki" (Judging the Popularity of the National Uniform), Asahi Shukan, November 17, 1940, reproduced in Asahi Shimbunhen, Shukan Asahi no showashi: Jihen, jimbutsu, seso," vol 1, Showa junendai, p. 252.

(32.) For details on the origin of this slogan, see John W. Dower, War Without Mercy: Race and Power in the Pacific War (New York, 1986), pp. 232, 352-53.

(33.) These price ratios, which cover only non-durable consumer goods, come from Nakamura Takafusa and Mizoguchi Toshiyuki (eds), Dainiji daisenka seikatsu shizai yami bukka shukeihyo (A Compilation of Black Market Prices for Daily Living During World War Two), Hitotsubashi Daigaku Keizai Kenkyujo, Nihon Keizai Tokei Joho Senta-, 1994, p. 5. Statistical data for wartime and early postwar Japan are extremely unreliable and usually understate the case. Nonetheless, these data do suggest a general trend indicating a surprising parity between official and black market prices. More importantly, juxtaposing this trend to the huge volume of back market activity recorded by the police provides further evidence that protest and/or self-interest were paramount motivations for many Japanese until very late in the war.

(34.) These figures come from a 1949 Economic Stabilization Board (Keizai Antei Honbu) report, quoted in Uchino Tatsuro, Sengo Nihon keizaishi (Japan's Postwar Economic History), (Kodansha Gakugei Bunko, 2nd edition, 1987), pp, 22-25.

(35.) Tragically, children were the recipients of these messages as well. This last phrase comes from the May 1945 cover of the best selling Japanese boy's magazine, Shonen kurabu (Boys Club): "Now is the time for the one hundred million to cut into the heart of the enemy."

(36.) Reproduced in Shimizu Isao, Manga ni miru 1945 nen (1945 Through Manga), (Yoshikawa Kobunkan, 1995), p. 5. This and all subsequent images are taken from the above publication. Many thanks to Professor Shimizu for providing me copies of the original artwork and for his kindness during my recent research trip to Tokyo. I am also grateful to Bill Sewell of St. Mary's University for originally introducing me to this book.

(37.) Nakamura Takafusa, "Senji kinyu" (Wartime Finances), in Arisawa (ed) Showa keizaishi, p. 218.

(38.) Ando Yoshitake, "Kitoku zetsubo sengen" (Proclamation [of Japan] on the Verge of Despair and Death), in Ibid., p. 231.

(39.) The earliest instance of this term's usage I have found is October 1941 reported in the Kobe area. See the story reproduced in Asahi Shimbunhen, Shukan Asahi no showashi, vol 1, p. 289.

(40.) The black market as the meeting place of city and country and as the stage upon which the tensions between the two were played out is a fascinating subject in its own right, and one that deserves further inquiry in a separate study.

(41.) Uchino Tatsuro, "Infure to shokuryo kiki" (Inflation and the Food Crisis), in Arisawa (ed), Showa keizaishi, p. 258.

(42.) Yomiuri Hochi, December 22, 1945, and Kazoku Sogo Kenkyukai (ed), Showa kazokushi nenpyo (A Chronology of Showa Family History), (Kawaide Shobo Shinsha, 1990), p. 162. See also Tokyo Yakeato Yami Ichi Kiroku Suru Kai (eds), Tokyo yami ichi kobo shi.

(43.) See Dower, Embracing Defeat, pp. 139-44 for a fascinating account of gang rivalry and of their battles to oust the Koreans and Chinese who moved into the black market immediately after the war.

(44.) David Kaplan and Alec Dubro, Yakuza: The Explosive Account of Japan's Criminal Underworld (Reading, Mass., 1986), p. 53. For a good account of yakuza methods and strategies, see Dower, Embracing Defeat.

(45.) The following account is taken from Mishima, Ningen kiroku, pp. 37-38, 40-42, 46.

(46.) According to the Foreign Ministry's Special Survey Committee report, the food distribution system regularly ran twenty to thirty days behind schedule in Tokyo in the summer of 1946. A complete reprint of this valuable document is available in Nakamura Takafusa (ed), Shiryo: Sengo Nihon no keizai seisaku koso (Japan's Postwar Economic Policy Plans: Selected Documents), vol 1. Nihon keizai saiken no kihon mondai (The Basic Problems in Reconstructing Japan's Economy), (Tokyo Daigaku Shuppankai, 1991). Hereafter referred to as Shiryo.

(47.) Edward Seidensticker, Tokyo Rising: The City Since the Great Earthquake (New York, 1990), p. 153.

(48.) Junichi Saga, The Gambler's Tale: A Life in Japan's Underworld, trans John Bester, (Tokyo, 1990), p. 97.

(49.) See, for example, Klaus Pringsheim's account of working for the Americans who searched for concealed military supplies immediately after the war. Klaus Pringsheim and Victor Bosen, Man of the World: Memories of Europe, Asia, and North America (1930s to 1980s) (Toronto, 1995), pp. 79-92.

(50.) Mainichi Shimbun, December 21, 1947. Liberal Party member Seko Koichi actually broke the story earlier that summer at a Liberal Parry meeting where he alleged that some [yen]100 billion worth of supplies had been hoarded and disposed of by the military in collusion with bureaucrats, politicians, and businessmen. For this story and a profile of Seko, see Shin Hochi, July 29,1947 and Mainichi Shimbun, July 15, 1947. In light of Seko's own mysterious role in the scandal and his allegations against powerful politicians, he was shunted aside in favour of Kato.

(51.) On the process of "civilianization," see Theodore Cohen, Remaking Japan: The American Occupation as New Deal (New York, 1987), p. 340.

(52.) The Kato Report put the figure at more than [yen]50 billion. Seko himself revised his original Y100 billion figure upward to [yen]240 billion in August 1947. American journalist Mark Gayn reported an amount of ten billion dollars. For Seko's figures see Nippon Times, June 23, 1948 and Cohen, Remaking Japan, p. 344. For Gayn's figures, see his Japan Diary (New York, 1948), p. 496. To put these figures into perspective, consider that between 1941 and 1945 total war expenditures of the Japanese government was about [yen]190 billion. These figures come from Jerome B. Cohen, Japan's Economy in War and Reconstruction, p. 344.

(53.) Personal interview with Professor Tsuru, February 13, 1991, Nogizaka, Tokyo.

(54.) Minobe Ryokichi, "Japan's Economic Rehabilitation," Contemporary Japan (May-August 1946), vol. xv, p. 206.

(55.) The practice to which Tsuru and Minobe so delicately referred was labelled by more openly critical commentators as "industrial sabotage" (kigyo sabota-ju). (56) Industrial sabotage was also referred to as capital sabotage (shihon sabota-ju) and production sabotage (seisan sabota-ju).

(56.) Ishibashi Tanzan, Finance Minister in the first government of Yoshida Shigeru (May 22, 1946-May 24, 1947), was also a vociferous supporter of the indemnity payments. Eventually, SCAP purged him in 1947 for his support of this issue. See the interviews with Ishibashi in the Asahi Shimbun, January 19, 1946 and February 21, 1946.

(57.) Whereas foreign writers refer to both the occupation administration and MacArthur himself as the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers (SCAP), Japanese use the term GHQ. As one Japanese book seller told me, GHQ also expressed the feelings of some Japanese that the Americans Go Home Quickly. Because this is primarily a Japanese story, I will use GHQ throughout this essay.

(58.) Uchino, "Infure to shokuryo kiki, p. 256. Writing a year after the indemnity payments were cancelled, Kimura Kihachiro claimed that in fact [yen]46 billion had been dispersed with the complete blessing of the Bank of Japan. Kimura Kihachiro, Infure-shon no kenkyu: Nihon infure-shon no rironteki bunseki (Studies in Inflation: A Theoretical Analysis of Japanese Inflation), (Ginza Shuppansha, 1948), pp. 116-17.

(59.) Keizai Antei Honbu, "Keizai jisso hokokusho" (Report on the Actual Conditions of Japan's Economy), reprinted by the Okurasho Insatsukyoku, November 1970. This was Japan's first Economic White Paper, published on July 4, 1947 in all Japan's major dailies, and authored by Tsuru Shigeto. An English version was also published at the same time in the Japan Times newspaper. Hereafter referred to as "White Paper."

(60.) Keizai Kikakuchohen, Gendai Nihon keizai no hatten (The Economic Development of Modern Japan), (Okurasho lnsatsukyoku. 1976), p. 19. These figures, taken from the IMF's International Financial Statistics, used 1937 as the base year with the 1945 index at 442. However, to provide a better understanding of inflation's progress after defeat, I have adjusted the figures to reflect 1945 as the base year. Kimura Kihachiro argued that the rise in the wholesale price index was much more dramatic that most experts admitted. Using Bank of Japan data, he claimed that the wholesale price index had increased six times by June 1946 alone. Infure-shon no kenkyu, p. 138.

(61.) Cohen, Japan's Economy in War and Reconstruction, p. 459.

(62.) Fish and sweet potato prices come from an October 1945 Metropolitan Police Department survey, reprinted in Oshima, Ningen kiroku, p. 41. Rice, miso, and shoyu prices come from an October 10, 1945 Asahi Shimbun report, reprinted in Keizai Kikakuchohen, Gendai Nihon keizai no hatten, p. 20.

(63.) Cohen, Japan's Economy in War and Reconstruction, p. 619.

(64.) Yamamoto Ichiro, "Yami toko" (Black Market Barbers), Shin Manga, no. 2, January 15, 1946, reprinted in Shimizu Isao, Manga ni miru 1945 nen, pp. 202-03.

(65.) This was also the position of Ishibashi Tanzan. After SCAP had him removed from office, Ishibashi wrote a nine-part series on inflation where he justified his earlier economic policies. Nihon Keizai Shimbun, October 21-December 5, 1947.

(66.) Uchino, "Infure to shokuryo kiki," p. 256.

(67.) Nakamura Takafusa, "Kinyu kinkyu sochi" (Emergency Financial Countermeasures), in Arisawa (ed), Showa keizaishi, pp. 274-77. The other important features of the countermeasures were a 100% tax on war indemnities, a capital levy, the re-fixing of official prices, and the establishment of the Economic Stabilization Board (Keizai Antei Honbu) to oversee implementation of the measures and to seek ways to increase industrial production.

(68.) Cohen contrasted Japan's currency conversion with that of Belgium around the same time. In that case, the conversion was announced at noon on Saturday and put in effect the following Monday. In Japan, however, officials announced the conversion two weeks in advance, ample time for many to convert their large notes into small denominations. Japan's Economy in War and Reconstruction, p. 45

(69.) Ibid., p. 457-58.

(70.) Reported in the Asahi Shimbun, September 12, 1946.

(71.) "Episo-do: Katayotte ita shinen no yukikata" (Episode: The One-sided Disposition of the New Yen), in Arisawa (ed), Showa Iteizaishi, p. 277.

(72.) Although space does not permit further discussion about the relationship between the black market and moral decay, see Dower's Embracing Defeat for a wonderful collection of stories on this issue and on the climate of immorality in general. I have also covered this issue in more detail in my dissertation,. "Reconstructing Self and Society in Early Postwar Japan, 1945-1949," pp. 120-25.

(73.) Tokyo Shimbun, December 6, 1945.

(74.) Kotsu, March 1946, translated and reprinted by the Allied Translator and Interpreter Service (ATIS), Press Translations and Summaries), Reel 10, Economic Series 134, Item 2, University of Victoria, MacPherson Library, Microfilm Department, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. ATIS operated from September 1945 to August 1949, providing English translations and summaries of Japanese newspapers and magazines to all departments under SCAP's command. Hereafter referred to as ATIS.

(75.) Dokusho Shimbun, December 10. 1947, translated and reprinted in ATIS, Reel 47, Editorial Series, 1915, Item 1.

(76.) Uchino, "Infure to shokuryo kiki," p. 257.

(77.) The exact amount of food shipped from the US is uncertain. Using a Foreign Ministry report, Uchino said that 1.42 million tons of food were imported in 1946. Sengo Nihon keizaishi, p. 63. However, according to a magazine account of the time, shipments of 2.25 million tons of wheat and rice began in March 1946. Contemporary Japan (May--August 1946), vol. xv, pp. 294-95. Kawai Kazuo claimed that over 800,000 tons of food were sent to Japan over a one-year period beginning in the spring of 1946, but Royama Masamichi said that 1,613 tons of staple foods and 43,474 tons of canned goods were shipped between November 1946 and October 1947. Kawai, Japan's American Interlude (Chicago, 1960), pp. 137-38; and Royama, Nihon no rekishi (The History of Japan), vol. 26 Yomigaeru Nihon (Japan Restored to Life), (Chuo Koronsha, 1971), p. 67. Regardless of the exact amounts, it is clear that the imported food saved many Japanese and endeared them to the United States, and MacArthur in particular.

(78.) Reported in Contemporary Japan (January--April 1946), vol. xv, p. 145.

(79.) Personal interview with Akiya Tetsu, Ichikawa City, Chiba Prefecture, September 14, 1990.

(80.) Cited in Iwasaki Jiro and Kato Hidetoshi (eds), Showa sesoshi, 1945-1970 (A History of Showa Social Conditions), (Shakai Shisosha, 1971), P. 47.

(81.) Shimizu, Manga ni miru 1945 nen, p. 220.

(82.) Hissha Fusho (Anonymous), "Shokuryonan ni (Toki no ujigami) kotoshi no imo wa" (During Our Food Troubles, This Year's Potato is the "God of the Times"), Manga Nihon, December 10, 1945, reprinted in Shimizu, Manga ni miru 1945 nen, p. 119.

(83.) Eida, "Shinrenai gai" (New Love Street), Hogarakacho, November 25, 1945, reprinted in Ibid., p. 155.

(84.) Yamamoto Tomio, "Hatsuyume" (Dreams of the New Year), Hogarakacho, December 25, 1945, reprinted in Ibid., p. 181.

(85.) Yamamoto Tomio, "Ohyakusho" (Oh Honourable Farmer), Hogarakacho, December 25, 1945, reprinted in Ibid., p. 181.

(86.) The countryside had escaped the bombings for the most part but in the two years following defeat, rural Japan would have to find food, shelter, and employment for over six million repatriated soldiers and civilians returning from abroad. For figures, see Yoshimi Yoshiaki, Kusa no ne no fashizumu: Nihon minshu no senso taiken (The Roots of Fascism: The War Experiences of the Japanese People), (Tokyo Daigakau Shuppankai, 5th edition, 1988), p. 267.

(87.) Shimizu, Manga ni miru 1945 nen, p. 142.

(88.) Asahi Gurafu, November 15, 1945.

(89.) Koizumi Shiro, "Dotoku Shitcho" (The Collapse of Moral Harmony), Hogarakacho, January 1, 1946, reprinted in Shimizu, Manga ni miru 1945 nen, p. 219.

(90.) Akiyoshi Kaoru, "Jiyu no megane" (The Lens of Freedom), Minpo, December 14, 1945, reprinted in Ibid., p. 166.

(91.) Akiyoshi Kaoru, "Todoro-sensei," Mangasha, October 20, 1945, reprinted in Ibid., p. 143.

(92.) Joe Moore, Japanese Workers and the Struggle for Power, 1945-1947 (Madison, Wis., 1983), p. 88.

(93.) The Welfare Ministry report is reprinted in "Episo-do: Sarari de kuenu kinrosha" (The Working Man Cannot Eat on His Salary), in Arisawa (ed), Showa keizaishi, p. 249. As late as the summer of 1947, the government's White Paper claimed that unemployment could rise to ten million even if industrial production rose to 1935-37 levels. "White Paper," p. 21.

(94.) Reported in Yomiuri Hochi, November 17, 1945. According to a study by the employment office of the Welfare Ministry a year later, only 19% of job vacancies in offices and factories had been filled in January 1946, This figure rose to 44% in April. Reported in Jiji Shimpo, September 1, 1946, translated and reprinted in ATIS Reel 19, Editorial Series 846, Item 3.

(95.) Nakamura (ed), Shiryo, vol. 1, pp. 184-85.

(96.) This account is taken from Oshima, Ningen kiroku, pp. 37-46.

(97.) Yoshimi, Kusa no ne no fashizumu, pp. 281-82.

(98.) Oshima, Ningen kiroku, pp. 317-18.

(99.) Magazine advertisements provide further evidence of improved socio-economic conditions. By 1949, Japanese magazines were advertising all manner of consumer goods and services, from radios and bicycles to vacations. This was a sharp contrast to the early years when about the only ads that magazines carried were for pens, pencils, penicillin, and vitamin supplements.

(100.) Rice rationing actually continued through the 1950s and the phenomenon of "black market rice trains" (Yami kome ressha) still attracted the attention of the media. See, for example, Mainichi Shimbun, July 26, 1959, reprinted in Iwasaki and Kato (eds), Showa sesoshi, p. 205. Currency, too, particularly US dollars, also remained an important black market commodity. One elderly woman told me the story of her college days in the late 1950s when she and her friend went to Ameyokocho to buy American dollars for their vacation to the US. Personal interview with Nagatani Michiko, Ichikawa City, Chiba Prefecture, December 15, 1994.

(101.) Quoted in Hiraishi Naoki, "Rinen wshite no kindai seiyo Haisengo ninenkan no genron o chushin ni" (The Modem West as an Idea: At the Centre of Discussion in the Two Years After Defeat), in Nakamura Masanori, Amakawa Akira, Yun Kooncha, Igarashi Takeshi (eds) Sengo Nihon: Senryo to sengo ko.ikaku (Postwar Japan: Occupation and Postwar Reforms), vol. 3. Sengo shiso to shakai ishiki (Postwar Thought and Social Consciousness), (Iwanami Shoten, 1995), p. 65.

(102.) The two most sensational examples of this in the early postwar years were the deaths of Tokyo Higher School teacher Kameo Hideshiro in October 1945 and Tokyo District Court Judge Yamaguchi Yoshitada in November 1947, both of whom chose to eschew the black market and subsist on official rations alone in protest of the government's handling of the food crisis. In his diary, penned shortly before his death, Yamaguchi vowed to "fight the black market and die of starvation." "My life," he wrote, "is a march toward certain death." The stories of the deaths of these two men was carried by every major or newspaper in the country.

(103.) Kurosawa was commenting on his own love of extremes, rather than of crisis but the image fits nonetheless. Of himself, he said "I am the kind of person who works violently, throwing myself into it. I also like hot summers, cold winters, heavy rains and snows... I like extremes because I find them most alive." Quoted in Stephen Prince, The warrior's Camera: The Cinema of Akira Kurosawa (Princeton, NJ, 1991), p. 11.
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