Tuesday, 16 Jul 2024
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The Black Market and its Impact on Post-WWII Japan

blue sky market

In the wake of World War II, Japan faced a multitude of challenges. John Dower’s renowned book, Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of WW11, provides a glimpse into this tumultuous period. Images of the era depict a society grappling with the aftermath of war, including the rise of the black market.

Post-war Japan witnessed the emergence of approximately 20,000 Blue Sky markets across the country. These markets became essential in meeting the social needs of the population, as the nation struggled to rebuild. However, the rise of the black market also brought about clashes between Yakuza gangs and communities of Koreans, Formosans, and Chinese, as they sought to stake their claims in this underground economy.

The Yakuza: Criminality Institutionalized

pan pan1

The Yakuza, Japan’s organized crime syndicate, played a significant role in post-war society. David Kaplan’s book, The Yakuza, explores the deep-rooted connections between militarism, big business, and the activities of the Yakuza. These gangs acted as de facto instruments of government, involving themselves in various facets of Japanese life, including market operations, fire brigades, unions, real estate, entertainment, and more. The criminality of the Yakuza had become institutionalized.

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To gain a deeper understanding of the Yakuza’s influence, one can explore the accommodations made between the Yakuza, the police, and the political sphere in recent years. While these accommodations are not groundbreaking revelations, they do provide valuable insights into the symbiotic relationship that has persisted over time.

The Influence of SCAP and Fraternization

Tokyo Ground Zero

Following Japan’s surrender, the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers (SCAP), led by General MacArthur, undertook social engineering efforts aimed at demilitarization, democratization, and empowering workers and women. However, the impact of these efforts proved limited. In fact, political adviser Harry Emerson Wildes referred to the newly formed political parties as little more than hooligan gangs.

Furthermore, the fraternization between the occupying forces and local communities, brought about in part by MacArthur’s strategic decision to deploy fresh troops rather than veterans, led to a significant expansion of the prostitution business. Corruption among the occupation forces also became increasingly prevalent, with examples such as the disappearance of diamonds entrusted to the United States Army and the vanishing of the Tokyo police force’s guns.

Frequently Asked Questions

How did the black market emerge in Japan after World War II?

The black market in Japan emerged as a response to the severe challenges faced by the country after World War II. Approximately 20,000 Blue Sky markets sprang up across the nation, providing essential goods and services in a devastated economy.

What role did the Yakuza play in post-war Japan?

The Yakuza, Japan’s organized crime syndicate, became deeply intertwined with various aspects of society. They operated in markets, were involved in fire brigades, unions, real estate, and the entertainment industry. Their criminal activities were effectively institutionalized.

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How did the occupation forces and local communities interact after the war?

The decision by General MacArthur to deploy fresh troops rather than veterans led to significant fraternization between the occupying forces and local communities. This, in turn, resulted in the expansion of the prostitution business and increased corruption among the occupation forces.

Conclusion

The post-war period in Japan was a time of immense challenges and transformations. The emergence of the black market, the institutionalized criminality of the Yakuza, and the impact of the occupation forces all shaped the country’s path to recovery. By understanding this history, we gain valuable insights into the complex dynamics that have shaped modern Japan.

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