The Black Market as City: New Research on Alternative Urban Space in Occupied Japan (1945-52)

Mon, Mar 7, 2016, 4:30 pm

Many street markets called “yami-ichi” (black market) emerged every corner of the cities across Japan immediately after the World War Ⅱ. Black markets spread rapidly due to the collapse in distribution and rationing system, and the weakened government’s control on markets resulted in connivance toward marketers. In addition, existence of easily accessible open spaces in cities such as enforced evacuation area and yakeato (burnt-out ruins) because of the air raid by the  allied air force at the end of the war helped marketers to build their street stalls. Though black marketeering was illegal, the social recognition of it was not entirely negative because it was the one that supported the livelihood of people after all. Legacies of black market are still present today, such as it determined the change of urban structure and it has been represented in many novels and films and produced distinctive culture in postwar Japan. This seminar will present the latest findings from a study on black market and discuss the significance of it. (Two presenter published the book, Sakariba wa yamiichi kara umareta [Black Markets as the Origin of Amusement Quarters] in this January.) The Japanese government has tried to eliminate urban spaces which were considered as illegal and vulgar such as black market through the postwar period. However, this seminar aims to reinterpret black market as an alternative urban space to postwar urban space. Akito Sakasai makes a presentation on rhetoric of immorality and racism in black market from the field of cultural history. The black market has long been regarded as representative of people’s immorality during the postwar period. This assertion originates in the contemporary discourse that through the eviction of ‘immoral’ black markets, Japan went on to re-build a cultural and civilized nation. Eventually, black markets were removed by local governments and police around Japan under the guidance of the occupying power, GHQ, by the end of 1940s. In this paper, Sakasai will clarify the relation between the image of the ‘immoral’ black market and the myth of the single-race nation, and explain the role of racism in the process of black market evictions. Kosei Hatsuda makes a presentation on the emergence of black market from the viewpoint of both political context and people’s life-history from the field of urban history and architectural history. In fact, Japanese government was at state of complicity in black marketeering until some point because the government needed black market as a kind of emergency measure for economic recovery. Black market had a close relationship with international political scene since many illegal goods from Japanese army and occupied army were sold in black market. Also, Japanese marketers were competing with Chinese and Korean residents in Japan. On the other hand, black market was organized by the traditional and local street traders called Tekiya who worked on streets or in precinct of temples and shrines. The socially excluded people such as the unemployed, war widows and orphans could earn livelihood at black market, and it played the role of unofficial safety net for them. Thus, it can be said that black market in postwar Japan shares some features with Rebecca Solnit’s concept of “the extraordinary communities” in A Paradise Built in Hell as is organized by traditional and local actors. The searches for such characteristics of black market can lead to the clarification of the characteristics of Japanese cities.

Jones Hall 202