The Informal City – Role of Informal Sector in Post-war Recovery

The formal and informal are both indispensable part of a city. This is also an ideological difference between the high modernism and the post-modern. The three groups of architects in the CIAM 9th meeting recognized the everyday and the informal sectors as they introduce them in the GAMMA, Mahieddine, Urban Re-identification Grids. The post-war Hiroshima was not recovered only through institutionalized efforts. Appropriation of infrastructure and city space as an informal living in Hiroshima would be discussed in the Informal City chapter.

The mechanism that triggered the black-marketing by servicemen was similar around all areas which were occupied by American troops after WWII. Black market played a crucial role in the reconstruction of post-war Japan. It was a consequence of the big scarcity in coad, food, and clothes. It was fostered by the policy implemented by SCAP in different ways.

The previous steps created ideal conditions for price inflation. Then, on 22 September 1945 (see chronology below) SCAP required the Japanese government to implemented a strict price control, thus providing the second condition for the emergence of black market: official prices were frozen while at the same time real prices were set to increase.

A third factor explains why, in addition to the Japanese people, many American soldiers were involved in black market operations. Indeed (for reasons that are not yet completely clear to me), the exchange rate of the yen with respect to the dollar was set by SCAP at a rate that was artificially high. Incidentally, BCOF authorities often complained about this anomaly but their observations were discarded. Thus, servicemen were encouraged to sell canteen products to Japanese. By exchanging the yens earned through this trade against dollars they were able to send home more money than the total amount that they had received for their pay.

Considering the appearance and the change process of the post-war black market in front of Hiroshima station, information about a station square adjustment, redevelopment and revitalization project important in analysing the significance of black market in Hiroshima. Right after WWII, black markets appeared in many urban cities in Japan, as well as Hiroshima, specially in front of the Hiroshima Station (広島駅) there was a bustling big scale black market, Even though Hiroshima was atomic bombed, people were doing business in the black market and It affected very much to the revitalization of Hiroshima. Although this hasn’t mentioned so much until now, It is indispensable to talking about the restoration process of Hiroshima. Considering the station square black market in Hiroshima is not only important to thinking about the restoration process of war damage in atomic bombed city Hiroshima but also it can give an important information in grasping the history of Japanese war damage restoration more in general.

The development of the black market in Hiroshima can be divided into 3 stages located in different areas in Hiroshima. The 1st stage black market was found in an unorganized manner in the open space in front of the Hiroshima station. It was essential in providing a place for people to exchange and trade goods for living since the rationed food provided by SCAP were not enough. However, because of the fact that the open space in front of Hiroshima station was illegally occupied, the sanitary condition was reasonably bad. Thus, under the inspection of the US Army Secretary General Hon, black market was considered unhygienic and dangerous in terms of security reason and was relocated to the stage under Haramachi. The 2nd stage of black market occured in the lower part of Matsubara-machi (松原町下の段), the area were arranged in order and designed as a simple building initially. However, it later became a place accumulating disorder and continuing protrusion to the Hiroshima station square. Relocation was decided by proprietary land group. Land ownership at that time was secured by the implementation of wartime city planning project and thus there was not many place that can accommodate the black market. In the 3rd stage, black market stores were formalised and arranged in a box-type store. Hiroshima station front was the first target area for the arrangement.

From here, we are able to see the transformation of the black market in Hiroshima in the post-war period which eventually lead to the development of a shop-store prototype (box-type). Even under numerous times of relocation, black market still exists in the city which actually shows the importance of it in the post-war living of the people in Hiroshima. Besides, we can also analyse that the black market existence was mostly the local effort that sustain the black market.

1st stage of Black market in front of the Hiroshima Station

2nd stage of Black market in the lower part of Matsubara-machi

Plan showing the relocation of area of black market in different stages


Li Ming, Norioki Ishimaru (2008),The Appearance of the Black Market in front of Hiroshima Station and Its Changing process after WWII, 日本建築學會計劃系論文集

Birth of Black Market, Starting from the burnt ruins, Hiroshima recovery

広島都市生活研究会. (1985). 都市の復興 : 広島被爆 40年史 = Reconstruction of Hiroshima : Pictorial history of forty years since atomic bombing. 広島市: 広島市.

Postwar Recovery, 1945-49, Chapter 10


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