The latter days of the Occupation were a transitional period, when the Japanese still had to rely on the Occupation--actually the U.S.--for funds and support in order to maintain a basic economy and governmental system. But at the same time, they were beginning to reconstitute vital institutions and realize some of the reforms introduced by the Occupation. The physical presence of the country remained, on the whole, drab and worn. Tokyo had been fire-bombed and was beginning to rebuild, with many of the initial structures resembling the prewar versions, but with the intention of replacing them as soon as possible with improved, more fire-resistant materials. Large portions of Tokyo were leveled, but many of the prewar masonry structures in the downtown--and the Imperial Palace premises--were largely intact, though some what dilapidated.
The economy was showing signs of vigorous renewal; for example, the automobile industry was moving ahead, thanks in large part to the contracts for vehicles and repair services provided by the American military who needed such help during the Korean War. The release of many Occupation vehicles to the market also stimulated the repair industry and soon American petroleum distribution systems began to appear. Clothing was still on the whole drab and consisted of shapeless wartime garments, designed mainly to ward off the creeping cold caused by the lack of fuel for domestic heating. The wartime activities and institutions were giving way to more efficient and relaxed procedures, but some, like the rice ration, persisted into the early 1950s. Transportation was recovering, but labor troubles in the services, as in other industries, appeared thanks to the Occupation's liberation of the trade unions and the introduction of the right to organize. Even the geisha began to form unions.
The Occupation personnel inhabited many of the old, solid downtown office buildings, but as Occupation agencies began to shrink--due to the changing needs for the administration of the Korean War, Japanese governmental business offices began to move in. Our Public Opinion and Sociological Research (PO&SR) Division was housed--along with other divisions of the Civil Information and Education (CIES) Section--in the former Radio Tokyo Building, a massive five-story structure on one of the major downtown streets, really just around the corner from Hibiya Park and the Imperial Palace grounds (Radio Tokyo built a new huge headquarters west of downtown in the 1970s). My office in the old Radio Tokyo building was just down the hall from the small matted studio used for intimate interviews, which was also the site of the Emperor's radio address informing the Japanese population that he had surrendered to the Allied Powers.
Entertainment was always a big thing in the cities, especially Tokyo, and we were commissioned to do research on various aspects of it, both for social and economic reasons. The big special districts, like Asakusa, generated and consumed income, and activities like myriads of little bars, and the houses of prostitution symbolized the revival of energy and spirit.
--comment by Herbert Passin: I can't quite understand your paragraph beginning: "Entertainment was always a big thing...and we were commissioned to do research on various aspects of it, both for social and economic reasons," nor of "house of prostitution" symbolizing "the revival of energy and spirit."
3. Rebuilding: Outlying Districts
This photo, taken on higher ground and looking across a valley, gives an idea of the extent of Tokyo's destruction caused by the Allied B-29 fire bombing of the city in the last year or so of the war. Before World War II, or the "Pacific War" as the Japanese call it, much of the housing was made of wood. The fire-bombing caused fires of extremely high temperatures. On the left is an empty lot where buildings used to be; on the right is a temporary, flimsy new house placed on an original stone foundation. In the far distance can be seen a white multi-story masonry building--actually a medical clinic and hospital that survived the fire. In the middle distance are small, newly constructed buildings. However, most of the first wave of reconstruction used the same flimsy and flammable materials that were so vulnerable to the fire-bombs.
4. An Imperial Palace Gateway
One of the great entrance gates to the Imperial Palace in downtown Tokyo, on a foggy morning. This one was almost directly across the main esplanade, along the moat, which the Occupation named "Avenue A." The Daiichi Insurance building, which was also SCAP General Headquarters (GHQ), and General MacArthur's personal offices, was back of the camera. The Imperial Palace was hit by one or two bombs, and a building was burned, but most of the vast complex was spared by decision from Washington.
5. Repairing a Roof of the Palace Gateway
This is the same gateway to the Imperial Palace as in the previous picture, undergoing repairs a year or two later. By the late 1940s and early 1950s, it became possible to perform renovations and repairs on various Palace buildings, long postponed because of the war. Note that the ladder is made of traditional materials and construction.
6. Ruins of the British Embassy
An entrance gate in the ruins of the British Embassy on Embassy Hill, near the National Diet Building. Few buildings in this elegant district were left standing after the fires.
7. A Sculpture Yard
Another picture from Embassy Hill- this time, a company selling architectural objects, some gleaned from the ruins and for sale to people who could use them as grave decorations. The figure in the picture is Ninomiya Kinjiro or Sontoku (1787-1856), the poor peasant who worked shrewdly and became a great landowner. A symbol of a hard-working youth, Sontoku is shown here wandering around witha pack of firewood on his back, while reading the open book in his hands. His homespun wisdom inspired generations of rural Japanese to work hard, aim for high crop yields through conscientious farming practices, and find prosperity and happiness.
8. Another Sculpture Yard in the Azabu Neighborhood
This sculpture yard produced and sold not only gravestones but ornamental garden objects as well. The official red postbox may actually be a sculptured monument of some kind.
(J.W. Bennett photo taken in the 1960s)
9. 1920s Office Buildings in Downtown Tokyo
A view of the heart of downtown Tokyo as it looked in 1948, and for the most part before the war as well. The office buildings were built between 1915 and 1925. In the foreground can be seen a small hotel and possibly one or more private dwellings. Much of Tokyo before the war had this mixed character of land use. This is no longer true in contemporary times. Today this vista would be completely transformed: no more small structures or dwellings, and the old masonry buildings would be replaced by multi-story structures.
10. Matsuya Department Store as the Occupation PX
The Ginza, with streetcars, and the Matsuya Department Store on the Ginza. During the Occupation the famous store was commandeered to house the TOKYO PX for the American military and the Occupationaires. As time passed, some groups of Japanese were permitted to shop there on a limited basis (for example, household servants of Occupation personnel with families). Not long after this photo was made, the PX was eliminated and the store returned to Matsuya management. The streetcars no longer run on the Ginza.
11. Prewar Apartments
This apartment complex, near Meiji Park, was the first of its kind in Japan, built in the 1920s. It miraculously escaped the fire storms. It was considered an experiment, and when it was built, the critics believed that tenants would never move in, since the style of living in Tokyo was dominated by small, single family houses. But they did--both before and after the war, and as can be seen, they felt at home. The "draperies" on the balconies are, of course, futon being aired. The building is still there--in the 1990s--and now is now considered an architectural monument.
12. Old Farmhouse in a Tokyo Suburb
An anachronism: a traditional thatched-roof Kanto-area style farmhouse--built in the late 19th century, in a corner of a suburban area of Tokyo. An elderly owner or relative sits on the engawa, looking into the house. (Kanto is the original name of the sea-side plain and bay region that includes the Tokyo metropolitan complex.)
--comment by Herbert Passin: You say "Kanto is the original name of the sea-side plain and bay region that includes the Tokyo metropolitan complex." More accurately, it refers to the eastern plains as a whole (including the non-seaside, the mountains, etc.) The term kansai refers to the west--Osaka being it's center.
13. Gate to a Suburban House
The entrance gate to a prewar upper income private home in the Denen Chofu suburb. The streets of many early suburban areas were usually bordered by stone walls, as seen here. The style of the gateeway is reminiscent of temple architecture. The yardman is entering for his daily work in the garden. This is the suburb in which we lived.
--comment by Herbert Passin: You speak of Denen Chofu as a "suburb." Actually, it falls within Tokyo City, even though it is moderately far from the center. (Rather like Peterson Road in Chicago.) (between 1956 and 1959, I used to live there too.)
14. The Bank Buildings of Marunouchi
Marunouchi: The old commercial district, much of which was untouched by the fire-bombing. (However, large masonry buildings like these, constructed in the 1920s, were resistant to the fires that took thousands of flimsy wooden structures.) This street remains the heart of the district, but the new bank buildings are much larger, made of glass and steel.
15. The Rice Ration in Suburban Tokyo
The Rice ration--or haikyu--in a suburban neighborhood (Nishi Ogikubo). Rice rationing persisted for several years after the surrender, since production of the staple food had been disturbed as a result of wartime activities. The women are the neighborhood housewives, using the wait for the ration as an opportunity to chat. Accompanying one of the ladies is her toddler ina basket-type perambulator. The woman on the far right is wearing the standard wartime heavy winter costume, including the baggy pants called monpe.
16. Army Veterans Begging for Alms
A wounded World War II army veteran, begging in the Ueno Park area, against a backdrop of ceremonial old-style sake kegs, used as holiday decorations during the long New Year celebration period. Veterans were largely neglected during the Occupation and after, as symbols of the rejected militarism of the prewar period. Eventually the government created veteran's benefits and hospitals to address the needs of these people.
17. Honey Bucket Wagon
"Honey buckets"--containers full of human waste collected in early morning from the local floor-toilets in an outlying residential district. The Occupationaires didn't like the odor--but recognized that fertilization was vital to produce crops in a period when many Japanese were close to serious malnutrition. Japan continued to use human excrement as fertilizer through the Occupation, phasing out the practice in the 1950s, when chemical fertilizers became universally available.
18. New House: Traditional Construction
Building a middle-income private house in a Tokyo suburb. This shows the tradtional methods--now displaced by prefabriacated materials along Western lines. Note that in this traditional method of construction, the roof was put on immediately after the basic skeleton frame was erected and a small domestic Shinto shrine placed in the rafters. Then the walls are filled in. They are made of woven bamboo, later covered with layers of plaster or stucco.
--comment by Herbert Passin: You say "Note...a traditional domestic shrine placed in the rafters." I do not doubt this, but I personally cannot see the shrine.
19. More of House Construction
A closer view of the house under construction. The men are starting to prepare the plaster clay coating.
20. Children Learning to Draw
Children sketching houses and trees in an Azabu residential neighborhood near the middle of Tokyo. The Japanese schools underwent considerable change in the Occupation period, with the old nationalistic and militaristic elements in the curriculum removed, and American-style education aspects introduced. Outdoor sketching classes might have been part of these reforms, but on the other hand, art instruction existed in Japanese elementary schools from the turn of the century, as part of the Japanese love of crafts.
21. A Young Geisha at New Year's
A young maiko, or apprentice geisha, in her formal or holiday dress is purchasing items in a tiny boutique specializing in hair ornaments and similar gewgaws. Her kimono, with very long sleeves, is a prewar style. She is also wearing a formal wig, the kind worn on holidays and other more or less formal occasions in the prewar and early postwar period.
22. Contemplative Moods of Street Sellers
A goldfish seller. The facial expressions of the young people working in or just hanging around this sidewalk shop seem to show the anxiety or depression felt by many young people in the latter days of the Occupation. The economy was opening up, but risks were high, and unemployment still serious.
23. Firing up a Bus in Sapporo
Firing up the charcoal burner in the early morning, in the dead of winter in Sapporo, on the island of Hokkaido. During the war, most vehicles--or at least the public and private vehicles that were allowed to operate--were powered by fumes from charcoal burning in a stove attached to the rear. Gasoline was reserved for the military and other essential activities. The outdoor temperature when this picture was taken was ten degrees below zero Fahrenheit.