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Hiroshima for Global Peace

I World War II to the Early Postwar Period

1 Shifts in the Number of Workers

The manufacturing industry was one of Hiroshima Prefecture’s key industries from before World War II. The statistical data for places with five or more full-time workers as of December 31 of each year show that in 1940 the number of employees in the manufacturing industry was 100,040, making Hiroshima 9th in the number of employees among all 46 prefectures (not including Okinawa Prefecture), while the population of Hiroshima ranked 10th. However, by 1946, the number of employees had dropped by roughly 10,000 to 90,482, and Hiroshima’s ranking dropped to 13th place (Table 6-1). In 1947, the number of employees increased by nearly 10,000 to 99,305, and Hiroshima’s national ranking rose to the 11th place. In 1948, Hiroshima moved up to 9th place (and 13th in population) after over 10,000 more jobs were added―raising the total to 113,581. By this time, the number of employees in Hiroshima Prefecture had returned to prewar levels.

Table 6-1 Hiroshima Prefecture’s Manufacturing Industry (from 1940 to 1948)

  1940 1941 1942 1945 1946 1947 1948
Population (thousand) 1,823 1,826 1,897 1,885 1,901 2,011 2,044

No of establishments

3,280 3,274 2,976 2,221 1,897 2,804 2,837
Total Number of employees 100,040 101,850 101,746 96,095 90,482 99,305 113,581
No. of clerical staff & engineers 8,583 10,594 10,934 14,739 14,754 16,843 15,844
No. of workers 88,337 87,424 86,686 76,802 69,456 77,756 92,352
Others 3,120 3,832 4,126 4,554 6,272 4,706 5,385
Total production (JPY 1000) 446 489 462 745 2,010 7,279 19,853
Horsepower of operated electric motors (1000 HP) 144 183 173 欠測 134 161 270

Notes: 1. Table created using data from the Census of Manufactures compiled by the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry (Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Ministry of Munitions) and the Historical Statistics of Japan (Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications).

2. Factories regularly employing five or more workers. Total production was reported at nominal values. 

3. No data from 1943 to 1944.

In addition to damage from the war, due to a dire energy crisis not all factories that remained after the war were in operation. According to the 1946 Census of Manufactures, there were 1,397 idle factories nationwide (excluding Okinawa Prefecture). After Tokyo, Kanagawa, Aichi, Osaka, and Hyogo, Hiroshima Prefecture had 79. However, in the 1947 Census of Manufactures this number had dropped to a nationwide total of 496; with 20 in Hiroshima Prefecture―evidence that the recovery and reconstruction had preceded relatively well.1)

The trends between 1945 and 1946 are also notable. In 1945, the number of employees in Hiroshima Prefecture was 96,095 about 4,000 less than that of 1942. Still, in relation to other prefectures, Hiroshima had the 7th highest number of employees (no data for 1943 and 1944). From 1940 to 1941 Hiroshima’s employees made up 2.2% of the number of employees nationwide (excluding Okinawa Prefecture) and by 1945 it had a 4.3% share. However, in 1946, the situation worsened and the number of workers dropped by roughly 6,000 to 90,482. It has been inferred that this change was influenced by the Allied Powers claim for reparations, which began in earnest in January 1946, but was lifted causing a great deal of confusion.2)

On the other hand, of the total number of employees in Japan, Hiroshima Prefecture’s share rose from 1946 to 1947 to 2.7%, and surpassed 3% in 1948. At the same time, Hiroshima’s share of Japan’s total population was 2.6% in 1942, 1945 and 1946; and in 1947 and 1948 it was around the same level as the early 1940s at 2.5%. Therefore, for the first time after the war, the Hiroshima Prefecture’s share of labor force in the manufacturing industry surpassed its share of national population. 

With regard to the City of Hiroshima, the statistics on the manufacturing industry are only available from 1950.3) However, these statistics are based on the municipal area at the time and do not account for changes in the municipal boundaries. The statistics from 1953 cover the are close to that of the current municipal area.4) According to these statistics, the number of employees in Hiroshima City’s manufacturing industry, excluding the former towns of Saiki-cho and Yuki-cho, was 31,515, and the population of Hiroshima City was 485,244, which was 22.9% of the total population of Hiroshima Prefecture and the percentage of factory employees in the City was 25.2% of that of Hiroshima Prefecture. In addition, there were 59.1 employees per 1,000 people in the prefecture and 64.9 in Hiroshima City. This shows that there was a high concentration of manufacturing in Hiroshima City (excluding the former towns of Saiki-cho and Yuki-cho) in proportion to its population. 

2 Recovery in the Number of Workers

In 1944, Hiroshima City had a population of approximately 340,000, and along with Kure (some 340,000) and Fukuoka (some 330,000), it was considered among the bigger cities in Japan after the three major metropolitan areas. But in 1946 the city’s population had dropped by half to 171,000.5) By December 1945, some 140,000 people are said to have died from the atomic bombing. This substantially corresponds to the major decline in population.

Strikingly, even at its lowest point in 1946, the number of employees in the manufacturing industry in Hiroshima Prefecture only decreased by about 10,000 people, or 10%, from the wartime levels. In all other 46 prefectures, the decrease in the numbers of employees in the manufacturing industry was 50% in 1945, 26% in 1946, and 18% in 1948, compared to 1940. Therefore, the decrease in the number of employees in the manufacturing industry in Hiroshima Prefecture was relatively small.

However, this is when looking at establishments with five or more regularly employed workers. The Census of Manufactures during the war and in 1948 includes the number of very small factories regularly employing fewer than five workers, and the number of their employees. From 1940 to 1948, the total number of establishments in Hiroshima Prefecture had dropped by 61%, from 16,589 to 6,515. Of those, the number of establishments that employed five or more workers fell 14% from 3,280 factories to 2,837. However, the number of very small factories employing fewer than five workers had decreased by 72%. It was 13,309 in 1940 (80.2% of all establishments in Hiroshima; this ratio was 80.4% nationally (not including Okinawa Prefecture) but dropped to 3,678 in 1948 (56.5% of all establishments in Hiroshima; 54.4% in Japan). During this time, the total number of employees had dropped 4.4% from 129,989 to 124,298. While the number of employees at factories regularly employing five or more workers had increased from 100,040 to 113,581, the number of employees at factories regularly employing fewer than five workers had dropped to about one third from 29,949 (23.0% of all establishments in Hiroshima; 21.9% in Japan) to 10,717 (8.6% in Hiroshima; 9.2% in Japan).

After investigating the makeup of employees who worked at very small factories (fewer than five workers) in Hiroshima Prefecture in 1940, it was observed that 33.7% were employed by companies (36.2% in Japan excluding Okinawa Prefecture) and 66.3% were family members (63.8% in Japan).

This shows that between 1940 and 1948 the number of very small factories (that were primarily family-run) decreased sharply. It can be inferred that the majority of these factories in Hiroshima City were established in mixed residential-factory areas relatively near the hypocenter and they were unable to continue in the hardship after the bombing. In fact, according to the population surveys on each neighborhood association before the bombing and after the bombing conducted on November 1, 1945, while the population decreased from some 65,000 to 11,000 in the 1.5 to 2.0 kilometer area from the hypocenter, there was a sharp decline in the population from some 61,000 to 1,455 in the area of less than one kilometer radius from the hypocenter, and the population fell from 66,000 to 5,925 in the area of 1.0 to 1.5 kilometers from the hypocenter.6)

However, the drop in the number of employees in Hiroshima Prefecture was not fatal for the factories that regularly employed five or more workers. They are said to have played a role in supporting the recovery and reconstruction process in the following years. Of course, the number of people flowing in from the suburbs and evacuation sites has to be considered along with the permanent population. According to the Chugoku Shimbun newspaper, on August 1, 1946, one year after the bombing, “the daytime population flowing into Hiroshima City from outside has rapidly increased, and the people gradually set the mood for the reconstruction of the city.”7)

3 Support for Production Capacity

There were other factors that contributed to the recovery and reconstruction of Hiroshima Prefecture’s manufacturing industry.

The first was capital (i.e., equipment and facilities). Together with manpower, this is one of the factors of production. From wartime until directly after the war, the Census of Manufactures tabulated motors and their indicated horsepower (HP). Of these, when looking at electric motors in operation, 7.89 million HP was used nationwide in 1940; and in 1946, 9.91 million HP was used, a 26% increase. During this time, the HP used by Hiroshima Prefecture decreased some 7%, from 144,000 HP to 134,000 HP (between 1940 and 1946). However, at 161,000 HP by 1947, it had more than recovered.

The second factor was workers―particularly a large number of workers. The Census of Manufactures at the time grouped employees into three categories: staff, workers and others. Staff was further subdivided into clerical staff and engineers, and their numbers were shown for both men and women. Before the war, the percentage of workers nationwide was in the mid-80’s; after the war, it was in the high 70’s (roughly 80%). In Hiroshima Prefecture it was in the high 80’s before the war and slightly below 80% directly after the war. In 1948, it surpassed 80% again―several percentage points above the prewar and postwar national averages. Even directly after the war in 1945, Hiroshima Prefecture was 7th in the number of employees amongst all 46 prefectures and the 6th in workers.

The third factor was the role played by female workers. In 1940, the percentage of female workers nationwide was 33.8%; while it was 30.3% in Hiroshima Prefecture. In 1945, it was 34.6% nationwide and 31.1% in Hiroshima Prefecture―placing Hiroshima below the national average. However, when looking at national trends from 1940 to 1945, the number of all workers decreased by 55% (while the number of female workers decreased by 54%). In other words, the number of workers (both male and female) in Japan dropped by more than half. In contrast, the total number of workers in Hiroshima Prefecture fell 13%, and female workers fell 11%. The number of female workers in Hiroshima Prefecture was 23,883 (31.1% of all workers) in 1945, decreased to 15,835 (22.8% of them) in 1946 but increased to 19,322 (24.8% of them) in 1947 and 25,989 (28.1% of them) in 1948, returning to the level of 1940 (26,723).

The fourth factor was the relatively smooth transformation of military facilities into private company facilities―especially in the manufacturing industry. The former army and naval facilities not used by the Allied Occupational Forces were transferred over to private control one after another. For example, the Army Transport Department’s Kanawajima Plant (Hiroshima City) was sold to Mitsubishi Heavy Industries’ Hiroshima Shipyard; the Army Provisions Depot (Hiroshima City) was sold to Hiroshima Ryoko; the Kure Naval Arsenal (Kure City) was sold to Amagasaki Steel, Harima Shipbuilding, Nichia Steel, and American funded NBC; and the 11th Plant of Naval Aeronautical Arsenal (Kure City) was leased to Kawanami Kogyo and Toyo Pulp.8) These transfers to the private sector were completed by around 1948.9)

4 Productivity in the Manufacturing Industry

Table 6-2 summarizes the labor productivity (shipments per employee) and the capital stock per labor (HP for operating electric motors per employee) in Hiroshima Prefecture’s manufacturing industry between 1940 and 1948, and compares them to the national level. From this, we were able to identify the following:

First, although the manufacturing industry was a key industry in Hiroshima Prefecture, individual factories were not very large. Before the war, the average number of employees per factory in Hiroshima Prefecture was about 30, which stayed at around 90% of the national average. After the war, this number exceeded 40, which exceeded the national average.

Second, even though the manufacturing industry was a key industry in Hiroshima Prefecture, the number of employees in the manufacturing industry was at most around 50 per 1,000 people before and immediately after the war. This was less than 90% of the national average (excluding Okinawa Prefecture) before the war (not including numbers from former army and naval arsenals), but after the war the number finally exceeded the national average.

Table 6-2 Key indicators in Hiroshima Prefecture’s manufacturing industry (1940 to 1948)

  1940 1941 1942 1945 1946 1947 1948
No. of employees per establishment (person) 30.5 31.1 34.2 43.5 47.7 35.4 40.0
No. of employees per 1,000 population (person) 54.9 55.8 53.6 51.0 47.6 49.4 55.6
Percentage of workers to employees (%) 88.3 85.8 85.2 79.9 76.8 78.3 81.3

Shipments per establishment (1,000 yen)

136 149 155 337 1,060 2,596 6,998

Shipments per capita (1,000 yen)

0.24 0.27 0.24 0.40 1.06 3.62 9.71

Shipments per employee (1,000 yen)

4.5 4.8 4.5 7.8 22.2 73.3 174.8

Horsepower of operating electric motors per establishment (HP) 

43.9 55.9 58.1 NA 70.6 57.4 95.2

Horsepower of operating electric motors per employee (HP)

1.44 1.80 1.70 NA 1.48 1.62 2.38

No. of employees per establishment (%, national level: 100) 

91.3 92.1 89.3 113.9 121.5 107.1 109.2

No. of employees per 1,000 population (%, national level: 100) 

87.2 87.8 81.1 164.2 104.2 106.7 120.9

Percentage of workers to employees(%, national level: 100)

103.5 102.5 103.3 103.2 100.4 101.8 101.7

Shipments per establishment (%, national level: 100) 

67.4 65.7 60.1 53.4 104.6 94.6 85.0

Shipments per capita (%, national level: 100) 

64.4 62.6 54.6 77.0 89.7 94.3 94.1

Shipments per employee (%, national level: 100)

73.8 71.3 67.3 46.9 86.1 88.4 77.9

Horsepower of operating electric motors per establishment (%, national level: 100)

75.0 82.5 85.1 NA 60.6 86.3 122.7

Horsepower of operating electric motors per employee (%, national level:100)

82.2 80.5 95.4 NA 49.9 80.6 112.3

Notes: 1. Created from the same material as Table 6-1.

2. National figures do not include Okinawa Prefecture.

5 Recovery and Development of Infrastructure

The August 6, 1945 bombing reduced the area surrounding the hypocenter to ashes. Yet, before the dust had settled, the rebuilding of roads, rails, electric power-lines, and other infrastructures had already begun. Obviously, the initial activities were focused on military affairs and defense, rescuing survivors, and restoring medicine and sanitation; but the gradual reconstruction of the traffic system and the mass transportation provided a foundation for rebuilding the local industry and the economy. The reconstruction of the major infrastructures immediately after the bombing happened as follows.

Shortly after the bombing, the army and the civil defense cleared and opened the main roads in the city.10) For railroads, shuttle services between Hiroshima Station and Saijo Station (in today’s Higashihiroshima City) were in operation by the afternoon of August 6 to evacuate the injured and dispatch rescue teams, Recovery efforts continued throughout the night,11) and the Ujina Line, connecting Hiroshima Station and Ujina Port, was opened on August 7, the main Sanyo Line on August 8, and the Geibi Line on August 9 to reconnect with northern Hiroshima Prefecture, A little later, on August 18, the entire Kabe Line was opened to reconnect with the suburbs. 

The streetcars had suffered catastrophic damage. Of the 123 streetcars in Hiroshima City only 15 remained―and of those only three were completely operational. However, on August 9 one-way service between the Nishi Temma-cho stop and the Koi stop reopened. “The early return of even partial streetcar operation contributed enormously in revitalizing dispirited citizens.”12) Two buses that had escaped damage also began operating on August 9 between Hiroshima Station and Ujina Port via Hijiyama.

With the bombing, the entire city’s electric power was lost. However, the Danbara substation (which suffered relatively small damage because it was situated in the shadow of Hijiyama Hill, standing some 70 meters tall) was quickly repaired and began supplying power to the Ujina area and its military installations on August 7, and to the area around Hiroshima Station on August 8. Meanwhile, the damage to the Ushita water purification plant (about two kilometers from the hypocenter) was limited. Despite leaks from damage to water pipes in the city center, the water supply was not interrupted.

By August of 1946, one year after the bombing, Hiroshima was slowly restoring its vitality―with the daily number of national and private railway customers topping a total of 65,000. As for the major train stations, the number of passengers was about 40,000 at Hiroshima Station, 8,000 at Yokogawa Station, 4,000 at Koi Station, and 13,000 at Nishi-Hiroshima Station (on the Miyajima Line running to the suburbs).13)

The Hiroshima Reconstruction City Plan was established in 1946 and revised in 1949 to systematically promote urban redevelopment, including these elements of infrastructures. In 1949, the Hiroshima Peace Memorial City Construction Law was implemented, and the Hiroshima Peace Memorial City Construction Plan was established based on this law in 1952.

Third, Hiroshima Prefecture’s shipments per establishment, capita, and employee were overall less than the national average. In other words, productivity was not very high. To better understand this problem, it is necessary to consider the structural problems of the industry. Manpower, equipment and facilities should also be considered.

Economic growth, i.e., the growth in labor productivity, is brought about with the combination of labor, capital as well as knowledge and skills. Putting aside the knowledge and skill factors, labor productivity is ultimately determined by the amount of capital stock per labor. As explained previously, while the number of employees in Hiroshima Prefecture returned to prewar levels relatively early, in 1946 and in 1947 the indicated horsepower of operating electric motors fell below 1941-1942 levels. In other words, as the denominator became relatively large, the capital stock per labor (the indicated horsepower of operating electric motors per employee) remained at about 50% of the national level in 1946 and 80% in 1947, and the labor productivity (shipments per employee) was also about 80% of the national average. However, in 1948, the capital stock per labor rose to 12% above the national average, an indicator of the growth that was to follow.


1. While there were many victims from among those who worked at the major factories during this period, the factories had relatively little damage. For example, the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries’ Hiroshima Machinery Works and Hiroshima Shipyard were each around four kilometers from the hypocenter, but “there was overall around 30% damage to the buildings, and almost no damage to the equipment.” Mitsubishi Heavy Industries’ 20th Works, some 5.5 kilometers from the hypocenter, “had windows blown out and some of its wooden structures toppled,” but the day after the bomb “wartime production was immediately restarted.” Toyo Kogyo, about 5.3 kilometers from the hypocenter, “had the roof of its factory blown off from the intense bomb blast, with most windows broken, window panes twisted, and a few buildings collapsed,” but “overall the damage level was not serious, at approximately 30%.” (City of Hiroshima, Hiroshima Shinshi: Keizai Hen (History of Postwar Hiroshima: Economy), 1984 a: pp. 13-22).

2. The Allies demanded one-time war reparations from Japan. Japan was to remove equipment from main factories to reduce its production capacity to 1930-1934 levels. In the Hiroshima area, Japan Steel Works Hiroshima Plant, Teikoku Heiki Hagoromo Works, Toyo Seikan, Toyo Kogyo, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries’ Hiroshima Machinery Works, and others were listed as targets for the said reparations. In the end, the equivalent of 160 million dollars of facilities was disposed of throughout Japan. However, as the Cold War confrontation gradually intensified, the reparations were virtually discontinued by May 1949. It was said that “Hiroshima too can now breathe a huge sigh of relief.” (City of Hiroshima, 1984 a: pp. 63-79).

3. City of Hiroshima, Hiroshima Shinshi: Shiryo Hen IV (History of Postwar Hiroshima: Resource Materials IV), 1984 b: ff. 470.

4. Ibid., p. 324. Some are supplementary estimates from 1950 and 1955.

5. Sugai, Shiro, (Ed.), Shiryo Kokudokeikaku (Materials on National Land Plan), Taimeido, 1975. Municipal area at the time.

6. City of Hiroshima, Hiroshima Genbaku Sensaishi: Dai Ikkan, Sosetsu (Record of the Hiroshima A-bomb War Disaster, Vol. 1, Overview), 1971 a: p. 621.

7. Ibid., p. 621.

8. Even if equipment and facilities recovered, it does not mean that the same products produced before the war could be quickly produced again. Here, the prospects for the recovery of the shipbuilding industry, where new shipbuilding was restricted, were gloomy. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries’ Hiroshima Shipyard (Hiroshima City) made pots, kettles, spades, and hoes, and Hitachi Zosen Innoshima Works and Mukaishima Works (in current Onomichi City) made bells for Buddhist temples. For Shipbuilders, the time was dubbed the “Time of Pots and Bells.” (Hiroshima Prefecture, Hiroshima Kenshi: Gendai, Tsushi VII (History of Hiroshima Prefecture: Contemporary History, Overview VII, 1983: p. 173).

9. Ibid., pp. 22 – 23.

10. City of Hiroshima , 1971 a: p. 586.

11. Ibid., p. 586.

12. Ibid., p. 587.

13. Ibid., p. 621.

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