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Hiroshima for Global Peace

6 Rebuilding of Industrial Economy

Since before the World War II, there was a high concentration of manufacturing sector in Hiroshima City in propotion to its population, but both factories and workers were devastated by the atomic bombing.
Under these extremely harsh circumstances, how was Hiroshima able to rebuild its industrial economy so quickly? Here, we turn to the Census of Manufactures (compiled by the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry, the former Ministry of Commerce and Industry, or the former Ministry of Munitions) for clues. At the time the Census of Manufactures reviewed its statistics by prefecture. While the figures for Hiroshima Prefecture were used as the primarily reference material in this study, data compiled by Hiroshima City was covered as much as possible.
The number of employees in the manufacturing industry with five or more full-time workers in Hiroshima Prefecture retuned to prewar levels between 1947 and 1948. This may partly be due to the fact that damage to major factories, located away from the hypocenter, was relatively minor. There were many victims from among those worked at these major factories located 4-5.5 kilometers from the hypocenter, but the facilities themselves had relatively little damage.
A large number of workers also contributed to the recovery and reconstruction of the manufacturing industry. The ratio of the number of workers out of the total number of employees in the prefecture was higher than the prewar and postwar national averages. In addition, female workers put a break on the postwar decrease of the number of workers.
Also, the relatively smooth transformation of the military facilities into private company facilities, especially in the manufacturing industry, strongly supported the reconstruction. The former army and naval facilities not used by the Allied Occupational Forces were transferred over to private control one after another, further facilitating the reconstruction of the manufacturing sector.
The manufacturing industry had been a key industry in Hiroshima Prefecture since the prewar period; however, size of individual factories and productivity were below the nationwide average. This figure improved after the war and exceeded the national level. Possible explanations for this improvement include the transformation of military facilities to private sector, the special procurement of the Korean War which erupted in June 1950, and the “Productive Prefecture Plan” announced by the prefectural government in December 1952. In April 1952, the construction of new ships, once prohibited under the Allied occupation, was allowed, and the shipbuilding industry which had gathered in the prefecture since before the war, became thriving. It gave this plan a great push.
Comparing data of 1940 and 1948, it is shown that the number of very small factories that were primarily family-run decreased sharply. It can be inferred that as the majority of these factories in Hiroshima City were established in mixed residential-factory areas relatively near the hypocenter, they suffered devastating human and physical damage and these businesses were unable to continue.
After being freed from focusing on manufacturing for the war industry, skilledworkers, ex-military personnel, the unemployed, and others worked to establish new businesses through their robust entrepreneurship. In the 1950s, a highly-dense agglomeration of “primary supporting industries” had formed in the center of Hiroshima City and supported production and prototyping of major enterprises. The manufacturing sector would continue to support the reconstruction of industrial economy in Hiroshima Prefecture until the 1970s.

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