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Economic Experiences of the South Manchuria Railway Employees in Post-War Japan, 1945-1965

Sun, June 26, 3:00 to 4:50pm, Shikokan (SK), Floor: 1F, 118


In the discourse of Japanese repatriation, one pervasive image of Japanese repatriates is that of the immigrant farmer of Manchuria. This comes despite the fact that many returned from other regions, including Korea and Sakhalin, and that repatriates consisted of not only farmers but also colonial government officials, employees of public and private corporations, small business owners, teachers, and priests amongst others. In the context of Japan’s post-war recovery, this paper focuses on another major group, the employees of Japanese wartime public corporations. In particular, it will examine occupational transitions of former employees of the South Manchuria Railway (SMR), the largest public corporation in Japanese empire and prewar employer of approximately 10% of civilian repatriates. While it is evident that for many the post-war transition was not entirely smooth, this research suggests that SMR repatriates’ post-war resettlement was facilitated not only by a) the transferability of their skills, but also by b) the government’s employment policies and c) employment in traditional sectors such as family farming and small businesses in retail and services— a trend shared by other civilian repatriates. The post-war employment of repatriates was not necessarily determined by market forces, and much of their skills and expertise might not have been allocated in the most efficient manner. It can be argued, however, that this type of transition helped to bring political and economic stability, which became a foundation of Japan’s rapid recovery and subsequent economic growth.