From Black Market to Industry Cluster: Colonial Repatriate Entrepreneurship in Postwar Gifu, Japan

This paper explores the socio-economic transition of Japanese former colonial residents of Manchuria in postwar Japan, focusing on Gifu prefecture. Utilizing a household level government survey of former colonial residents (usually called repatriates in English, hikiagesha in Japanese) conducted in the mid-1950s, the paper traces their occupational transitions from the colonial era to the early postwar period. In addition, it offers a case study of an industrial and retailing cluster in apparel that emerged in Gifu and was largely the result of the initiative of colonial repatriates. Eventually this cluster rivalled Tokyo and Osaka in the apparel business even though its modest origins can be traced to a black market set up in front of Gifu station by impoverished colonial repatriates. An examination of this case allows us an insight into entrepreneurial activity in early postwar Japan among the more marginalized sections of the population. It also points to the survival of the social networks of colonial society in postwar Japan after the break-up of the empire and gives new detail on the socioeconomic aspects of the decolonization process in northeast Asia.