Part 1 World War II

Section 1 Nagasaki and the Second Sino-Japanese War

Chapter 1:The Wartime Regime

1. National Spiritual Mobilization Movement
2. The National Mobilization Act



“July 7, 1937. Marco Polo Bridge Incident. Telegraph lines congested.”

This is how the Nagasaki Telegraph Bureau, the vital base of international communications at the time, described the event that set off the Second Sino-Japanese War. The Marco Polo Bridge Incident, which occurred on the outskirts of Beijing, was followed by the Tongzhou Incident and then by the Shanghai Incident of August 13, the armies of the two countries colliding and the fires of war spreading throughout the region. As Japan’s closest port to Shanghai, Nagasaki served as a receptacle for people fleeing the continent. As early as August 13 the second wave of returnees came ashore, and from then on the number of returnees and refugees increased with each ship arriving from China.
          The “Nagasaki City Administration Report” issued at the time states that, “The former consultation office (at Dejima Wharf) was closed, and from August 13 large tents were erected at Nagasaki Railway Station, where consultation desks and rest facilities were established and every effort was made to provide adequate help and support for the returnees.”
          Unlike the limited exodus that occurred after the Shanghai Incident of 1932, large numbers of Japanese citizens were arriving from remote parts of China as well as Shanghai. Nagasaki Railway Station had to cope, not only with these returnees, but also with throngs of citizens seeing off young men conscripted for military service in China. The departure of so many youthful draftees whipped the entire city into a state of frenzy, and the long station platforms overflowed with people waving flags and shouting messages of farewell. These were the scenes of Nagasaki at the outset of the Second Sino-Japanese War. Never before in its history had Nagasaki experienced the departure of young draftees on such a large scale.
          By July, the Kempeitai (military police) had already issued a number of regulations to the general public regarding military affairs. Anyone speaking recklessly about military affairs would be punished according to army and navy laws, and the leaking of all related information was strictly prohibited by the Military Secrets Law. In August, municipal authorities established a Civil Defense Headquarters in Nagasaki City Hall to implement measures for the protection of the city in the case of air raids, including blackout drills and air defense drills.
          The Citizens’ Spiritual Mobilization Movement came into force in October. Launched throughout Japan on the basis of a government action plan, this movement aimed to stir up patriotic spirit among citizens and solidify fundamental wartime attitudes. In Nagasaki a week was set apart as follows to promote the movement: “Wartime Lifestyle Day on the 13th of October, Soldier Appreciation Day on the 14th, Emergency Economy Day on the 15th, Home Front Day on the 16th, Shinto Shrine Visiting and War Martyr Glorification Day on the 17th, Labor and National Service Day on the 18th, and Emergency Discipline Day on the 19th.”
          Meanwhile, the members of neighborhood women’s associations and other women’s organizations stood on street corners and toured residential areas urging women to make senninbari (thousand-stitch belts believed to protect the wearer) and senninriki (cloth on which the character riki (meaning “strength” in Japanese) was written a thousand times) for officers and soldiers serving abroad. Terms like “wartime situation”, “times of emergency” and “home front” took on a new meaning for the citizens of Nagasaki, whose daily existence grew more and more hectic.
          The “Sixty-Five Year History of the Nagasaki Municipal Administration” comments on the situation in 1937 as follows: “At 2:20 p.m. on November 11, authorities issued an air-raid alert in response to a possible attack by Chinese aircraft flying from the east of Umanokura Island. Fire-fighting teams and civil defense units took up their positions, but the alert was lifted at 5:05 p.m. the same day.” This was the first air-raid alert issued in Nagasaki, but Japan’s advantage in the war was such that citizens did not experience any real fear. Indeed, the first year of the war was mostly spent rejoicing over good news, such as the success of the Hangzhouwan landing operation and the occupation of Nanjing.


As noted previously, the boundaries of Nagasaki city were extended for the third time in 1938. The same year, palm-rope curtains were used to block the view of the huge No.2 building berth at the Mitsubishi Nagasaki Shipyard, where construction of the battleship Musashi secretly commenced.
          The National Mobilization Act was officially proclaimed on April 1 and put into effect on May 5, 1938. As shown by the first article of the law, this legislation gave the government sweeping powers, demanding that, during times of war or conflict, all human and material resources would be employed to effectively defend the country. In other words, every person and thing in Japan was subject to mobilization, and the promulgation and enforcement of this powerful law cemented Japan’s wartime regime. The war continued to escalate. The Japanese armed forces occupied Xuzhou in May, followed by Guandong and the Three Wuhan Cities in October. The Second Sino-Japanese War, which people thought at first would come to a quick end, took on the appearance of a drawn-out conflict by this time. In response, the Japanese government adopted several wartime measures, first the ticket rationing of gasoline, then the rationing of leather articles and coal and a ban on the use of more than 100 metal products.
          This unusual state of affairs also exerted an effect on the Nagasaki municipal government, which underwent structural reforms including the reorganization of administrative departments. The Social Services Department was renamed the Welfare Department, and the Industrial Promotion Department was broken up into three separate departments to deal with industry, wartime affairs and tourism, increasing the total number of departments at City Hall from thirteen to fifteen.
          In January 1939, with the Second Sino-Japanese War dragging on, the Japanese government enacted the Civil Defense Corps Act to enhance homeland defense. The “Daily Report of Fire-Fighting Team No.9” published by the Nagasaki Civil Defense Corps describes the situation as follows:

       The most splendid fire-fighting teams of old were disbanded on March 31. From April 1,
       fire-fighting teams across the country were amalgamated with civilian guards to form civil defense
       corps. Our team of 66 staff members was renamed the Nagasaki Civil Defense Corps No.9.

          Under the new law, the civil defense corps in the city of Nagasaki were structured as follows:
Nagasaki Civil Defense Corps --- 16 units with 1,527 members (including 30 full-time members)
Umegasaki Civil Defense Corps --- 7 units with 690 members (including 15 full-time members)
Inasa Civil Defense Corps --- 6 units with 706 members (including 15 full-time members)
Doinokubi Civil Defense Corps --- 5 units with 242 members
Marine Civil Defense Corps --- 4 units with 127 members
          In total, Nagasaki city had five Civil Defense Corps comprised of 37 units with 3,292 staff members. The structure of the corps and the number of unit members fluctuated slightly until August 1945, by which time the Nagasaki Defense Corps was comprised of 13 units, Umegasaki 4 units and Inasa 7 units, but the civilian defense of Nagasaki was maintained more or less under this system until the end of the war. The “Daily Report of Fire-Fighting Unit No. 9” mentions an air raid alert issued on April 8 – soon after the enactment of the new law – and states that the corps remained vigilant for two days. Details are unavailable, but it is likely that no enemy aircraft appeared and that the alert was lifted uneventfully.
          Around the same time, neighborhood associations and neighborhood patrol units were assembled from already-existing community health inspection groups. The “Nagasaki City Administration Report” published in 1939 states that: “Good progress is being made at present, with associations established in 229 out of 273 neighborhoods and only 44 neighborhoods remaining.” Of course, it was only a matter of time before associations were established in these 44 neighborhoods as well. The associations were important adjuncts to the local administration, helping to promote efforts such as the National Spiritual Mobilization Movement, the rationing of goods, the national savings movement, government bond purchases, information dissemination and air-defense drills.
          The tense wartime situation grew steadily worse, both in Japan and abroad. Violence erupted in Europe this year, dragging various nations into World War II. Domestically, the Rice Rationing Act and Conscription Act were promulgated, and wage and price controls were put into effect. The leap in the cost of cigarettes reflects commodity prices at the time (the price in November 1939 is shown in parentheses, where 1 sen = 1/100 yen): Golden Bat, 8 sen (9 sen); Cherry, 15 sen (18 sen); Asahi 18 sen (20 sen); and Shikishima, 22 sen (25 sen). After the outbreak of war in the Pacific, brand names like the above were banned because they were in English, the language of the enemy. As a result, Golden Bat and Cherry were renamed Kinshi and Sakura, the Japanese equivalents.