List of Articles

Technological Innovation and the Development of Transportation in Japan

Title: Chap. 7:Transportation in the Postwar Recovery Period (1946-1954): Roads
Author: Yamamoto, Hirofumi
Publisher: United Nations University Press
Published Year: 1993
Table of ContentsMain Text (PDF version)

Chap. 7:Transportation in the Postwar Recovery Period (1946-1954): Roads

Postwar Reform and Road Transport

The end of the Pacific War changed road transport conditions completely by destroying the basis of the system of small transporters and moving system reform forward rapidly, particularly through the abolition of the two laws on small transport.
Reform in the small transport system provided one of the major features of the first part of the postwar era; the reform aimed at increasing the number of small transporters at each station and reorganizing Nippon Tsuun. The move to increase the number of small transporters, carried out with the backing of several laws to democratize the economy - including the April 1947 Anti-Trust Law and the December 1947 Law to Remove Excess Concentrations of Power in the Economy - could not be resisted even by Nippon Tsuun, singled out as a company possessing an excessive concentration of power in the economy. In November 1948, the Transportation Ministry issued a general plan for a system of more than one small transporter at each station and set up a Small Transport Council to investigate licensing standards and other important matters. Their deliberations resulted in the announcement in March 1949 of new licensing standards and the installation of more than one transporter at 33 stations, this number increasing subsequently. The Railroad Freight Handling Operations Law of February 1950 abolished the framework for specifying multiple-operator stations and uniformly licensed all operators meeting with the licensing standards.
Designation as an excess concentration of economic power under the law and abolition in December 1949 of the (1937) Nippon Tsuun Kabushiki Kaisha Law forced the part-government, part-private small-transport overseer to thoroughly reorganize. Concerning the ordered reorganization in relation to excess concentration of economic power in order to ensure that such critical commodities as wheat and rice would get transported, the rather mechanical break-up plan initially proposed was replaced by planned restructuring centred on the transfer of railway station facilities for small transport, ships, and shares in other companies. This part was completed in June 1951. Abolishing its status as a company of "national importance" and reorganizing it as a private company was effected through the obliteration of the Nippon Tsuun Kabushiki Kaisha Law and revising the company's articles of incorporation. Paralleling these measures was the February 1950 abolition of the Small Transporters Law. In its place, the Railroad Freight Handling Operations Law, enacted in December 1949, went into force in February 1950 to preserve free competition but keep the market from being flooded with small producers.
Table 2. Changes in the number of road transporters (1946-1954)
The Law on Motor Vehicle Transport Operations, the major support for wartime control of the motor-vehicle transport industry, was abolished in December 1947. In its place, the Road Transport Law was enacted (December 1947) and went into effect in January 1948; its purpose was to democratize operations and administrative control and to create order in road transport, including private vehicles. At the same time, new licences were being issued in a constant stream for operators of hired cars, taxis, buses, and lorries. This resulted in a rapid increase in operators from 1950 on (see table 2) and the achievement of new levels of progress based on free competition and the general licensing system.


The most important feature of road transport after the postwar reforms was motorization. Freight and passenger transport by motor vehicle had begun to flourish in Japan around 1910, and by 1930 it was starting to cut into the railroad business. But the lack of fuel and parts during the war prevented any subsequent progress, and the flowering of motorization was yet to be witnessed.
This situation changes greatly as postwar economic recovery continues. The first supply of motor vehicles came from the purchase of vehicles from Occupation forces and privately from Occupation personnel. The supply began to grow around 1950 as domestic motor-vehicle manufacturers
strengthened in their recovery, which eventually led to a five-fold increase in vehicles, from the 165,000 at the end of fiscal 1946 to 815,000 at the end of fiscal 1954 (see table 4).
Table 3. Number of motor vehicles produced (1947-1954)
This increase in the number of vehicles brought on a rapid increase in the amounts of passengers and freight carried and in the motor vehicle's share in the transport market. Motor vehicles increased both the amount they carried and their portion of the market, transporting 200 million ton-kilometres (7.8 per cent) of freight in fiscal 1946, which rose to 890 million ton-kilometres in fiscal 1954 (13.0 per cent), and transporting 610 million passenger-kilometres (5.3 per cent) in 1949, rising to 2,410 million passenger-kilometres in 1954 (15.5 per cent). In time, the motor vehicle gradually began to eat into the railroads' transport monopoly.

Revision of the Road Law and the Rebuilding of Roads

The brutal way in which roads were used during the war, the difficulties in making repairs, and the damage from bombing and shelling left all national and prefectural highways and municipal roads in horrible condition. The Road Law of April 1919 (effective from April 1920) was the basis for supervising and repairing roads, and under this law, planning and use were centrally controlled, while funding was a matter of local responsibility. This arrangement remained unchanged, but the war left the prefectural governments, responsible for paying the costs of national highway repair and upkeep, with no financial resources.
The first projects after the war were related to the repair of national and prefectural highways as part of the link-up of installations requisitioned by the Allied forces. These projects were a primary aspect of road construction up to 1948 and were paid for by reserve funds, war-end fund allocations, and other high-rate subsidies from the national government. In areas with many facilities such as Kanagawa, Fukuoka, Yamaguchi, Nagasaki, Aomori, and Tokyo, the amount of construction of this type was concomitantly large. But with the construction confined to designated areas, it did little in contributing to an overall improvement in the road situation.
In November 1948, SCAP submitted a memorandum on a five-year plan to maintain and improve the Japanese highway and street network and ordered the government to implement the plan. The memorandum called for the adoption of four types of roads: (1) roads necessary to the development of farm, forest, manufacturing, and mining; (2) city roads for the regular transit of motor vehicles; (3) roads that connect major traffic centres; and (4) roads connecting those indicated in 2 and 3. The government was to reply within 60 days on its plan for fiscal 1949 and within 180 days for its plans on the remaining three years.1
Construction from fiscal 1949 to 1952 was based on a government plan that in turn followed the memorandum and consisted mainly of repair work paid for by national treasury subsidies. By the end of fiscal 1952, the improvements were as shown in table 7.
Table 4. Number of motor vehicles owned (1946-1954)
Table 5. Volume and share of domestic cargo transport classified by transport means (1946-1954)
Table 6. Volume and share of domestic passenger transport classified by transport means (1949-1954)
Table 7. Improvements in national and prefectural roads for 1952
Table 8. Improvements in national, prefectural, and municipal roads for 1954
On 10 June 1952 a new Road Law was enacted and went into effect on 5 December of that year. Based on the concept that highways were state property and should be centrally controlled, the old 1919 Road Law gave priority to military and administrative needs in route selection and other essentials. Although the national treasury bore the entire cost of specified military roads and designated national highways and part of the cost to construct or reconstruct ordinary national highways, highway costs were generally borne by local governments.
Not only was this thinking out of tune with the postwar administrative structure based on the Local Autonomy Law, it was regressive with regard to recovery and development of the national economy. Consequently, as a part of post-Korean War economic development, the Road Law was completely revised to make it more congruent with economic aims and the new administrative framework. The revised Road Law divided roads into four categories: class one national highways, class two national highways, prefectural roads, and municipal roads; it designated the prefectural governors as the supervisors of national highways, the prefectural governments as the supervisors of prefectural roads, and the municipal governments as the supervisors of municipal streets and roads. A series of special legislation and government ordinances on road repairs was enacted around this time, and in 1954 the first five-year road-building plan was started (adopted by the cabinet in May 1954; estimated total project cost of \260 billion). The road improvement performance up to the end of fiscal 1954 is illustrated in table 8.

1. See Nihon Doro Kyokai, Nihon doro shi (History of Japanese roads) (Nihon Doro Kyokai, 1977), pp. 1365-1368.