Monday 13 June 2011

Company History

Many years ago I was shown a family photo - my father in law surrounded by his family - taken towards the end of the war.  The story goes that he knew Japan was losing the war and thought he would be shot by the Americans for running a munitions factory. He said goodbye to his family and had them evacuate to the countryside. This  was the souvenir photo.

Toshiaki's mother remembers it well. The Military Police (Kempei) had visited and her father had been identified as the person in charge of the factory. On that day, her mother was busy with the four other children and she, as the eldest, was entrusted with a body belt containing the bank books, seals and 500 yen (a lot of money in those days). She was 14 at the time.

Before the war the company's business was silk-making, then it became a munitions factory making wings for the Ginga, a naval aeroplane. Koriyama was bombed on 12 April 1945, and the area where we are on the east side of the station with the Hodogaya Chemical Works (still there) and the Nakajima Aircraft factory was a major target. Our company was founded on 5 May 1945, a 'peace' industry making light sensitive paper for copying. Some neat self-preservation on the part of my father-in-law who also cannily changed the name from Tohoku Koku Kogyo (Tohoku Aircraft Industries) to the shorter and less specific Tohoku Kogyo (Tohoku Industries).

Amongst some old papers we  recently discovered an evacuation order ordering the company to evacuate by October 1945 to Odaira, an area 5 or 6 miles further east,  where facilities were to be provided underground. Unfortunately there's no date on the document but presumably it was after the air raid. This explains the mystery of this land which we still own, scrub land with no roads or facilities. We've never understood why anyone would have bought it. Now we know. 

The reason for this sudden interest in the past is that the box business moves to Rengo's old factory in another part of Koriyama in September and we need to make plans for the land. We've commissioned a soil survey and I'm braced for the worst.  According to Toshiaki's mother, the wings for the Ginga were assembled at an adjacent site (now sold off) and the corner plot where the factory now stands made the parts. After the war it was a plating factory. This is not sounding good.

Toshiaki's mother also told us about the different things her father tried after the war just to keep the staff in work and the business going: metalware such as tops to play with, rice storage bins, dust pans, and an adventure into saccharin production as there was no sugar. He certainly sounds to have been an enterprising man. He went into cardboard cases in 1960 as the economic miracle took off and people bought fridges, kotatsu (tables with heaters underneath), and other bulky household goods needing lots of packaging (like China today).

As of April, the packaging business is no longer a family business but a subsidiary of the industry leader. We are left with a property company but it's not going to be plain sailing. The first hurdle is solving any soil contamination problems, the next is trying to sell land in Fukushima. Any buyers out there? Oh well, as my mother always says, 'There are no problems, only challenges'!
Love to you all

1 comment:

  1. It's fascinating. I'll have to quiz you in more detail about the family history soon.