Toho Labor Dispute

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The Toho Labor Dispute (東宝争議, Tōhō sōgi) is a major worker strike at the Toho Movie Studio in Tokyo that lasted from 1946 to 1948. In particular, the third dispute in 1948 was a large-scale one when the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department and the United States Army, which were part in the occupation of Japan as a member of the Allied Forces, were dispatched to requisition the studio staffs. It is said to be the biggest labor dispute after the Pacific War.

Police troopers and US soldiers are gathered at the studio, 1947.

Summary[change | change source]

In early 1946, American journalist for the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers, David W. Conde, visits Japan and was concerned about radical groups who are planning to sabotage Japan's reconstruction policy. He was hastened about the formation of a labor union at the studio and also set up a union party on how to negotiate with the company. Back in December 1945, the Toho Employees' Union (subordinate union) was formed in Toho due to the postwar turmoil and the rise of the socialist movement. The subordinates also joined the All Japan Trade Union Conference and frequently went on strike.

The labor movement was booming at once, partly because the Japanese Communist Party members such as Tadashi Imai and Satsuo Yamamoto were enrolled during the war. And with a huge force of 90% of employees and 5,600 members, they began to confront the company. The first dispute began in March 1946, and the second in October of that same year. The first strike was relatively mild. But the second one allowed the company to approve various new agreements, such as restrictions on working hours, by the workers. Due to the strike and the turmoil of the new agreement, movie shooting were not easily, and Toho produced 18 films, which was half than other companies.

In November, Kazuo Hasegawa, Ranko Hanai and others agreed with Denjirō Ōkōchi, who said that he would not be able to use the strike, although he was against the strike. A big star formed the "Flag of Ten People" and left the union. Director Kunio Watanabe also withdrew from the union, and employees in the distribution department who were in conflict over the policy formed a second union and withdrew. In March 1947, they formed Shintoho, mainly by the members of the "Ten no Hana no Kai" and more than a hundred volunteers who left the union at the same time. Although it was difficult for Toho to operate soundly, the management team at that time dared to leave the group as the "first production department" and the group leaving the group as the "second production department" in order to avoid a direct confrontation with the huge subordinate group.

In addition, new young actors such as Toshiro Mifune and Hajime Izu refused to joined the studio and left to do some cast audition. They were called the "Toho New Face".

The Third Strike[change | change source]

In December 1947, the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers issued an expulsion order to Toho, and the management team was replaced. President Katamaru Tanabe, was appointed as chairman, and the new president was invited from outside by Tetsuzō Watanabe, a former managing director of the Japan's Chamber of Commerce and Industry and a member of the House of Representatives.

Watanabe, who known as an "anti-communist" for some time, set up a hardliner as a director in charge of labor and a director of the studio, and on April 8, 1948, 270 employees of the Tokyo Dadeumi studio. Suddenly, the company fired him and his name was removed from the list. In addition, it announced a plan to dismiss 1,200 people to reduce personnel.

Toshiyasu Kitaoka (1894-1989), director of Tsuki studio, who notified the mass dismissal

On April 15, the followers entered the production control struggle, occupied the Tokyo Hibiki studio, placed materials and equipment under control, and made a barricade at the front entrance to prevent the police from enter the building. This marks the beginning of the Third Strike. On the other hand, the management side declared that the company will be closed on May 1 (which would latter celebrate as May Day). The subordinate group applied to the Tokyo District Court for a provisional disposition requesting the resumption of business of the company, but the company also applied for a provisional disposition requesting the release of possession and countered it. The following day, on the 14th, a court executive headed to the Shikkōkan Studio, but at this time, 800 members of the union members were denied admission.

The provisional disposition will be decided again on August 19, but before that, 2,500 workers stayed at the Hibiki Studio. Film directors such as Heinosuke Gosho, producers such as Akira Iwasaki and Takerô Itô, screenwriters like Yūsaku Yamagata, cinematographers like Yoshio Miyajima, and actresses like Setsuko Wakayama, Yoshiko Kuga, and Chieko Nakakita also participated. In front of the studio of each set, multiple large barrels filled with non-combustible paint were lined up, and a large fan for special effects equipped with a Zero fighter plane engine was brought out and installed on each barrel. When the police rushed in, the wind pressure used to blow gravel, glass fragments, and paint, which was actually used it. There was also a mechanism to drop a bag filled with pieces of wood and glass balls from the roof and windows.

A current-carrying trap was also set up. In the morning of the same day, Major General William C. Chase, commander of the 1st Cavalry Division of the U.S. Army, stationed at Camp Drake, a part of the Allied Forces that was engaged in Japan's occupation, sending 150 GI soldiers, military police armed with M1 carbines and 1 infantry vehicle unit. He led a platoon of six armored vehicles, three M4 medium tanks, and three aircraft to seized Camp Asaka. These units were US ground forces under the command of Lieutenant Henry F.T. Hoffman while Chase took command from the Air Force. At 8:30 AM on the same day, 2,000 troopers of the Metropolitan Police Reserve began to surrounded Dadeumi to assist in the execution of provisional disposition.

Getting on and off at the Seijogakuenmae Station and since the Odakyu Line was prohibited, the road leading to the Hibiki Photo Studio was blocked by protesters. At 9:30 AM, the chief of the Seijo police station (along with executive officer and the lawyer of the company's agency) boarded the US military truck and drove out of the station while being protected by a dozen police officers. Requested the acceptance of provisional disposition by the executive officer, they negotiated with the representative of the subordinate group. Around 10:30 AM, police reserve unit began to deploy at the front main gate of the Hibiki studio, followed by tanks. Film director Fumio Kamei put up a piece of paper to the reserve team in front of the main gate of the Tsuki Photo Studio, it read "Justice cannot be trampled by violence."

After that, the subordinates decided that it was impossible to resist by force because they were surrounded by the army, and held a staff meeting to accept provisional disposition. At 11:00 AM, 2,500 union members crossed their arms, sang "The Internationale" songs, left the studio, and withdrew to the Theater Institute. Subsequently, an executive officer entered the office and posted a notice of provisional disposition execution. At this time, the Toho Branch of the Nikkei Performance occupied the Toho Sales Department (cinema) in addition to the Toho Photo Studio. Businessman Tetsuzo Watanabe sought to break down the dispute from a commercial perspective, as the closure of the movie theater would directly affect the company's management.

Kunio Watanabe, the filmmaker of Toho, was sent to Toichi Mannen, the leader of the Foolish League, to ask him to strike a movie theater in Hibiya. Every day, Mannen attacked the movie theater with 50 to 100 subordinates, including "Komitsu" Mitsuya Kobayashi and "Shinjuku Emperor" Kano Mitsugu, and expelled the union members. He also demanded Toho for daily struggle costs, but did not receive a success fee. On October 18, Takero Ito and Yoshio Miyajima, the top executives of the union, met with President Watanabe and others. At this point, an agreement was reached to withdraw the dismissal of the remaining 250 union executives, in exchange for the voluntary departure of 20 union executives.

In addition, a large-scale freeze on personnel reduction was recognized, and the Third Toho Dispute was finally officially settled by the signing of a memorandum of understanding by the union and the company. In 1950, Toho dismissed 200 people whose dismissal was withdrawn due to Toho Dispute in the form of a red purge.

Allied Forces Dispatch[change | change source]

Since the February 1 General Strike, which was planned in 1947, was a large-scale labor dispute between government agencies, there was a tentative reason that GHQ / SCAP would be "contrary to the welfare of the people" in order to intervene. In addition, the cancellation method was a brute force but "peaceful" solution, in which the leader was made to broadcast the cancellation. However, despite the fact that this case was a labor dispute by a company, when he saw that he refused the provisional disposition of the court, he carried out a rough business of disbanding the labor movement by force.

At the time of the February strike, Commander-in-Chief Douglas MacArthur was very concerned about the eyes of the American people, as he intended to run for the presidential election the following year from the Republican Party. The Republican Party had a large support base for the labor union, and did not want to crack down on the Japanese labor movement and damage its reputation, so it did not move directly until the strike happen. Moreover, dispatching the army was nothing more than a matter of fact (except in the days of McCarthyism and the Red Scare, the Communist Party is legal in the United States, and the Communist Party of America exists as a political party. General MacArthur once put down the veterans' demonstrations gathered in Washington, D.C. by force in 1932 (alleging that they were being manipulated by the Communist Party) while serving in the National Guards.

However, MacArthur was defeated in the 1948 United States presidential election and was not elected as a candidate. From this time on, MacArthur did not have to worry about the eyes of the American people, and the Toho Dispute was forcibly died down at that time. In August 1948, the Soviet Union began setting up its forces around the Eastern Bloc due to the Berlin Airlift that ended Stalin's blockade policy and the United States, which cannot tolerate this communist activities by Russians, began setting up relationship with Japan in order to prevent this spread of communism. In any case, it was also an incident that showed that the GHQ / SCAP was no longer on the side of the communist-influenced labor movement.

Unknown of the Fourth Toho Dispute[change | change source]

The number of participants in the 4th Toho Dispute Strike was about 180 members at the Toho branch of the Japan Film Theater Labor Union (Nichiei) and 140 at the Hibiki studio, which is extremely compared to the 3rd Dispute. It lasted from May 17, 1950 to December 29, 1950, although it is not widely known because of its small number. Even after the end of the third strike in 1948, Toho continued to increase its popularity due to incongruity with internal factions and Shintoho, and its debt and other debts at the end of January 1950 were about ¥1.3 billion. It amounted to ¥150 million and there was an urgent need for new personnel reductions.

On May 17, 1950, the company announced a notice of personnel reduction for 300 people. The target of the arrangement was mainly the Japan's Motion Picture and Theatrical Worker's Union (JMTW), but in addition to that, the members of the National Film Theater Labor Union (All Screening Performance), which was born by splitting from the Nikkei Performance, are also targeted. Has become For this reason, the 4th Toho Dispute was led by the Japan Film Theater Labor Union (Nichiei), which is greatly affected by personnel reductions.

On May 24, Daiei and Shochiku studios also resolved to collaborate with the Niei Performance & Toho Photography Studio Branch. On May 25, director Kōzaburō Yoshimura also showed an opposition to the decapitation. On May 26, Isuzu Yamada announced that she would join the Japan Film Theater Labor Union (Nikkei). Support has expanded, with the Directors Guild of Japan and the Scenario Writers Association taking a non-cooperative attitude toward film production on the Toho Company side.

The full-scale performance that issued the strike order on June 2, but was canceled on June 3 until June 16. On the other hand, Nikkei, which has led the dispute, applied to the Tokyo District Court for provisional disposition of dismissal invalid status protection on June 25, and on August 10, a recommendation was issued by the Tokyo District Court and the memorandum of understanding was made at the Tokyo District Court on May 28. On December 29, a tentative signing was made at the Japanese company, ending the dispute. Kinuta Productions, which produced the feature film "Haha Nareba Onna", directed by Fumio Kamei and starring Isuzu Yamada in 1952, was paid to Nikkei for the settlement of the 4th Toho Dispute. Of course it is said that it was established with a capital of ¥2 million.