This page focuses on the neighborhood associations closely involved with the daily lives of people in regions across Japan during the war. Here we will introduce a selection of photographs taken from Shashin Shuho that depict their various activities, along with other related documents.

In September 1940, the Ministry of Home Affairs announced the Guidelines for the Development of Village and Town Associations. In accordance with these guidelines, town and village associations were developed, and tonarigumi (neighborhood associations) were created as organizations beneath these town and village associations. Neighborhood associations were regarded as local organizations designed to support the administration of national mobilization efforts during the war. Individual neighborhood associations were made up of five to ten households, and were managed through town assemblies attended by at least one member of each household. The photographs shown in the image above are from an article about town assemblies that ran in issue No. 138 of Shashin Shuho, which waspublished on October 16, 1940. Citing specific examples from Oita Prefecture, this article introduces the organizational structure set up by the Central Headquarters of the Imperial Rule Assistance Association, including the prefectural, county, city, town, and village branches, as well as the different types of town assemblies (town level, village level, and neighborhood association level).

Document 1 is a collection titled “Reference materials relating to town associations and village associations,” and it contains many documents about neighborhood associations. There is the Simple Guide to Neighborhood Association Town Assemblies (see the thirty-third to forty-third images), which was drawn up by the Tokyo municipal government to explain the significance of neighborhood association town assemblies and the manner in which they were to be conducted, Neighborhood Association Town Assemblies (see the forty-fourth to sixty-fifth images), and Directives and Notifications Concerning Town Associations and Villages (see the 139th to 161st images), which is a compilation of official directives and notifications about town and village associations and neighborhood associations, including the previously mentioned Guidelines for the Development of Village and Town Associations.
Document 2 is issue No. 179 of Shashin Shuho, which waspublished on July 30, 1941. Beginning with this issue, the final issue of Shashin Shuho each month featured a special section covering town assemblies (which can be seen in the ninth image of this issue). It introduced matters to be considered when running town assemblies, such as the issues to be discussed and items to be put into practice.

Neighborhood associations performed a range of duties at the community level that were conveyed through the aforementioned structure headed by the Central Headquarters of the Imperial Rule Assistance Association. The photographs in the image above depict some of the duties they were expected to fulfill, such as sending off and welcoming back soldiers, meeting fund-raising quotas through the sale of government bonds, saving money, collecting metal, air defense activities, and distribution of daily commodities. The photographs in the images below show how neighborhood associations were encouraged to play a central role in carrying out a wide range of other activities during the war.

As stated earlier, neighborhood associations carried out many different activities closely involved with the daily lives of people during the war. The following passage focuses specifically on air defense activities and introduces related documents.

The Anti-Aircraft Defense Law was promulgated on April 2, 1937. This law, which predates the start of the Sino-Japanese War, was prompted by advances in aircraft and the efforts of countries around the world to expand their aerial combat capabilities. Faced with these developments, there was a need to prepare for potential air raids during times of war or conflict. The Anti-Aircraft Defense Law, which went into effect on October 1, 1937, put into place legal systems for air defense by issuing and enforcing decrees on the implementation of the law. In February 1938, a warning was issued based on the report of unidentified aircraft flying close Kyushu. As the war progressed, the possibility of airstrikes increased. Thus, citizens on the homefront were called upon to conduct air defense activities and prepare for these attacks.

Document 3 is an original manuscript signed by the Emperor of the Anti-Aircraft Defense Law, promulgated on April 2, 1937
Document 4 is issue No. 22 of Shuho, which was published on March 17, 1937. This issue features an article carrying the headline “Regarding the Anti-Aircraft Defense Law bill,” which was put out by the Local Administration Bureau of the Ministry of Home Affairs. It explains the reasons behind  the government’s decision to formulate the Anti-Aircraft Defense Law, and provides an overview of the law.
Document 5 is a notice sent from the Chief of Staff for Western Defense to the Vice Minister of the Army on February 24, 1938. This document states that a warning was issued across the Kyushu region in response to a report from the Army that there nearly ten enemy planes flying east over Hangzhou on the morning of February 24.
Document 6 is issue No. 96 of Shuho, which was published on August 17, 1938. This issue contains an article titled “National air defense and air defense facilities” which highlights the importance of air defense and the need for air defense facilities. It introduces examples of actual cases, such as that of the unidentified planes flying close to Kyushu that are mentioned in Document 5.
Document 7 is issue No. 184 of Shashin Shuho, which was published on September 3, 1941. The majority of the articles in this issue are dedicated to air defense. There is a description of how to build a bomb shelter, and an introduction to seven important items for air defense kits. The seventh image features an article titled Key Points on Air Defense for Neighborhood Associations, which encourages neighborhood associations to be proactive and conduct their own air defense activities.

The first U.S. bombing of the Japanese mainland occurred on April 18, 1942, and generated a more acute sense of crisis among the Japanese government towards the possibility of air raids. The image above shows an article with photographs that was run in issue No. 252 of Shashin Shuho, which was published on December 23, 1942. The headline reads “Enemy airplanes will come,” and the article serves as a call to people to prepare for air raids. It gives special attention to the previous enemy airstrike in April 1942, and warns that the next raid will most assuredly be more horrific because the enemy is being extremely meticulous in its preparations.

Document 8 is a telegram sent from the Chief of the Bureau of Police and Public Security of the Ministry of Home Affairs to prefectural governors in regards to the first set of air raids by the U.S. of the Japanese mainland on April 18, 1942. This document reveals that the first report of the air raids on the cities of Tokyo, Yokohama, and Kawaguchi that took place around 12:30 p.m. was released that afternoon at 2 p.m.
Document 9 is the revised version of the “Anti-aircraft defense manual” from 1943. The foreword in this booklet states there is a brief explanation about major points to be noted regarding urban air defense, and recommended that individual households and neighborhood associations use the manual as a guide for making preparations and conducting drills.
Document 10 is issue No. 283 of Shashin Shuho, which was published on August 4, 1943. This issue contains an article with photographs that explains the revised edition of the “Anti-aircraft defense manual” introduced in Document 9. The sixth image features an article that explains what neighborhood associations should do if an incendiary bomb is dropped.

Faced with the growing possibility of air raids, people in local communities conducted air defense drills. Kiyoshi Kiyosawa described these drills in the following diary entry from July 15, 1943:
“A three-day air defense drill began today. As usual, the military feels that people absolutely have to wear gaiters and be mindful of the sleeves of their clothes. That’s because soldiers are the ones leading the drill.”
Kiyosawa also made the following entry in his diary on November 27, 1943:
“An air defense drill was held today. I stayed home all day long to reexamine the ‘timeline’. Air defense drills are a mere formality. We strongly feel the need to do them, but when we actually see these drills in action, we realize how ridiculous they are. There is a sense of apathy shared by everyone, with people saying ‘these drills won’t help at all in an actual emergency’.”

The Anti-Aircraft Defense Law was revised in October 1943, and it is here we see the word wartime evacuation used for the first time. Wartime evacuation meant the relocation of schoolchildren, old people, and women living in cities or near industrial facilities that were easy bombing targets to rural areas. The Anti-Aircraft Defense Law initially emphasized the “dispersed evacuation” of buildings, but measures for evacuating people were also developed shortly thereafter.

Document 11 is an original manuscript of the revised Anti-Aircraft Defense Law signed by the Emperor.
Document 12 is an issue of Shuho that was published on December 22, 1943. It provides a detailed explanation in Q&A form of “wartime evacuation,” the focal point of the Anti-Aircraft Defense Law.

The U.S. Army seized the island of Saipan in the Mariana Islands in July 1944, and began using it as a base for full-scale air raids on the Japanese mainland. As the intensity of the air raids increased with each passing day, the Japanese government stepped up its wartime evacuation policy.

Kiyoshi Kiyosawa wrote about the reality of wartime evacuation in the face of intensifying airstrikes in his diary on November 30, 1944:
“The government cannot do anything for the people who have lost their homes and belongings to fires of the air raids. Neighborhood associations will give them food and clothing for the time being, and then have them relocate and seek refuge with relatives. But I doubt that the neighborhood associations have much they can actually give. I just feel ‘sorry’ for the victims for their ‘misfortune’.”
This diary entry by Kiyosawa provides us with indirect look at the relationship between wartime evacuation and how it was addressed by neighborhood associations.


Japan Center for Asian Historical Records, National Archives of Japan