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World War II Singapore: The Chōsabu Reports on Syonan

Translated and edited by GREGG HUFF and SHINOBU MAJIMA

NUS Press (First Printing, 2018)
520 pages including bibliography and Index


Out of stock

World War II Singapore: The Chōsabu Reports on Syonan is a translated version of the reports produced by the Chōsabu, a research bureau created by the Japanese government during World War II to study occupied Singapore. The bureau’s reports on Singapore’s economy and society covered population and living standards, prices, wages, currency and inflation, rationing, labour usage, food production and supply, and industrialization. Syonan’s military and civilian administrators drew on Chōsabu research in formulating social and economic policy. The research takes on added importance because the Japanese destroyed most records of their wartime administration. That leaves the Chōsabu reports as one of the few first-hand Japanese sources to have survived the war. The translation allows a fuller understanding of the impact of the war and occupation than hitherto possible. Introductory chapters by the editors analyse the reports in light of wartime events in Singapore and Japanese occupation policies, and discuss the Chōsabu authors and their place in the history of Japanese economic thought. The manuscripts of the Chōsabu reports are stored in two archives in Tokyo: the whole surviving set, April 1943–January 1944, in Hitotsubashi University Library; and another, partial set, April 1943–October 1943, in the National Institute for Defense Studies. The originals are often mimeographed on crumbling paper and are in old, pre-1945 handwritten Japanese.

At the end of 1942, a large number of Japanese academics and civil servants were sent to Southeast Asia as members of the Chōsabu. Although clearly this research was intended to contribute to the military struggle, it was probably also meant to help achieve wider and longer-term aims in the enlargement of a Japanese empire in East Asia. Even as late as the end of 1942, and certainly during pre-war and early wartime planning, it seemed possible that Japan, as part of an enhanced empire, would control a large part of Southeast Asia for the foreseeable future. By late 1943, when the Chōsabu first began to issue reports on Syonan (the renamed city of Singapore) and Syonan-to (Singapore Island), nearly two years of war and military occupation had considerably intensified the known pre-war problems of managing the city and its economy. The main aim of this chapter is to analyze the Chōsabu reports on Syonan in light of the policies instituted by Japanese administrators. Syonan remained under Japanese administration throughout the war, and for the whole of this time the war effort was the overriding objective of the military and Japanese administrators. The Southeast Asian civilian population came a distant second.

At first, Chōsabu members were primarily observers, reporters and advisers. Although the Chōsabu bore no responsibility for early events in Syonan, after January 1944, members of the Chōsabu began to be called upon to formulate policies and strategies to try to deal with serious and mounting problems in the city and apparently had some role in its day-to-day running. It is unclear, however, to what extent, if any, the Chōsabu had any major policy impact. By the time the researchers began to assess Syonan’s economy and society, official policies had long been in place and would have been hard to reverse. Furthermore, both the Chōsabu’s advice and its researchers apparently were often distrusted by the military. The Chōsabu reports, translated here for the first time, afford some of the only extant Japanese-language records of wartime Syonan, since near the end of the war or just after, on orders from Tokyo, most records on Southeast Asia were destroyed. A strongly empirical approach runs throughout the work of the Chōsabu. That makes its reports, written between October 1943 and October 1944, especially valuable in helping to understand what happened in Singapore during Japan’s occupation

List of Tables
List of Figures
Weights and Measures

Part I: Singapore and the Chōsabu

1. The Chōsabu Reports and the Occupation of Singapore
2. The Chōsabu Members and the Chōsabu Reports

Part II: The Chōsabu Reports

Population, Labour Supply and Industrial Production

3. Population by Occupation in Syonan Municipality
4. Reorganizing Commercial Businesses in Syonan Municipality
5. A Study of the Labour Situation in Syonan Municipality, Focusing on Factories Managed by Japanese
6. An Overview of Important Industrial Factories in Syonan Municipality

Prices, Inflation and Rationing

7. Countermeasures for Prices for Syonan Municipality
8. Conditions of Economic Security in Syonan Municipality and Johore

Rice and Food Supplies

9. Methods of Increasing Food Production on Syonan Island
10. Food Problems and Cultivation of the Sweet potato
11. Rice Imports to Malaya, with Special Reference to Syonan Municipality

Living Standards

12. A Study of Lowest Levels of Living by Ethnic Group in Syonan Municipality: Price, Quantity and the Relative Importance of Daily Necessities, by Ethnic Group


Weight0.928 kg
Dimensions25.7 × 17.8 × 3 cm





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