Photograph Album Displaying the Plant, Machinery, and Production Processes of a Factory in Occupied Japan, 1947
Japan Hydrogen Industry Co, Ltd. [Onahama, Fukushima Prefecture, Japan], 1947. Cloth album, 12 x 8.5 inches, containing 33 silver gelatin photographs mounted to rectos only, with printed captions in English and Japanese on facing pages. Very good. In the aftermath of World War II, the Allied powers recognized the importance of stabilizing the Japanese economy as part of a larger effort to prevent Japan’s remilitarization and stave off the spread of communism. With the assistance of foreign aid, the Japanese government invested heavily in strengthening its industrial and manufacturing capacity. Economic development efforts in the coal-producing region of Fukushima Prefecture centered on the construction of chemical factories and related infrastructure. The Japan Hydrogen Industry Company (also known as Nihon Suiso Company), which had been founded in the port city of Onahama in 1937, became the core of the industrialization effort in the region after the war. This album, produced in 1947, was likely used in an effort to attract American investment. The company was involved in the gasification of pulverized coal (producing—depending on the exact process—coal gas, water gas, or syngas, all combustible gases used for municipal lighting and heating prior to the large-scale production of natural gas) as well as the production of ammonium sulfate and methanol. The album shows the plant’s coke room; gas generators, compressors, and storage tanks; carbon monoxide converters; pumps for moving chemicals in solution; centrifuges; acid cooling process; ammonium sulphate storage room; and several parts of the methyl alcohol plant (boiler, turbo generators, distiller, machine shop, storage drums). There is also a view of the entire seaside factory and one of the company’s business offices. Over the next few decades, Fukushima Prefecture underwent significant industrial development and became Japan’s largest energy-supplying region. Whether this album made a specific contribution to that growth by garnering investment we do not know. But it is an interesting artifact of the early stages of the recovery that would become known as the Japanese Economic Miracle.