Recently, the idea of housing-for-life and housing welfare, which considers resident housing rights and independence rights to be of primary importance is permeating through Japan. Under this concept, squatter areas, once called ‘barrack towns’, have been observed by society and form the object of various support actions. Also, in academic circles some research has begun to shed light on the process of how the barrack towns have remained through time or how they have been improved while taking notice of the residents’ housing and independence rights.
However, such research seldom examines the barrack towns that have disappeared and does not clarify the process of disappearance of barrack towns throughout the city. Indeed, most barrack towns have actually disappeared without being improved. When taking notice of the residents’ independence rights regarding the maintenance and improvement of the living environment of their barrack town, it is also important to pay attention to the process of disappearance of barrack towns where this was not realizable. That is why this paper will discuss the process of disappearance and background of the squatter barrack towns in post-war Kobe City (from immediately after the end of the Second World War until the high economic growth period), while taking notice of the relationship between the trend of their municipal governance and the social circumstances of those days. The process from formation to disappearance of the squatter barrack towns in Kobe City can be summarized as follows:
Immediately after the end of the war, a large number of vagrants who had no place to live, and people who had no choice but to build their own barracks on burnt-out war sites, appeared in Kobe City. Although these two kinds of homeless groups were in the same situation of housing poverty, the response of the administration towards each group was completely different. Accordingly, in contrast to the vagrants, who formed a target of control, the act of building barracks itself, although most probably an illegal act, was permitted and accepted by the city administration as a result of efforts toward self-reliance. So for this reason many barrack towns were constructed while large flows of population were entering Kobe City.
From 1950 onwards however, even though rehabilitation projects were progressing, the removal of barracks by the city administration was begun. Nevertheless, the number of barrack towns increased, since the supply of both public and private housing was unable to fulfill the housing demand of the increasing urban population in the 1950s. This resulted in contrasting situations of barrack towns decreasing or increasing in different parts of Kobe City. The barrack towns in the central area were removed but reappeared afterwards at riverbeds and underneath elevated railway tracks in peripheral areas.
Because of this situation in the 1950s, barrack towns were frequently taken up in newspapers, forming the subject of social problems. This kind of social problem had four sides to it : the issues of landscape, disaster prevention, sanitation, and anti-sociability. These were repeatedly taken up by the mass media, and were used as justifications to the general public for the removal of barracks by the city administration.
In the latter half of the 1950s, the problem of illegal occupancy especially was also taken up as a social problem relating to barrack towns. The correspondence of the administration over this social problem was deployed not on a local scale but on a national scale. Six mayor meetings and chambers of commerce (Tokyo, Yokohama, Nagoya, Kyoto, Osaka, and Kobe) discussed possible measures against illegal occupation. Subsequently, each organization submitted request documents to the Ministry of Justice, and after that Law of Theft of Immovable Property was enacted in the Diet in 1960.
(View PDF for the rest of the abstract.)