First Advisor

Ken Ruoff

Date of Award

Spring 6-2022

Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in History and University Honors






Cold War, postwar Japan, communism, labor history, diplomatic history, division




One of the most famous episodes of labor seeking concessions from management in postwar Japan was the Miike strike of 1960 in Ōmuta, Fukuoka Prefecture. The goal of the striking coal miners was to pressure management of the Mitsui Mining Company to rescind over a thousand notices that would force those affected into "voluntary retirement," most targeted union members who were hostile to management. However, there was a lack of unity among the strikers where the miners split between the "first union" and the "second union." The first union was hostile to management and opposed such rationalization measures entirely. The second union was friendly to management and sought to obtain some concessions while allowing rationalization to occur. The result was a humiliating defeat for the strikers who were unable to rescind the layoffs, leading to its end on December 1, 1960. While it was a story of miners fighting for their livelihoods, Japan's postwar labor movement coincided with geopolitical rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union. Japan's defeat in World War II ushered in an era where the United States exerted tremendous leverage on crafting Japanese economic and labor policy. This was also a time when the Truman Doctrine urged the containment of communist influence across the globe. Japan's geopolitical importance meant the United States needed to dissuade Japanese labor from espousing supposed communist tendencies, and this was done through anticommunist campaigns targeting unions. Despite these efforts, there were growing concerns of militancy as the labor movement reacted to Prime Minister Yoshida Shigeru implementing anti-labor policies, the Red Purge, and debates on Japan's neutrality in the Korean War. Simultaneously, labor organizations had concerns on the movement's ideological shifts to the left, thereby permanently paralyzing attempts for labor unity.


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