Post WWII Japanese judge starved because he was too honest to buy food on the black market. UL?

I was flipping through one of my old economics textbooks looking for something else, when I happened on an anecdote that made my urban legend sense perk up. The authors explain that while authorities can set maximum legal prices for goods (e.g., food), they can’t guarantee adequate supply of those goods at artificially low prices. No argument here. But they go on to say,

The clear implication is that the judge had the money to buy food on the black market but refrained from doing so. Of course, like all good urban legends, there’s nothing inherently impossible about the story so sure it could have happened that way. I’m wondering if it really did happen and if so what the name of the judge was.

Yamaguchi Yoshitada

ETA: they did make one mistake, however. Yamaguchi died in late 1947, not “1945-46”.

There is little support for the story.

“In Japan, just after the WWII, rice was distributed by rationing system but the amount was not enough to survive. It is said that most of the people went for buying illegal rice from black market out of the rationing system and managed to survive. There was a story of one judge whose name was YAMAGUCHI Yoshitada a judge of Tokyo district court, refused to eat such kind of rice therefore destroyed his physical condition and consequently died of malnutrition in that situation.”

Owen Griffith, “Need, Greed, and Protest in Japan’s Black Market, 1938-1949,” Journal of Social History, vol. 35, no. 4 (Summer 2002), p. 858.


Picture of contemporary news article on his death

Other hunger strikers have died by refusing food in support of the principles they were espousing, so the story doesn’t seem inherently unbelievable to me. DrDeth, there seem to be multiple-sourced stories about this judge, with contemporary photographs and other source material. In what way do you believe these are deficient?

Ah, I didn’t get that it was a protest against government policies. I’d assumed it was simple stubbornness. :smack: It makes a lot more sense to me now. Thanks, folks.

Yamaguchi was not protesting the goverment. This passage suggests that he was a judge assigned to punish black market criminals. He was living up to principal. He didn’t feel he should be contributing to the black market since it was his job to enforce the law. All government officials should be expected to live up to the standards they place on those they govern.

He was a highly ethical man, and it is a sad story. His wife also died of malnutrition according to one cite.

Bricker, I don’t think when DrDeth said “there is little support for the story” I think what he meant was “there does seem to be some support for the story” rather than “there is thin evidence that such a thing occurred” I may be wrong though.

What I meant is that the support for the story seems to be always quoting the same source.

I can’t read cckerberos cite.

However, my Dad was part of the post war Administration in Okinawa and the rations for the civilians were higher than what they were given during the last year of the war by the Japanese. Things were very bad during the first few months of the occupation due to the fact the Allies had no idea how bad things were. Thousands starved during that period- but if course many hundreds of 1000s starved during the war.

mhendo cite about Kameo Hideshiro who died in October 1945 seems to be hardly the fault of the Allied Occupation forces, coming as it did less than 2 full months after the surrender and after two years of starvation conditions in Japan.

wiki "MacArthur’s first priority was to set up a food distribution network; following the collapse of the ruling government and the wholesale destruction of most major cities, virtually everyone was starving. Even with these measures, millions of people were still on the brink of starvation for several years after the surrender.[9] As expressed by Kawai Kazuo, “Democracy cannot be taught to a starving people,”[10] and while the US government encouraged democratic reform in Japan, it also sent billions of dollars in aid.[11]
Initially the US government provided emergency food relief through GARIOA funds. In fiscal year 1946 this aid amounted to US$92 million, which were in the form of loans. From April 1946, in the guise of LARA, private relief organizations were also permitted to provide relief. Once the food network was in place, at a cost of up to US$1 million[citation needed] per day…"

In some areas of Asia, people were dying at the rate of 100000 a month.

During the war, civilians were dying throughout Japan at a rate of about 200,000 per month. The submarine blockade and the United States Army Air Forces’s mining operation, Operation Starvation, had effectively cut off Japan’s imports.

So, the fact that the Japanese were dying from starvation at the rate of hundreds of thousands per month at the end shows great doubt cast about the causes of the starvation of those just after the surrender. Deaths from long term malnutrition can occurs quite some time later.

I read mhendo’s cite as blaming the Japanese government for the death rather than SCAP.

There is no shortage of contemporary sources for the death, but unfortunately they’re all in Japanese.

I’m not sure how to convince you. Many of the books use John Dower’s Embracing Defeat as a source because it was a massively influential study of the Occupation that won the Pulitzer Prize. However, the search results also include MITI and the Japanese Miracle, a classic study published more than a decade before Dower’s book. So that, at least, makes two highly reputable English sources.