The occupational structure and residential differentiation of Chinese workers in Tokyo Prefecture during the 1920s

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The purpose of this article is to analyze the occupational structure of Chinese workers during the 1920s in Tokyo Prefecture, paying particular attention to the nature of the labor market and to the impact of local community kinship on residential patterns. The data which the author uses were obtained from the Foreign Affairs Section of the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The results of the paper can be summarized as follows: First, the author notes that most Chinese workers were employed in the construction and labouring sectors. While the occupational structure of traditional Chinese society has been explained in terms of chain migration, the present paper approaches this issue from a political-economic view of the labor market. Thus, the author identifies the interrelations between the occupational structure of the Chinese and their labor market. At that time, heavy and chemical industrialization had occurred, infrastructure had developed and the wage levels of Japanese workers within the economy had been rising. Secondly, as a result, Chinese residential patterns were influenced by the localization of their labor market. Indeed, many Chinese workers were segregated in the Sumida and Ara basins. In these areas, manufacturing plants were concentrating, and a great deal of energy resources and raw materials were being imported. Therefore, low-waged labor generated the greatest proportion of their employment. Consequently, these workers lived closer to those plants and Chinese communities were formed in these districts. Thirdly, there were many Chinese communities other than in the Sumida and Arakawa districts. These were composed of construction workers working outside of Tokyo Prefecture and itinerant traders, for they had to live close to such persons as contractors, employers of itinerant traders, friends and so on. Fourthly, these concentrations of Chinese residents were reinforced by some ecological factors. For example, the occupational form of itinerant traders was based on the relationships between employers and vendors and affected their residential patterns. Thus, different groups of itinerant traders from Shandong, Zhejiang and Hokkien Provinces organized their own communities in Tokyo Prefecture. On the other hand, cooks and barbers tended to rely on kinship in the local Chinese community. However, some cooks and barbers worked for Japanese owners probably to obtain better working conditions. Indeed, there were approximately 500 Japanese owners of Chinese restaurants in Tokyo Prefecture and they provided the Chinese with considerable job opportunities. In addition, these factors resulted in a further dispersal of Chinese cooks. Lastly, the author examines how Japanese Government employment controls affected residential differentiation. During the early 1920s, it is noted that there were loopholes in the law, antipathy toward Chinese people within the Government, and a lack of integrated regulations related to their activities among Prefectures. Therefore, it can be said that employment regulations were fragmented at that time and that these in turn came to influence the occupational and residential patterns of Chinese people in Tokyo Prefecture from the late 1920s.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)23-48
Number of pages26
JournalJapanese Journal of Human Geography
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1999
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geography, Planning and Development


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