In the wake of World War Two, the citizens of Japan were faced with what seemed like an insurmountable task—to rebuild their society, culture, and government from the ground up. As history shows, they proved remarkably successful at this, in part because of a bustling criminal underworld that flourished in Japan's cities in the post-war years (1945-52). Criminal activities from black markets to prostitution to illicit property development deals created the foundation of a new Japan, relying on a strong partnership between Allied forces, Japanese government officials, and the yakuza gumi, or criminal “families” of the underworld.
The Japanese postwar landscape was a nightmare. All major Japanese cities were destroyed in the war. Ever wonder why Tokyo or Osaka weren't hit with nuclear bombs? They were already obliterated. The firebombing of Tokyo incinerated more than 16 square miles of the city, an area equivalent to about 70% of Manhattan. Major cities in Japan were filled with millions of homeless civilians and psychologically damaged war veterans, who slept in bomb craters, ruined buildings, tents, or just out on the street.
From the atomic devastation in Hiroshima and Nagasaki to the firebombing of Tokyo, Allied bombs destroyed huge swaths of Japanese real estate. After the war, the country was left a blank canvas, and the yakuza (or Japanese mafia), flush with cash from the black markets, made unfathomable sums of money on redevelopment.The yakuza inextricably tied itself to business and government in the post-war years by brokering deals with Japanese politicians, gangs, subcontractors, and the 8th Army Procurement, the Allied office in charge of reconstruction money. The outrageous acts committed by these groups continue to have consequences for Japan even today.
Pan Pan girls were prostitutes who catered to Allied military personnel. Their name comes from the Japanese pronunciation of “pom pom," a direct association with American traditions like cheerleaders and small-town sports.
The Pan Pan girls were mostly former employees of the Recreation Amusement Association, an organization created by the Japanese to provide prostitutes to Allied personnel. The organization served as a legitimate pimp service, but shut down in 1946 after the rampant spread of venereal diseases through the Allied community.Pan Pan girls became a major symbol of the occupation, and were used in countless films to imply Allied presence without showing Allied personnel or using spoken English, both of which were forbidden by SCAP (the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers, officially a term for General MacArthur that was used by the Japanese to refer to any of the offices of the US occupation).