Occupied Japan Products

By Paula Kirwan


Following World War II Japan began rebuilding their economy under the occupation of the United States.  During the time period of 1945 to 1952, many goods manufactured in Japan for export were required to be marked “Made in Occupied Japan” (MIOJ) or “Occupied Japan” (OJ), as seen in the photo, right, of an imprint on a piece of china from the period. 


Although some items produced during that time got through the export process unmarked and others continued being marked with “Japan” or “Made in Japan”, many collectors have targeted the pieces marked “Occupied Japan” as their area of special interest, particularly since the time period is so specific and limited.


The quality of porcelain merchandise made in Occupied Japan varied from those that were beautifully produced to those that were crudely painted.  Scarcities in several areas contributed to the wide variation of quality as Japan’s manufacturing abilities were being restored: The lack of equipment, superior grade raw materials, and skilled employees.  One company, Noritake, manufactured chinaware under the name “Rose China” instead of “Noritake” for several years because they could not produce merchandise of the same high quality as their pre-war goods and they did not want to damage their reputation. 


As rebuilding under the occupation progressed, a large variety of objects were made for export   lamps, toys, clocks, cameras, jewelry, dolls, china, fishing gear and lighters, to name just a few. (Photo, left: Occupied Japan floral dish with bark handle from Booth B-311 on sale for $5.75).


In particular, ceramics were extremely popular exports.  Many were inexpensive novelties that were sold in dime stores, while others were beautiful copies of figurines made by English potters, such as Staffordshire and Wedgwood, and European potters, such as Meissen, Dresden and Delft. (Photo, below: One of two mini vases from Booth B-225 on sale for $18 each).


Copies of Berta Hummel figures were manufactured in great numbers, and some of them are so well made that they appear to actually be Hummels.  Pieces of bisque, which is unglazed porcelain, are highly sought after among the Occupied Japan items; wall plaques and figurines of men and women in 17th century costume are among the more popular pieces. 


After porcelain figures, toys are probably the most sought-after Occupied Japan collectibles.  A huge number of toys were made during the period, from dime store varieties such as whistles, compasses, kazoos and card games to finely-made wind-up toys.  The materials used to make such item s included celluloid, cloth, metal, paper, rubber, tin and wood.  These toys are particularly valuable if they come with their original boxes, and made even more so because the Occupied Japan mark may be on the box only, and not on the toy itself. 


Like so many other antiques and collectibles, you may occasionally find fakes.  On porcelain pieces, the back marks were put under the glaze and are typically red or black, so if you see a mark that looks like it was stamped on top of the glaze, be alerted that the piece may not be authentic.


OJ and MIOJ pieces are still available and affordable, and are increasingly popular with collectors.  The variety of goods manufactured in the period opens up a vast array of choices, so there is probably something out there for everyone.




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