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Vol. 16, No. 2: AprilJune 1984
Nakamura Masanori - The Emperor System of the 1900s
Kawamura Nozomu - Fukutake Tadashi: Rural Sociologist of
Postwar Japan
Roger W. Bowen - Political Protest in Prewar Japan: The Case of
Fukushima Prefecture
John W. Dower - Art, Children, and the Bomb
Brett de Bary - After the War: Translations from Miyamoto Yuriko
Jayne Werner - Socialist Development: The Political Economy of
Agrarian Reform in Vietnam
Laura E. Hein - The Dark Valley Illuminated: Recent Trends in
Studies of the Postwar Japanese Economy
A. D. Haun - Three Works by Nakano Shigeharu: The House in the
Village, Five Cups of Sake, The Crest-Painter of Hagi, translated by
Brett de Bary / A Review
Sandra Buckley - Flowers in Salt: The Beginnings of Feminist
Consciousness in Japan, by Sharon L. Sievers; and The Hidden Sun:
Women of Modern Japan, by Dorothy Robins-Mowry / A Review
Audrey Kobayashi - Rebellion and Democracy in Meiji Japan: A
Study of Commoners in the Popular Rights Movement by Roger W.
Bowen / A Review
Kenyalang - The Sarawak Chinese by John M. Chin / A Review
Brad Geisert - Nationalist China at War: Military Defeats and
Political Collapse, 193745 by Hsi-sheng Chi / A Review
BCAS/Critical AsianStudies
CCAS Statement of Purpose
Critical Asian Studies continues to be inspired by the statement of purpose
formulated in 1969 by its parent organization, the Committee of Concerned
Asian Scholars (CCAS). CCAS ceased to exist as an organization in 1979,
but the BCAS board decided in 1993 that the CCAS Statement of Purpose
should be published in our journal at least once a year.
We first came together in opposition to the brutal aggression of
the United States in Vietnam and to the complicity or silence of
our profession with regard to that policy. Those in the field of
Asian studies bear responsibility for the consequences of their
research and the political posture of their profession. We are
concerned about the present unwillingness of specialists to speak
out against the implications of an Asian policy committed to en-
suring American domination of much of Asia. We reject the le-
gitimacy of this aim, and attempt to change this policy. We
recognize that the present structure of the profession has often
perverted scholarship and alienated many people in the field.
The Committee of Concerned Asian Scholars seeks to develop a
humane and knowledgeable understanding of Asian societies
and their efforts to maintain cultural integrity and to confront
such problems as poverty, oppression, and imperialism. We real-
ize that to be students of other peoples, we must first understand
our relations to them.
CCAS wishes to create alternatives to the prevailing trends in
scholarship on Asia, which too often spring from a parochial
cultural perspective and serve selfish interests and expansion-
ism. Our organization is designed to function as a catalyst, a
communications network for both Asian and Western scholars, a
provider of central resources for local chapters, and a commu-
nity for the development of anti-imperialist research.
Passed, 2830 March 1969
Boston, Massachusetts
Vol. 16, No. 2/Apr.-June, 1984
Nakamura Masanori 2 The Emperor System of the 1900s
Kawamura Nozomu 12 Fukutake Tadashi, Rural Sociologist of Postwar Japan
Roger W. Bowen 23 Political Protest in Prewar Japan: The Case
of Fukushima Prefecture
John W. Dower 33 Art, Children, and the Bomb
Brett de Bary 40 After the War: Translations from Miyamoto Yuriko
Jayne Werner 48 Socialist Development: The Political Economy
of Agrarian Reform in Vietnam
Laura E. Hein 56 The Dark Valley Illuminated: Recent Trends
in Studies of the Postwar Japanese Economy
A. D.Haun 59 Three Works by Nakano Shigeharu: The House in
the Village, Five Cups ofSake, The Crest-Painter
ofHagi, translated by Brett de Bary/review
Sandra Buckley 63 Flowers in Salt: The Beginnings ofFeminist
Consciousness in Japan, by Sharon L. Sievers,
and The Hidden Sun: Women ofModern Japan,
by Dorothy Robins-Mowry/review
Audrey Kobayashi 66 Rebellion andDemocracy in MeijiJapan: A Study
of Commoners in the Popular Rights Movement, by
RogerW. Bowen/review
Kenyalang 69 The Sarawak Chinese, by JohnM. Chin/review
Brad Geisert 71 Nationalist China at War: Military Defeats and
Political Collapse, 1937--45, by Hsi-shengCh'i
72 List of Books to Review
Roger Bowen: Department of Government, Colby College,
Waterville, Maine
Sandra Buckley: Asian Studies Centre, University of Adelaide,
Adelaide, South Australia
Brett de Bary: Department of Asian Studies, Cornell Univer
sity, Ithaca, New York
John W. Dower: Department of History, University of
Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin
Brad Geisert: Department of History ,Northwest Missouri State
University, Maryville, Missouri
A. D. Haun: Stanford University, Stanford, California
Laura E. Hein: Graduate student, Department of History,
University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin
Kawamura Nozomu: Department of Sociology, Tokyo Metro
politan University, Tokyo, Japan
Kenyalang: A student of Sarawak affairs
Audrey Kobayashi: Department of Geography, McGill Univer
sity, Montreal, Quebec
Nakamura Masanori: Faculty of Economics, Hitotsubashi
University, Tokyo, Japan
Jayne Werner: Southern Asian Institute, Columbia University,
New York, New York
The Emperor System of the 1900s
by Nakamura Masanori
The prewar Japanese state with its emperor system had a
set of characteristics not to be found at any time in any other
capitalist country. The absolutist emperor system emerged
progressively, but not full blown, out of the Meiji Restoration
after the suppression of the Movement for Democratic Rights.
With the promulgation of the 1889 Meiji Constitution in 1889
and the Imperial Rescript on Education in 1890, it was
consolidated. Later, following the Sino-Japanese and Russo
Japanese Wars, the emperor system transformed itself into an
imperialist state. Then, during the 1930s, it became, along
with Germany and Italy, one of the mainstays of the
international fascist movement, thereby dragging the whole
nation into the first total war in Japanese history.
That the very same power kept playing so many different
historical roles is a rare phenomenon, perhaps without equal
in the history of the world. I But what exactly did the emperor
system mean for the modernization of Japan? That question
remains a matter of deep concern for the Japanese people, as
evidenced by the growing number of historians who are
attempting to reassess the entire course of Japan's moderniza
tion and have been conducting new investigations into the
modem emperor system since the 1960s. For fifty years
students of modem Japanese history have debated the question
of whether the Meiji Restoration should be interpreted as a
bourgeois revolution or as an emergence of absolutism.
Although the controversy is still to be decided academically,
it seems safe to say that the scholarly mainstream regards the
Restoration as the emergence of absolutist rule.
When it comes to the question of how to interpret the
emperor system in the age of imperialism that began in the
1900s, this conventional view divides into two schools of
1. Shimoyama Saburo, "Kindai tennosei kenkyu no igi to hoho" [The
Significance of the Methodology for Studying the Modem Japanese Emperor
System] in Rekishigaku Kenkyu (July 1966).
thought. One school maintains that as capitalism developed in
Japan the absolutist emperor system changed itself accordingly
by acquiring certain bourgeois appearances. Yet the absolutist
nature of the system remained essentially unchanged until Japan
lost the war in 1945.
The other school insists on stressing that
the absolutist emperor system actually transformed itself into
a bourgeois, imperialistic power. 3 Further controversy then
arises among historians over the specific timing of that change.
Unfortunately, neither view succeeds in grasping the real
historical significance of the modem emperor system. The
former view, which emphasizes the absolutist aspects of the
emperor system, fails to recognize in its theory of the state the
full significance of a crucial fact: Japan's economic structure
changed over time and acquired bourgeois characteristics. In
other words, Japanese capitalism completed its industrial
revolution between 1890 and 1910, and attained the monopoly
capitalist stage in the 1920s. The latter view on the other hand
pays attention to the transformation of absolutist into bourgeois
power, but slights the absolutist aspects of the political
structure. Specifically, it fails to offer a convincing explanation
for the fact that the emperor system continued to keep the
Japanese people under its absolute, un-democratic control until
its defeat in 1945. The question I should like to address here
is: how can we overcome the drawbacks inherent in these two
views and formulate an alternative theory of the modem
emperor system?
2. Hoshino Jun. Shakai Koseitai ikljron josetsu [Introduction to the Theory
of Transition of Social Formation] (Miraisha. 1969) and Kokka ikoron no
tenkai [On the Development of the Theory of State Transition] (Miraisha,
3. Goto Yasushi, "Kindai tennoseiron" [On the Modem Emperor System] in
Koza Nihonshi, Volume 9 (Tokyo Daigaku Shuppankai, 1971) and "Kokka
Kenryoku no Kozo ni kansuru shosetsu" [Concerning Theories of the Structure
of State Power], in Nihon shihonshugi hattatsushi (Yiihikaku, 1979).
Establishment of the Basic Organization
of the Emperor System, 1900-1910
Japanese historians have been long accustomed to
discussing the emperor system mainly in relation to the Meiji
Restoration. But when the emperor system first became the
subject of scientific inquiry, during the twenties and early
thirties, it was discussed in close conjunction with the debate
on the strategy for the Japanese revolution then taking place
within the Marxist camp. At that time the main focus of analysis
was not the power of the emperor system forged during the
Meiji Restoration but rather the imperial power then in the
process of suppressing the people inside Japan and stepping
up colonial aggression abroad. The 1927 and 1932 Theses of
the Japanese Communist Party called the emperor system into
question not as a power existing in the past era of the Meiji
Restoration but precisely as a power existing in the present age
of imperialism characterized by highly advanced monopoly
Discussing the modern emperor system primarily in
relation to the Meiji Restoration abstracts it from its essential
character, however, and is tantamount to defining the emperor
system as the final form of a feudal, absolutist state existing
at the last stage of the dissolution of feudal society. Such a
definition implies also that the modern emperor system was
incapable of shedding its basic nature as a feudalistic-absolutist
state, irrespective of the development and the structural changes
which Japanese capitalism experienced subsequently. An
argument on revolutionary strategy derived from this view
maintained that it would be impossible to advance a thesis of
a two-stage revolution unless the emperor system was defined
as a quasi-feudal, absolutist state. This formulation betrays an
attempt to one-sidedly magnify and fix a historical event by
going back to its genesis.
Clearly, we need to view the matter from a different
standpoint. Rather than focusing on the emperor system during
the stage when its fundamental structure was in the process of
formation, or viewing the interwar period exclusively from the
perspective of the Meiji Restoration as has been done
previously, we must approach the question from the reverse
direction and ask: when and how was the emperor system, the
object of analysis of the 1932 Theses, both "formed" and
"established"? Quite unlike the ordinary, commonsense
understanding of the word, "establishment" in this sense does
not mean that something solid and fixed is brought to
completion. Rather, inherent in the logic of establishment is
the logic of dissolution, for the very manner in which something
is established has inherent in it the moment of contradiction
which later determines the way in which it is dissolved. That
is, the manner of the emperor system's establishment
determined the manner of its dissolution and, conversely, the
very manner in which the old regime ended its historical life
and dissolved revealed the basic nature of the emperor system
at the time of its establishment. In other words, the process of
establishment of the emperor system and of its dissolution are
closely related to each other, each illuminating and being
illuminated by the other. Adopting this standpoint should
enable us to correct the distorted image of the emperor system
which derived from viewing it only from the perspective of
the Meiji Restoration and develop a balanced overview of the
historical evolution of the emperor system all the way from its
genesis in the Meiji Restoration to its collapse on August 15,
Japan's military victory in the Sino-Japanese
and Russo-Japanese Wars and the colonization
of Taiwan and Korea represented a significant
breakthrough for the ideology of the emperor
system, which thereafter began spreading and
striking roots deep among the Japanese people.
In a sense the emperor system took advantage of
the two wars not only in solidifying the military
machine-the core of the state machinery-but
also in bringing to completion its dominion with
regard to ideology.
If we take this standpoint and look at the dissolution of
the emperor system as an ancien regime, we must begin by
asking the destruction of which component elements of the old
order enables us to say that the system as such came to a
standstill. Briefly, the characteristic features of the fall of the
old order can be summarized in terms of the following six areas:
the dissolution of the emperor-led military; the loss of the
colonial territories; the dissolution of the zaibatsu; the land
reform; the establishment of the new Constitution; and the
collapse of the ideology of the emperor system. On the level
of the theory of the state there were three decisively important
mainstays of the old order among the above features of the
emperor system: the Meiji Constitution, the military and the
bureaucratic apparatuses, and the ideology of the emperor
system (the ideology of domination typically manifested in the
Imperial Rescript on Education). On the level of the economic
substructure there were three other mainstays: the old colonial
territories (Taiwan, Korea and "Manchuria"), the zaibatsu
interests, and the parasitic landlord system. This logically leads
us to another set of questions. When and how were these six
component elements of the emperor system formed? And,
given that these six elements did not exist independently of
each other but in certain structural relations to one another,
what were these binding relations?
Finding answers to these questions will be of decisive
importance in identifying the structure which the emperor
system had in its formative stage. There is not enough space
to make a detailed examination of this matter, but it seems
clear that the above six component elements of the emperor
system, each structurally joined to the other, formed and took
root in the period following the Sino-Japanese War through
the aftermath of the Russo-Japanese War, in other words, in
the period from 1900 through 1910. These six component
elements did not stand in parallel with each other at the same
level: the military machine and soldiers carried the heaviest
weight, playing the role of a link binding the other five
elements. Moreover, the possession of the colonies pushed the
military in the direction of becoming a force with a large degree
of independence. More precisely, the colonization of Taiwan
in 1895 and Korea in 1910, though having taken place within
an institutional framework in which the prerogatives of supreme
command was supposed to be inviolable, actually served as a
crucial stimulus to the military to grow larger and become a
central political force in its own right. Japan's military victory
in the Sino-Japanese and Russo-Japanese Wars and the
colonization of Taiwan and Korea represented a significant
breakthrough for the ideology of the emperor system, which
thereafter began spreading and striking roots deep among the
Japanese people. In a sense the emperor system took advantage
of the two wars not only in solidifying the military
machine-the core of the state machinery-but also in bringing
to completion its dominion with regard to ideology as well.
As for the Meiji Constitution, the fundamental law of the
state which legally epitomized the emperor system, the year
of its promulgation, 1899, marked an epoch in Japan's modem
history. From that time forward the fundamental shape of the
state was determined, though the Constitution did not actually
begin to function with political effectiveness until after the
Sino-Japanese War. In the Diet prior to the Sino-Japanese War,
the Government with its fukoku kyohei (enrich the nation,
strengthen the military) policy was always fighting fiercely with
the political parties which insisted upon policies of minryoku
kyuyo (store up national power through alleviation of tax
burdens) and keihi setsugen (curtail state expenditures). The
extent of political control at the disposal of the Meiji
Government was thus very unstable.
What about the parasitic landlords and the zaibatsu
interests which were the class and economic foundations for
the emperor system? The landlord system established itself first
as an integral part of the dominant system of rule, followed
by the zaibatsu interests which succeeded in forming Konzerns
in the period between the end of the Sino-Japanese War and
the aftermath of the Russo-Japanese War. In this period the
zaibatsu interests and the landlords formed a bourgeois-landlord
bloc. The fundamental structure of the emperor system
characterized by the six component elements mentioned above
can, therefore, be regarded as having been established during
the course of the first decade of this century.
If the above analysis of the structure of the emperor system
in its formative stage is correct, then the following question
arises: how to define the historical and class nature of this
emperor-system-dominated state.
In answering this question, it is necessary first to clarify
the characteristics of the Japanese bourgeoisie and landed
proprietors who together constituted the class basis of the
emperor-system-dominated state, and then go on to discuss the
central features of the organizational structure of this state as
epitomized by the Meiji Constitution.
Economic and Political Composition
of the Capitalist Class
Japanese capitalism simultaneously established itself and
completed its transformation into imperialism in the period
between 1890 and 1910. Keeping abreast of this change, the
capitalist class secured the position of an economically
dominant class. Although the bourgeoisie became an econom
ically dominant class, the specific types of capitalists varied
from one industrial sector to another depending on the
differences in the modes of capital accumulation. Consequently
there were differences in the relations they had with the
emperor-system-dominated state power. In order to clarify
these differences it is necessary to classify capital into several
types and identify the corresponding types of Japanese
capitalists as well. Anticipating my conclusion, the kinds of
capital that existed in the formative period of Japanese
capitalism fell into five types: 1) state capital, 2) zaibatsu
capital, 3) spinning interests (bOseki capital), 4) silk-reeling
interests (seishi capital), and 5) weaving interests.
Japanese capitalism simultaneously estab
lished itself and completed its transformation
into imperialism in the period between 1890 and
1910. Keeping abreast of this change, the
capitalist class secured the position of an
economicaUy dominant class.
State capitai consisted not only of "state capital in the
form of industrial capital" operating in such government-con
trolled enterprises as the Army and Navy Arsenals, steel works,
railways and telephone and telegram, but also of special banks
including the Bank of Japan and other kinds of "state capital
in the form of loan capital." Throughout the period of the
industrial revolution, these various types of state capital
continued to gain in importance. For instance, in mining,
manufacturing, and transportation, the share of government
owned enterprises in the total amount of owned capital and
reserve fund of both government and private enterprises
combined was 29.3 percent in 1897 and 27.2 percent in 1902.
In 1907 the government's share leaped to over 50 percent as
a result of the extensive nationalization of railways. In banking,
too, state capital loomed large. The special banks' share in the
total paid-up capital and deposits of special and commercial
banks combined increased from 31.4 percent in 1897 to 38.5
percent in 1907. Behind this significant weight held by state
capital lay the fact that private industrialists had been able to
accumulate only insignificant amounts of funds. Second, in
view of the large risk involved in investment in heavy
industries, zaibatsu interests chose not to go into these areas.
Initially the Meiji Government, driven by the necessity to
compete militarily and politically with the advanced imperialist
countries and with the countries of Southeast Asia, poured
4. Nakamura Masanori, "Kindai tennosei Kokkaron" [The State Under the 5. Nakamura Masanori, "Nihon burujoajii no kosei" [The composition of the
Modem Emperor System] in Nakamura Masanori, ed., Taikei Nihon Kokkashi Japanese Bourgeoisie] in Oishi Kaichiro, ed., Nihon sangyo kakumei no kenkyii
[Outline of the History of the Japanese State, Modem Period I] (Tokyo [Studies in the Japanese Industrial Revolution], Vol. 2 (Tokyo Daigaku
Daigaku Shuppankai, 1975). Shuppankai, 1975).
enonnous amounts of government funds into government
owned enterprises in complete disregard of cost-profit consid
erations. Thus not only did state capital serve as an important
economic base, facilitating the transfonnation of Japanese
capitalism into imperialism, it also provided the essential
material conditions for the bureaucrats of the emperor system
to attain relative autonomy.
The second variety of capital, zaibatsu capital, was
represented by the three largest all-around zaibatsu-Mitsui,
Mitsubishi and Sumitomo. These zaibatsu capitalists operated
basically as family-based and closed consolidations of several
undertakings. Their pattern of accumulation was through
diversified operations rather than accumulation by way of
specialization in one specific industry. For instance, Mitsui had
three major undertakings under its direct control: Mitsui
Bussan, Mitsui Bank and Mitsui Mining, while Mitsubishi had
as its mainstays Mitsubishi Mining, Mitsubishi Shipbuilding
and Mitsubishi Marine Transportation.
Zaibatsu capital chose this pattern of accumulation based
on diversified operations because during the time of primitive
accumulation state capitalism had already inaugurated the key
sectors of heavy industry. This pattern of accumulation through
diversification became all the more solid as the sectors of
political and military significance grew larger during the period
of industrial revolution. As a result, with the notable exception
of mining and shipbuilding industries, the zaibatsu interests
were barely able to hold a grip on the heavy industrial sectors.
They had to content themselves with controlling the light
industrial sectors or the sectors of circulation including banks
and trading companies.
In spite of this, the zaibatsu interests succeeded in making
enonnous profits as they managed to coax the emperor
dominated state into offering them all sorts of protection on a
preferential basis. To cite some examples of the privileges they
enjoyed, the business activities of Mitsui Bank in the period
of industrial revolution were sustained by large sums of
borrowings from the Bank of Japan. Mitsui Bussan was able
to carry out business thanks to large sums of government and
social funds mobilized on its behalf by Yokohama Specie Bank,
Mitsui Bank, Daiichi Bank, and Shanghai Bank of Hong Kong.
Mitsubishi enjoyed privileges of no less significance. Nippon
Yiisen Kaisha and Mitsubishi Shipyard in Nagasaki were able
to gain huge profits, thanks to preferential measures with regard
to fund procurement that were prescribed under the Navigation
Promotion Law and the Shipbuilding Promotion Law. In short,
the zaibatsu interests were more dependent upon and much
closer to the state power than other private interests.
Third, the cotton spinning industry, along with the
railways, was one of the industries that led Japan's industrial
revolution. With exports of cotton yarn surpassing imports in
1897, the industry became competitive internationally. As early
as 1903-04, on the eve of the Russo-Japanese War, the six
largest spinning companies had solidly established themselves,
prematurely gaining monopoly control over the spinning
industry. The pattern of accumulation in the cotton spinning
industry was characterized by a heavy reliance on external
funds. Capitalists in this industry met their requirements for
6. Matsumoto Hiroshi, Mitsui zaibatsu no Kenkyu [A Study of Mitsui
Zaibatsu] (Yoshikawa Kobunkan, 1979).
''A uniquely researched, lucidly
written, powerfully compelling
dramatic account . ... There Is
nothing like it in the entire
literature on post-J949 rural
China. A major contribution to
our understanding of what
really happened in rural China
in the era of Mao Zedong."
-Edward Friedman
The Recent History of a
Peasant Community in
Mao's China
by Anita Chan, Richard Madsen,
and Jonathan Unger
$19.95 at bookstores
University of California Press
Berkeley 94720
fixed capital (that is, equipment funds) by mobilizing the
savings of merchants and landlords through the medium of
joint stock companies. In the procurement of the liquid capital
(funds for purchasing of raw cotton) they at first relied heavily
on borrowings from banks, but eventually the supply of credits
by trading companies in the fonn of cotton bills became much
more popular. The excessively heavy reliance on external funds
by the capitalists in the spinning industry meant that they had
to meet heavy interest payments. But they managed to raise
profits far in excess of that burden through forcing female
spinning workers to do exhausting midnight labor at wages no
better than those paid in colonial India. On behalf of the
spinning industry, too, the state devised various sorts of
politically motivated protection, even though these were not
so generous as those enjoyed by the zaibatsu interests. The
measures of protection included exemption from both the raw
cotton import duty and the cotton yarn export duty, provision
of subsidies to cargo ships running on the Bombay line under
contract to carry cotton from India, and granting by the Bank
of Japan and the Specie Bank of foreign exchange credits for
import of raw cotton and export of cotton yarn and cotton cloth.
It is therefore impossible to discuss the rapid growth of the
Japanese spinning industry without referring to these measures
of protection offered by the state.
7. Takamura Naosuke, Nihon bOsekigyoshi josetsu [Introduction to the History
ofthe Japanese Cotton Spinning Industry, vols. I, 2](Hanawa Shobo, 1971).
In brief, the electoral system consisted of
different levels of representatives, with town and
village assemblies situated at the bottom, pro
ceeding up to the prefectural assemblies, the
national Diet and the House of Peers. The
interests of local men of influence (meibOka) was
its axis and on that basis stood the power of the
emperor system with the emperor at the peak of
the pyramid.
Fourth, the silk reeling industry solidly laid its foundation
in 1894, the year in which the production of mill-reeled silk
surpassed that of hand-reeled silk. Outstripping Italy in terms
of export in 1905 and China in 1909, the Japanese silk industry
became the world's largest silk exporter. Unlike the spinning
factories which were run in the form of joint stock companies,
the silk mills were either private managements or family
partnerships. The mills were able to meet their equipment
expenses by themselves since the amounts involved were not
so large, but they relied on raw silk wholesalers in Yokohama
and local banks for the supply of funds for purchasing cocoons.
Such borrowings took up a dominant portion of their liquid
capital requirements. Furthermore, the silk reeling industry was
subject to the control of the American silk fabric industry across
the Pacific Ocean. This placed it in the unfavorable situation
of being frequently troubled by violent changes in silk thread
price which were out of their own control. Placed in such a
situation, the silk-reeling industry was virtually without any
assurance of making profits on a constant basis. The capitalists
in the silk reeling industry made up for this particular weakness
by forcing the cocoon raising peasants to supply their cocoons
at an extremely low price, and forcing the silk-reeling female
workers to do long hours of hard work for little pay. 8
In contrast to the generous measures of protection the
government took on behalf of the zaibatsu and the cotton
spinning interests, the silk reeling industry had far more limited
and indirect governmental protection. In the period from the
l890s through the 1900s, the government policy toward the
sericulture industry was centered on the provision of politically
motivated financing (i.e., financial aid) to the raw silk
wholesale merchants in Yokohama. In other words, the
capitalists in the silk-reeling industry were "protected" only
indirectly in the sense that the wholesalers, supported by
government financing, made advance payments to them.
Here we see the difference in the intensity of class unity
between capitalists in the cotton spinning industry and those
in the silk-reeling industry. The bourgeoisie in the cotton
spinning industry reorganized their Federation of Cotton
8. Ishii Kanji, Nihon sanshigyoshi bunseki [An Analysis of the History of the
Japanese Silk Industryl (Tokyo Daigaku Shuppankai, 1972).
Spinners' Associations in 1888, discarding its former appear
ance as a government-dictated organization and making it
appear a more independent and horizontally structured
organization. Thereafter, the Federation served on the one hand
as a vehicle for implementation of industry-wide labor policies
such as countermeasures against strikes and prevention of an
excessive scramble for female workers by the spinning mills,
and on the other hand it functioned as a lobbying organization
vis-a-vis the government, successfully coaxing it into providing
the set of protective policies mentioned above.
In contrast, the capitalists in the silk reeling industry, who
were mostly small- and medium-sized capitalists located in the
countryside, were unable to organize themselves on a
nation-wide scale in this period. Rather it was the Silk Yarn
Exporters' Association of Yokohama, an organization of the
raw silk wholesale merchants, that represented the interests of
the sericulture industry as a whole. In a way this reflects the
weaker position vis-a-vis industrial capitalists of the silk reeling
interests, depending as they did upon merchant capital.
The fifth category of capital was the weaving industry,
which we shall touch on only in passing. Except for the limited
cases in which cotton spinning companies were also active in
weaving and looming operations, these operations were mostly
carried out on the basis of farming-out by the piece under the
control of weaver-merchants. Weaver-merchants directly
rented out weaving materials to loom-workers, paid them at a
piece rate, and received the cloth in return. What was
characteristic of the weaving industry, furthermore, was that
these weaver-merchants in turn were more or less dependent
upon yam dealers or local wholesale merchants. Because their
membership was composed of different types of traders with
varying interests, the trade associations of weavers lacked
unity. Accordingly, they did not have much ability to pressure
the state authority into taking important measures on their
behalf. Compared with the capitalists in the cotton spinning
and the silk-reeling industries, the capitalists in the weaving
industry were more distant from state power and were able to
acquire far less government protection. In that sense, capital
operating in the weaving industry was the least privileged
among the five categories of capital mentioned above.
We have examined several segments of the Japanese
bourgeoisie with reference to the corresponding categories of
capital. Clearly, the capitalists in the various industrial sectors
in Japan were far from uniform. Capitalists formed a hierarchy
in accordance with differences in the pattern of accumulation
in each sector and differences in the degree of governmental
protection each enjoyed. The zaibatsu capitalists stood at the
top, followed by the capitalists of the cotton spinning industry,
next the silk reeling industry and finally the weaving industry.
In other words, the interests of the bourgeoisie were divided
along the borders of industrial sectorse, making it impossible
for the bourgeoisie in these sectors to join hands with each
other across the boundaries of industries and form an
autonomous class unity of the bourgeoisie as a whole.
Thus, the bureaucrats of the emperor system, in
implementing policies that reflected the interests of the
bourgeoisie, did not have to do anything other than organize
from above the zaibatsu capitalists who stood at the top of the
whole bourgeoisie and simply rely on them for full fledged
cooperation. As a matter of fact, after the Sino-Japanese War,
the bureaucrats began to solicit the opinion of the zaibatsu
affiliated capitalists by asking them to take part in various
governmental consultative bodies. On their part the capitalists
actively began to work upon politicians and bureaucrats through
various channels, and to succeed in realizing their interests to
some extent.
Three such channels linked the bureaucrats and the
zaibatsu interests. The first channel consisted of the various
consultative bodies of the government such as the Supreme
Conference of Agriculture, Commerce and Industry (1896-98)
and the Currency System Investigation Committee (1893-95),
both of which operated in the post-Sino-Japanese War period,
and the Production Investigation Committee (1910-12) which
appeared in the post-Russo-Japanese War period. Zaibatsu
affiliated capitalists were asked to sit in these consultative
bodies as influential members. The second channel of
communication between the bourgeoisie and the bureaucrats
was provided by such organizations of the bourgeoisie as the
Japan Economic Society (1897), the Society of Commercial
and Industrial Economy (1900-created jointly by the Japan
Economic Society and the Tokyo Society for Consultation on
Commerce and Industry), and especially the Yiiraku Club
(1900), an organization of Tokyo-based zaibatsu capitalists.
The third channel took the fonn of "private" and cozy
relationships which business maintained with bureaucrats and
politicians. These ties became especially important from
around the Russo-Japanese War as the zaibatsu interests began
to establish, on the private level, relationships by marriage
with prominent politicians-Mitsui with Inoue Kaoru,
Sumitomo with Saionji Kinmochi, Furukawa with Hara
Takashi, and Mitsubishi with Kato Takaaki-and, on the
collective level, a reliable channel with the bureaucrats in the
fonn of the Anko-kai (Anglerfish Eating Club) during the first
Katsura administration and the Unagi-kai (Eel Eating Club)
during the second Katsura administration.
In contrast, the cotton spinning interests, the second most
important section of the bourgeoisie after the zaibatsu
capitalists, rallied under the banner of the industry-wide
association of their own, the Japan Federation of Cotton
Spinners, submitting proposals to and petitioning the govern
ment in search of various measures of governmental protection
on various issues. The channel between themselves and the
government was not so solid as the ones the zaibatsu interests
enjoyed. The silk-reeling and the weaving interests had hardly
any reliable connection with the government. In addition to
those we have mentioned above, other important associations
of capitalists came into existence after the Sino-Japanese War
such as prefectural Chambers of Commerce composed of local
merchants and industrialists and the National Federation of the
local Chambers. The activities of these organizations, for
instance the submission of various proposals and petitions to
the government, reflected chiefly the interests of the larger
bourgeoisie of major urban centers, like Tokyo, Osaka,
Yokohama, Kyoto, Kobe and Nagoya. Only the anti-Business
Tax campaign of 1896-97 reflected the interests of the smaller
bourgeoisie as well.
9. Nakamura Masanori, "Nihon shihonshugi kakuritsuki no kokka kenryoku"
[State Power in the Period of the Establishment of Japanese Capitalism] in
Rekishigaku Kenkyii, bessatsu tokushu 1970. Yamashita Naoto, "Ni-Shin
Nichi-Ro senkanki ni okeru zaibatsu burujoajii no seisaku shiko" [The Zaibatsu
Bourgeoisie and their Policies between the Sino-Japanese and Russo-Japanese
Wars] in Rekishigaku kenkyii (November, 1977).
Hawaii Under
the Rising Sun
Japan's Plans for Conquest
After Pearl Harbor
By John J. Stephan
240 pages, $16.95
This book reveals Japan's wartime plans
to invade and occupy Hawaii following
the December 7, 1941 air attack on Pearl
The seizure of the Hawaiian Islands, America's
main outpost in the Pacific, was to have been the
most ambitious and far-reaching Japanese opera
tion of World War II. Conceived by officers on
the staff of Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, Com
bined Fleet commander, the invasion of Hawaii
was regarded as the kind of blow that would pre
clude an American counteroffensive, force Presi
dent Roosevelt to the peace table, and guarantee
Japan's future security in the Pacific Basin. While
the military worked on the invasion plans, civilian
planners prepared scenarios of Hawaii under Jap
anese rule. Included in those scenarios were the
restoration of the Hawaiian monarchy as a puppet
government, the breakup of major American
firms, and the re-education of Hawaii's Japanese
American population.
"With scrupulous care and responsibility [John
Stephan] has pieced together materials from many
sources to trace Japanese preparation for the con
quest and occupation of Hawaii. It is sobering to
realize that, despite the ambivalence that must
have characterized the outlook of senior members
of Hawaii's Japanese community, the war years
found them left alone to contribute their work and
products to the economy of the Islands. The mass
evacuation of West Coast Japanese Americans
thereby becomes even stranger and less just."
-Marius B. Jansen, Princeton University
John J. Stephan, professor of history at the University
of Hawaii, is also the author of Sakhalin: A History,
The Kuril Islands: Russo-Japanese Frontier in the Pacif
ic, and The Russian Fascists: Tragedy and Farce in
To order: Send check, money order, or VISA or
MasterCard information (account number, expi
ration date, signature) for $18.00 (includes ship
ping) per copy to:
University of Hawaii Press
2840 Kolowalu Street
Honolulu, Hawaii 96822
\.. _____________________- " ~
Strata of Land Owners
Total Amount of Land Number of
Land Value Value in Thousand Yen Percentage ofTotal LandOwners Percentage ofTotal
More than 100,000 Yen 7,382 0.46 41 0.0006
50,000-100,000 Yen 10,063 0.63 154 0.0023
10,000-50,000 Yen 85,212 5.36 5,208 0.08
1,000-10,000 Yen 503,067 31.63 255,086 38.27
400-1,000 Yen 436,413 27.44 701,709 10.53
200-400 Yen 259,897 16.34 919,144 13.79
Less than 200 Yen 288,328 18.13 4,784,440 71.78
Total: 1,590,362 100.00 6,665,782 100.00
Source: Prefectural Affairs Department, Home Ministry, "Table of Private Landed Property in Each Metropolitan Area and Prefecture," Home Ministry, 1886.
Various sections of the bourgeoisie had their own interests
reflected in. the will of the state in different ways and these
differences formed a multiple-layered hierarchical structure,
corresponding to the hierarchical relations among these sections
themselve. The character of the Japanese bourgeoisie thus in
tum provided a basis for the relative autonomy of the
bureaucrats in the service of the emperor system.
There was another economically dominant class with no
less significance than the bourgeoisie, the landlords. In the last
decade of the nineteenth century the landlord class established
its dominant position in Japanese rural society. 10 Like the
bourgeoisie, the landlord class was internally stratified.
According to the 1886 "Survey on Landowners by Class
Strata," made by the Prefectural Affairs' Department of the
Home Ministry (see table), forty-one landlords, possessing land
valued at over 100,000 yen, occupied the top of the pyramid.
Its base consisted of about 4,780,000 petty land owners with
land valued at less than 200 yen. Thus, the farming class had
a pyramidal structure.
This hierarchy of land ownership similarly shaped the
political order of the village. The various electoral systems
from the state level down to the village level show this quite
clearly. Prior to the opening of the Imperial Diet in April 1889,
the Town and Village Ordinance was enacted together with
electoral systems for the selection of town and village
assemblymen and assemblymen for prefectural and metropoli
tan district assemblies. This system of local self government
accorded rights of participation in local government only to
"citizens" (kOmin). To qualify as a kOmin one had to meet three
10. Nakamura Masanori, Kindai Nihon jinushiseishi kenkyu [A Study on
Landlord System in Modem Japan] (University of Tokyo Press, 1979).
conditions: 1) be a male house head over twenty-five years of
age; 2) live in the same town or village for over two years;
and 3) in order to qualify for the rights of suffrage and
participation in town and village assemblies, pay a land tax or
direct national taxes of over two yen. In short, the decisive
qualification for becoming a kOmin was possession of a
significant amount of property.
Moreover, the election of town and village assemblymen
rested on a system of ranking and dividing electors into two
different classes, an arrangement highly advantageous to
owners of large amounts of landed property. The list of electors
was drawn up corresponding to the amount of money that each
paid in taxes. The top group, who paid over one half of the
total amount of vifllage taxes, were designated as first-class
electors. The remainder were made second class electors. Each
group elected one-half of the total number of village
assemblymen. Naturally, only first class landowners could
become village chiefs or village assemblymen. Often they
simply sent to the village assembly people directly under their
influence, thereby further strengthening their own voice in
village affairs.
The qualifications for prefectural assemblymen and
national Diet members were extremely favorable to the upper
strata of land owners. Suffrage rights for prefectural assembly
men and metropolitan district assemblymen were given only
to those who paid over 5 yen in direct national taxes, chiefly
the land tax. Eligibility rights were given to those who paid
over 10 yen in direct national taxes. Both the suffrage and
eligibility requirements for the Diet were limited to payers of
over 15 yen in taxes. In 1890, payers of a land tax of 15 yen
were either landed farmers or small landowners owning fields
of about two hectares, so the overwhelming majority of men
sent to the first Imperial Diets were landlords, people whose
occupation was agriculture.
This particular mechanism of electoral representation lay
behind the criticism that the early Diets were "landlord Diets."
Although we speak of landlord Diets, the House of Represen
tatives actually centered mainly on middle- and small-scale
landlords. The stage for the activities of large-scale land owners
was the House of Peers, which was composed of members of
the imperial family, the court nobility, imperial appointees and
those who paid large amounts of taxes. The Peers was the
stronghold of the emperor system.
Large landlords entered the House of Peers on the basis
of the "Large Taxpayers Membership System," thereby
securing their voice in the control of national affairs. This
system elected one Peer from each prefecture and metropolitan
district. They were elected by mutual vote from among the top
fifteen payers of direct national taxes (both land and income
In brief, the electoral system consisted of different levels
of representatives, with town and village assemblies situated
at the bottom, proceeding up to the prefectural assemblies, the
national Diet and the House of Peers. The interests of local
men of influence (meibOka) was its axis and on that basis stood
the power of the emperor system with the emperor at the peak
of the pyramid. The power structure established by the Imperial
Constitution of 1889 and the Local Self Government Law was
further stabilized after Japan's victory in the Sino-Japanese
War of 1894-95. In particular, the establishment of the Seiyu
Party in 1900 allowed the landlord forces to acquire their own
political party and draw close to the bourgeoisie, becoming
one wing of the bourgeois-landlord bloc.
Kiyoura Keigo, member of the House of Peers and prime
minister in 1924, once remarked that "Although we made a
good constitution, the fulfillment of its content is the main
thing. Only after the establishment of the system of local self
government did constitutional politics for the first time come
fully into operation."" The landlord class, just like the
bourgeoisie, was ranked politically by the size of its land
holdings. Mediated by the system of local self-government,
they supported from below the rule of the emperor system state
over the localities.
Characteristic Features of the Form of the
State under the Emperor System
A distinction between type of state and form of state must
be made. Generally speaking, the state is above all a political
organization of those in possession of the fundamental means
of production, and as such, in any socio-economic formation,
is "ordinarily a state of the most powerful and economically
dominant class. This class, using the state as its own means,
becomes also a politically dominant class, thereby obtaining
new means for oppression and exploitation of the oppressed
classes." (Marx-Engels Werke, 21. Bd., SS 166-67) The
ancient state was basically characterized as a slave state which
was nothing but a means of exploitation and oppression of the
slaves by the slave holders, the feudal state as one based on
serfdom, and the modem bourgeois state as a capitalist state
(or as one based on wage labor). That is to say, the historical
II. Koshaku Yamagata Aritomo Den [Biography of the Duke Yamagata
Aritomo, Vol. 2, p. 1042.] (Hara Shobo, 1969).
and class nature of a state is decided by what particular class
interests it serves.
The concept "type of state" points to the class nature of
the state in the sense above, but this is insufficient for clarifying
the historically specific characteristics of an individual state.
For instance, a bourgeois state might take any of a variety of
forms from republican constitutional monarchy, or Bonapartist,
to fascist. Just calling a certain state bourgeois without making
any distinction between these various forms makes very little
sense. In making a historical analysis of a state, therefore, it
is imperative to pay special attention to the characteristics of
the specific form it takes. What, then, is a "form of state"?
The form of state is a concept encompassing the
mechanism by which the will of the state is decided and
enforced on the population, and includes the manner as well
as the mechanism by which the population is controlled
ideologically. In other words, the essential task of the theory
of the form of state is in clarifying which class is in possession
of state power, and what is the specific form by which it
organizes the various organs of the state so as to control the
dominated classes. Studies of the emperor system undertaken
in Japan have so far failed to realize the importance of this
point and have given rise to unnecessary confusion. Below I
will present in summary form my interpretation of the historical
characteristics of the emperor system.
Japanese capitalism, as explained earlier, established itself
in the period between 1900 and 1910 and at the same time
transformed itself into imperialism. In keeping up with this
change. the capitalist class climbed to the position of the
economically dominant class, and state policies began to be
devised and implemented faithfully reflecting the interests of
the zaibatsu capitalists who stood at the peak ofthe bourgeoisie.
The absence of such a situation prior to the Sino-Japanese War
suggests that the class nature of the state under the emperor
system turned into a bourgeois one. But what makes the
discussion of the state under the emperor system difficult is
that even though a change can be seen in the class nature of
the state during the 1900s, a corresponding change cannot be
seen in the form of the state that was consolidated with the
promulgation of the Meiji Constitution in 1899. On the
contrary, during the same decade of the 1900s the absolutist
framework of the state with the emperor at its top became all
the more solid.
Constitutional scholars and historians in this country have
long noted that the political position of the emperor under the
Meiji Constitution was immensely strong. To be transmitted
along an unbroken line of succession, the Imperial Throne was
supposed to be sacred and inviolable. Under the prescriptions
of Articles 6 through 16 ofthe Meiji Constitution, the following
powers and functions of the state-which encompass virtually
all the essential ones-resided in the emperor in a concentrated
manner: sanctioning, promulgation and enforcement of laws
(prescribed for by Art. 6); the right to convene, open, close,
suspend and dissolve the Diet (Art. 7); the right to issue
extraordinary Imperial ordinance (Art. 8); the right to mandate
injunctions (Art. 9); the right to establish a government
organization and to appoint and dismiss civil and military
officials (Art. 10); the right of supreme command and
organization of the Army and the Navy (Arts. II and 12); the
right to declare wars and to conclude peace and treaties (Art.
13); the right to proclaim martial law (Art. 14); and the right
to confer honors and orders and to grant Imperial amnesty
(Arts. 15 and 16).
Moreover, the emperor exercised these Imperial powers
as absolute and inviolable ones. One thing needs. to be clarified
here, the sense in which we mean that absolutism or an absolute
monarchy is absolute. The answer in a word is that an absolute
monarch is absolute in relation to the laws of the state, free
from any form of legal restraint. There is neither any state
machinery that is not based on his own will nor any that can
oppose him. Seen from such a viewpoint, the emperor as
defined by the Meiji Constitution was certainly an absolute
being. As explained above, the sovereignty resided in him,
and the final power of decision on the will of the state belonged
to him, as far as the prescriptions of the Constitution were
concerned. Of course this did not mean that the emperor made
all the decisions himself and acted on his own. In the actual
administration of the affairs of the state, especially in the
decision of the will of the state made under the name of the
emperor, both the elder statesmen-who were something like
political advisors to the emperor-and the Privy Council-a
consultative body to the emperor-played an important role.
The elder statesmen, in spite of the fact that their existence
was not prescribed for by the Constitution, had tremendous
influence on important governmental policies. They took part
in Imperial conferences, held their own meetings, personally
expressed their opinions to the emperor, and, from time to
time, even attended cabinet meetings. In the Meiji and Taisho
eras, the elder statesmen had the de facto power to make
decisions on important matters such as declaration of wars,
conclusion of peace, and important affairs of personnel
administration including appointment and removal of prime
In this way, under the Meiji Constitutional system, the
state policies with the highest priority were made by the
emperor and his close attendants such as the elder statesmen
and the cabinet, with the Diet having only very limited power.
Especially active among other state organs in the enforcement
of the will of the state upon the ordinary people were the
physical means of coercion such as the military forces, the
police, the court, the prison and jails. All these state organs
too were under the control of the emperor and were called the
"emperor's military," the "emperor's police," the "emperor's
court," etc.
This being the case, it was only to be expected that the
state machinery as a whole, that is to say the composite whole
of these state organs arranged in a systematic and well
coordinated manner, was strongly absolutist. Moreover, this
absolutist state machinery grew even more powerful following
the Sino-Japanese and the Russo-Japanese Wars. For example,
the so-called three laws pertaining to civil officials established
in 1899-the Amended Civil Service Appointment Ordinance,
the Ordinance Pertaining to the Status of Civil Officials, and
the Ordinance Pertaining to the Discipline of Civil Officials
gave birth to powerful legal and institutional barriers against
intervention into the bureaucratic machinery by the Diet and
the political parties.
It was also during this period that the military bureaucrats
gained further reinforcement of their relative autonomy.
Important indices of this included: the establishment of the
Naval General Staff Office in 1893, the institution of the
practice of appointing Army and Navy Ministers from among
officers in active service in 1900, the promulgation of the
Military Command No.1 in 1907, and the revision of the
Ordinance Pertaining to the General Staff Office in 1908. All
of these were meant to institutionally assure the military
bureaucrats of their political supremacy over the cabinet and
the Diet. These measures of adjustment and reinforcement of
the machinery of the military bureaucrats were extended abroad
for application in colonized Taiwan and colonized Korea as
well. The emperor system countered the growing class
awareness of the workers and the expansion of political parties
inside Japan, and the evolution of the national resistance
movements in the colonies by means of further reinforcing its
absolutist state machinery.
This leads to the conclusion that although the state under
the emperor system in the 1900s acquired a bourgeois nature,
keeping pace with the transformation of Japanese capitalism
into imperialism, the absolutist form of state remained intact.
A bourgeois state (or a state under the control of the bourgeoisie
and landlords) with an absolutist form-that was the historical
substance of the emperor system at the formative period of
Japanese imperialism.
A counterargument might be anticipated, one which
maintains that, according to conventional understanding of the
Marxian theory of state, the form of state is always determined
subject to the concept superior to it, the type of state. If the
Japanese state under the emperor system is regarded as a
bourgeois state, its form should also be defined as that of a
bourgeois state, or that of bourgeois constitutional monarchy.
This is what the conventional theory of state and political
sciences would have us believe. However, in the structure of
the state under the emperor system as it was consolidated in
the 1900s, the form of state and the type of state did not
coincide. On the contrary, and quite characteristically, there
was a divergence between them. This was the undeniable
historical reality of the emperor system. We are thus obliged
to re-examine from a new theoretical perspective the relation
ship between the form of state and the type of state. In the
historical case of the Japanese state under the emperor system,
the essential choice does not lie between the two alternatives,
absolutism and imperialism. Rather, the problem is to clarify
the structure of the paradoxical link between these two, the
link in which the factors of absolutism became more and more
conspicuous as Japanese capitalism entered the stage of
imperialism. *
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Fukutake Tadashi, Rural Sociologist of Postwar Japan
by Kawamura Nozomu
Fukutake Tadashi, born in 1917, is one of Japan's
leading sociologists. After graduating from the University
of Tokyo in 1940, he conducted a wartime survey of a
Chinese village community, resulting in his first major
book, Chugoku nosonshakai no kozo (The social structure of
a Chinese village community). It was published in 1946
immediately after the war.! In 1948 Fukutake became as
sistant professor at the University of Tokyo and in 1960 he
was promoted to full professor. Thereafter he published
many books including some English editions, of which Man
and Society in Japan (1962), Japanese Rural Society (1967),
and Japanese Society Today (1974) are especially important.
Because Fukutake has become the representative fig
ure of postwar Japanese sociology, a close examination of
his work is instructive. Significantly, the end of a war of
aggression was the starting point of his sociological studies
and his main concern has been the democratization of
Japanese society. As a rural sociologist, he has been con
cerned primarily with the liberation of tenant farmers who
had long suffered under the domination of their landlords.
Although he criticized the semi-feudal systems and sup
ported the modernization of the family and the country
side, he did not believe that social problems in Japan would
be solved by capitalist modernization.
In analyzing Japanese society, one must first acknowl
edge that since at least the tum of the century the Japanese
social formation has been capitalist. Japan is still the only
1. Fukutake Tadashi, Chugoku nOsonshakni no kozo (Tokyo: Daigado,
1946); reprinted in Fukutake Tadashi chosakushu (The complete writings of
Fukutake Tadashi) (Tokyo: Tokyo Daigaku shuppankai, 1975-76), Vol.
2. Fukutake Tadashi, Man and Society in Japan (Tokyo: University of
Tokyo Press, 1962); Japanese Rural Society (translated by R.P. Dore,
London: Oxford University Press, 1967); Japanese Society Today (Tokyo:
University of Tokyo Press, 1974).
non-Western society to have a highly developed capitalist
system, though other countries have achieved some success
in following the same road. Yet studies emphasizing the
unique aspects of Japanese society, like Nakane Chie's,
tend to treat the traits of Japanese society, culture and
personality as if they were ahistorical phenomena, existing
outside the influence of historical periods, geography and
social classes. 3 In contrast, Fukutake's standpoint is histor
ical and focuses on the study of the modem capitalist stage
of Japanese society.
Unlike advanced capitalism in the West, Japanese
capitalism still retains many traditional or pre-modem ele
ments. In Fukutake's scheme of explanation, the "distor
tion of modernization in Japan" arose from its timing:
Japan's capitalistic modernization commenced at a time
when capitalism in other parts of the world was about to
enter the stage of imperialism."4 According to Fukutake,
the people and society of Japan can be measured against an
ideal yardstick, deviating from the standard. In Japan,
there has been neither a tradition of free citizens nor an
economic ethic of capitalism supported by religion, as in
the West. He notes that in Japan, modernization cannot
proceed in the same manner as in the West, toward what
might be regarded as a typical civil society. He writes:
"from the first, Meiji government policies promoted in
dustrialization and greater production, national wealth,
and military strength. . . . That this growth was protected
and fostered from the very beginning by the national gov
ernment meant that no truly liberal tradition developed
with it. "5
3. See Nakane Chie, Tateshakni no ningenknnkei (Human relations in
vertically structured society) (Tokyo: KOdansha, 1968); and Japanese
Society (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1970).
4. Man and Society in Japan, p. 6.
5. Japanese Society Today, p. 3.
Fukutake is correct in emphasizing the survival of
semi-feudal elements in modern Japan. What characteri
zed Japanese capitalism in its infancy was that industrializa
tion came "from above," through the centralized power of
national government. Village communities were still alive
and landlords dominated the peasants, utilizing their tradi
tional privileges in the village communities. At the time of
the Meiji Restoration, conditions had not yet matured to a
stage where the dissolution of feudalism and the develop
ment of capitalism could proceed spontaneously.
Fukutake agrees that Japan embarked on a process of
forced-draft capital accumulation, which as a result ad
vanced at great speed. The leaders ofthe Meiji government
introduced the modern factory system from the West and
established governmental enterprises. These were later
transferred to the' control of privileged merchants who
formed zaibatsu, giant family-controlled enterprises. The
first burst of industrialization after the Restoration resulted
in industrial goods for military use. This sector utilized
modern equipment from abroad. The second stage brought
the development of the consumer-goods industries, mainly
textiles. The third stage came with the expansion of heavy
industry in general, during the time of the Russo-Japanese
war of 1904-1905. As Jon Halliday points out, "the extent
to which the development of heavy industry was govern
ment-led and arms-oriented cannot be exaggerated."6
Fukutake focuses on the backward and distorted na
ture of capitalism in Japan. In a purely economic sense, as a
mode of production, it could not form the basis of society.
He considers prewar Japan to have been a pre-modern
society resting on its "old-fashioned" rural foundation. He
points out that Japanese agriculture was still essentially no
different from that of the feudal period and "it is hardly
surprising that the farmers who made agriculture their
livelihood, and the rural society which those farmers cre
ated, should have been of an old-fashioned character."7
The astonishing development of Japanese capitalism,
which was supported by the mechanism of cheap rice and
cheap wages, also did not confer any fringe benefits but
kept Japanese agriculture and "Japanese villages firmly
entrenched in their old-fashioned mould." Fukutake's
view of the development of capitalism in Japan has a num
ber of shortcomings, however, as will become clear from
the brief survey of the inter-war years presented below.
As capitalism developed, many changes did occur,
even in rural society. With the spread of a higher stage of
commodity-based economy, the contradictions between
capitalist production and the landlord system grew more
visible. First, from about the time of World War I, the
relationship between landlord and tenant began to change.
Beginning in 1915 and building into the 1920s, tenant dis
putes spread throughout Japan. In 1916 and 1917, when
they were particularly numerous, the government re
sponded with repression; later it combined repression with
attempts to adjust rents and establish schemes whereby
6. Jon Halliday, A Political History of Japanese Capitalism (New York:
Pantheon Books, 1975), p. 58.
7. Japanese Rural Society, p. 8.
tenants could purchase the land they worked. The Taisho
era (1912-1926) saw the rise of a movement for reform
involving laborers, farmers, students and women, called
the "Taisho Democracy Movement." The extension of the
suffrage in 1925 was one of its most significant products.
Suffrage, however, was limited to males over the age
of twenty, and the reform was accompanied by restraining
legislation, namely the Peace Preservation Law, which
Fukutake oversimplified the situation by assert
ing that all Japanese had a feudal outlook, and
that Japanese society was more or less held to
gether by its traditional culture.
aimed at repressing the socialist movement as well as the
farmers' and laborers' movements. Nevertheless, the wider
suffrage, by undermining the basis of the landlords' domi
nation of the village, changed the traditional power struc
ture in rural areas. Previously, voting rights had been con
fined to males over the age of twenty-five who had resided
in an area for two years or more and who had paid a land tax
or some other direct national tax of more than two yen per
annum. Voters had further been classified into three classes
for the municipal suffrage and two for the towns and vil
lages. For example, in the latter category, first-class voters
were those who paid high taxes to towns or villages and
contributed half of the total amount of tax received by the
government. All the rest were in the second class. Each
class elected half of the total assembly members. This
meant that a member of the first class could become an
assembly member with a very small number of votes.
In 1921, prior to the establishment of manhood suf
frage, qualifications for full citizenship status were reduced
to the simple payment of city, town or village taxes. There
by the electorate was enlarged and the system of electoral
classes abolished. Manhood suffrage was implemented
starting with the local elections of 1926 and the general
election of 1928, when all tax-based qualifications for suf
frage were finally removed. These changes clearly reflected
a decline in the power of the landlords in the villages.
By the mid-twenties (late Taisho-early Showa) the
position of landlord declined within the ruling bloc and
monopoly capital became the dominant component.
Thereafter the landlord was steadily relegated to the back
ground. The ruling bloc after the Meiji Restoration had
consisted roughly of government leaders descended from
the lower echelons of the former warrior class, privileged
merchants (who later formed zaibatsu), large landowners,
the new peerage, and the court supported by the Emperor
system. Then in the Taisho period, the zaibatsu increased in
power, and party politicians and bureaucrats appeared as
new elements in the ruling bloc. As Japanese capitalism
approached the monopoly stage, the political power of
landlords began to decline.
In Japan, party politics and party cabinets were not
products of mass movements from below. Rather, they
resulted from the initiative of big business, although par
liamentary politics received its main impetus from the in
troduction of universal male suffrage in 1925. Also, the
abolition of county offices in 1926 symbolized the rationali
zation of administration in the hands of liberal elements in
the zaibatsu and party politicians. In the rural areas, farm
ers of the upper stratum (not parasitic landlords) played a
major role in remolding the social order in the village. In
the 1920s the reformist elements in big business and the
government attempted to resolve, from above, contradic
tions in the semi-feudal landlord system.
When conditions changed greatly in the 1930s, the
reformists had little success. The great depression of 1929
in the United States created a serious agrarian panic in
Japan, plunging Japanese capitalism into a severe crisis.
Right-wing radicals and young military officers pushed for
a "Showa Restoration" in order to implement the idea of
"Japanism" as the solution to the crisis. After the Manchu
rian Incident of 1931, they embraced fascist ideas and took
an anti-zaibatsu, anti-industry, and anti-urban stand. In
Japan the fascists saw no internal means of reforming the
domestic political-economic system. To solve domestic
contradictions they turned outwards, towards aggression
and the invasion of other Asian countries. The fascists'
ideology, though it took on the appearance of traditional
agrarian fundamentalism, family-ism, was no mere revival
of traditional values.
Unlike the fascist movements of Germany and Italy,
which were supported by the majority of the urban middle
classes, the Japanese movement was supported by mem
bers of the rural middle class who directly cultivated their
own land and were active in the producers' co-operatives.
Right-wing groups and young military officers claimed to
speak for the farmers and attacked the liberal elements in
the zaibatsu and bureaucracy. Therefore, during the early
1930s, some contradictions seemed to emerge between the
fascists and the traditional bases of power. But these con
tradictions and oppositions were purely superficial, or at
most only temporary. Since the beginning of the century,
the leaders of big business and the political establishment
had been concerned about the labor problem and other
expressions of unrest, fearing a connection with the spread
of socialism and communism. Since there were no means of
resolving the crisis other than through oppressing both the
farmers' movement and the labor movement, and diverting
frustration outwards toward the war of aggression, the
conflicts between the zaibatsu and the fascists were, as a
result, minimized. In this respect, they shared common
"Japanism" and the myth ofthe Emperor system cap
tured not only the attention of the military officers and
right-wing groups, but also of monopoly capital. Tradi
tional and revered symbols were manipulated to mobilize
the people for Japan's great war. Those who would not
fight abroad on behalf of monopoly capital were encour
aged to do so for the Emperor. Monopoly capital also took
the initiative in building up the myth of the Divine Em
peror, using it for its own profit.
A major shortcoming in the work of Fukutake is now
clear: he failed to perceive and explain the decisive role of
monopoly capital before the war. He also overlooked the
manner in which the "old-fashioned" system functioned to
enhance the political power of monopoly capital. Fukutake
oversimplified the situation by asserting that all Japanese
had a feudal outlook, and that Japanese society was more
or less held together by its traditional culture. It seems
incredibly naive to suggest that Japan rushed headlong into
the war only because of the lack of individualism, civilian
control or a civic social order. If this were so, how can we
explain the similarly aggressive wars of other modernized
countries where individualism was held to be a virtue?
Fukutake believed that the major obstacle to the
democratization of rural Japan was the minute
size of family holdings. The postwar land reform
merely transferred the ownership of land without
any effect on the size of the holdings. The reform
left untouched the problem of atomized holdings,
the cancer of Japanese agriculture.
The Question ofFeudallnftuence
on Rural Social Structure
Japanese imperialism was defeated in 1945 and great
changes took place under the American occupation after
the war. The main reforms were the introduction of a new
Constitution, a purge of undesirable personnel from public
office, zaibatsu dissolution (the rebuilding ofJapanese capi
talism), and land reform. The promulgation of a new Con
stitution demythologized the Emperor, categorically deny
ing him any supernatural attributes and relegating him to
serve as a "symbol of the state and of the unity of the
people." Land reform undercut the foundation on which
the semi-feudal relationship between landlord and tenant
had rested and tended to undermine the family system
which had been regarded as a uniquely Japanese institution.
Under these conditions the major focus oftheoretical
attention was on the democratization of Japanese society.
Along with other social scientists, Fukutake engaged in
fieldwork in rural Japan. In 1949 he published his first book
on rural Japan which emphasized the importance of
democratization for the rural family and community. "Un
less Japanese village society can move toward being truly
democratic," he wrote, "Japanese society will never be
come a stable democracy. "8 Later, during the rapid growth
of the Japanese economy in the 1960s, he also pointed out
that "unless Japanese villages can somehow in the course of
8. Nihon noson no shakaiteki seikaku (The social characteristics of rural
Japan) (Tokyo: Tokyo Daigaku shuppankai, 1949), p. 1.
their transition, move towards a solution of these contra
dictions, Japanese village society will never become a truly
democratic society." It was a matter of considerable con
cern that "at present one cannot hold out bright prospects
for Japanese agriculture and Japanese villages."9 Although
in both instances he used the same term, "a truly demo
cratic society," his implication changed over the course of
time,as we shall see later.
Fukutake believed that the major obstacle to the
democratization of rural Japan was the minute size of fam
ily holdings. The postwar land reform merely transferred
the ownership of land without any effect on the size of the
holdings. The reform left untouched the problem of atom
ized holdings, the cancer of Japanese agriculture. At that
time, however, Fukutake believed that Japanese capital
ism had already approached the monopoly stage; a move
ment away from small holdings could be realized, there
fore, by socialist cooperation. 10
Immediately after the war Kawashima Takeyoshi pub
lished an essay entitled Nihonshakai no kazokuteki kosei (The
familial structure of Japanese society) (1946), in which he
argued that the democratization of Japan would fail unless
the Japanese family system was revolutionized. 11 Otsuka
Hisao also wrote an article in 1946 entitled "Kindaiteki
ningen ruikei no sOshutsu" (The necessity of creating the
modern civic type of person). 12 He too was afraid that the
institution of democracy would be like a skeleton without
any flesh and blood unless the people changed their values
and gave the reforms spontaneous and voluntary support.
He believed that the democratic type of person would
emerge only when the tenants were liberated from the
oppression of the landlords and a full-scale domestic labor
market was created. 13
Within ten years, these two prerequisites for democ
racy were realized, but matters did not move in the direc
tion Otsuka had predicted. He claimed later that he did not
visualize the early-modern European societies as a model
for contemporary Japan. His earlier writings, he argued,
were meant as suggestions on how the Japanese people
could assimilate new ideas and have them reflected in their
own behavior.14 Nevertheless, the misunderstandings re
sulted from Otsuka's failure to address the problem ofclass
contradictions in modern Japanese society. He did not
come to grips with the presence of big business interests
and the ability of monopoly capital to subordinate state
agencies while at the same time continuing to use the
prewar vocabulary, much of which was defined in terms of
the Japanese and their uniqueness.
9. Japanese Rural Society, p. 27.
10. Nihon nOson rw shakaite1ci seikaku, p. 235.
11. Kawashima Takeyoshi. Nihon shakai no kazokuteki msei (Tokyo: Ni
hon hyoronsha. 1950). pp. 24-25.
12. Otsuka Hisao. "Kindaiteki ningen ruikei no sO sOshutsu." reprinted
in Otsuka Hisao. Kindaika no ningente1ci kiso (A personal basis for moderni
zation) (Tokyo: Chikuma shooo, 1948).
13. Ibid . p. 16.
14. Otsuka Hisao. "Gendai Nihon-shakai ni okeru ningenteki jokyo"
[Social conditions of people in present-day Japanese society]. Sekai, Au
gust 1963. p. 108.
Fukutake's failure too lies in his overemphasis on the
feudal elements in modern Japanese society. He argues
that "individuals can no longer be prevented from having
desires of their own, but nevertheless the 'ie' and the
'hamlet' which required the suppression of such individual
ity are still living concepts. "IS Reiterating the same view
point, he writes:
The hamlet is still the hamlet. Just as that other important
social unit, the ie, has not disappeared, so the hamlet too,
though headedfor disintegration, has still not arrived at that
point. We have not reached that happy state in which free
individual farmers can cheerfully co-operate with each
other, spontaneously and voluntarily, not as a result of the
pressure ofthe "village community." 16
In this context the ie refers to the household commu
nity (hiiusgemeinschaft in German), the hamlet (mura in
Japanese) to the village community (Dorf-gemeinschaft in
German). The continued existence of the ie and the hamlet
does not result from any semi-feudal social relationships.
The ie and the hamlet of today are not the same ones that
existed under the landlord system in the prewar period.
After the war all farmers came to own their land and to sell
their agricultural products. They became commodity pro
ducers, even if only on a small scale. As Fukutake notes,
agriculture in Japan is carried out by family labor, since
capitalist farm management by means of hired agricultural
laborers has never developed. Under such conditions the ie
and the hamlet will continue to survive, until capitalist
agriculture reaches an advanced stage ofdevelopment. The
communal characteristics of the ie and of the hamlet will
last so long as the small family holding exists. The goal is
thus not to encourage further development of capitalism in
agriculture, that is large-scale capitalist farming which
would create only a few large-scale farms at the expense of
most poor farmers. Rather, the goal is the free c0
operation of farmers fighting against the oppressive power
of monopoly capital.
In his 1949 book on the social characteristics of rural
Japan, Fukutake draws a distinction between the dOzoku
type of village and the ko and kumi type village, contrasting
the dozoku principle of organization with the ko-kumi princi
ple of organization. The former is based on lineage rela
tionships and the latter (purposeful association) is based on
neighborhood relationships.17 The dOzoku is the lineage
group of male descent and comprises families branching off
the main parent family. It takes on a pyramidal structure,
typically with the original family at the top, then its branch
families and finally their branch families (from the original
family's point of view grandchild-branch-families). Rank
ing within the dozoku depends upon the antiquity of the
family's branching and on the directness of its descendents'
relationships with the original family.
The problem of how the dOzoku can be related to the
social structure of the village community will be examined
15. Japanese Rural Society, p. 212.
16. Ibid., p. 87.
17. Nihon noson no shakaiteki seikaku, pp. 34 ff.
later. Here it must be noted that in the prewar period the
study of the dozoku was the main theme of rural sociology.
At that time, studies of the ie and the hamlet were related
to the ideology of "Japanism." For example, Yanagida
Kunio, skeptical as to whether imported theories such as
Marxism could explain the dynamics of Japanese society,
believed that Japanese folklore provided a rich source of
inspiration for the development of indigenous theories. His
studies of local customs in various parts of Japan led him to
evaluate highly the ability of the ie to perpetuate itself.
Already, earlier, he had identified individualism as a de
viant form of behavior which served only to undermine the
value placed on lineage. IS Moreover, the main principle of
the ie was none other than the main principle of the
Emperor system. He argued that the nation was more than
the sum of its individual members, and that the uniqueness
of the Japanese ie was rooted in the fact that the Japanese
people had lived and served the Emperor as the original
family for over a thousand years. 19
Yanagida also explored the oyalmta-kolmta relation
ship in traditional rural society. He distinguished between
concepts such as oyalmta (one who takes the role of the
fictive parent) and umi no oya (biological parents). Accord
ingly, kokata (child) is not necessarily someone linked to an
oyakata through blood as is the case with natural parents
and children. Yanagida emphasized that the terms were
originally used to indicate the leader-follower relationship
within the social unit in which work was organized in the
extended family (dozoku). He noted that these fictive kin
ship ties played an important role in social relationships
among households.
Exploring in more detail the structure and functions of
the dozoku, Aruga Kizaemon developed many themes
which Yanagida had initially identified. In particular, he
distinguished between the internal and external relations of
the family. He described the distinction as follows:
The system ofthe extendedfamily is characterized by both an
internal structure ofrelationships in which each family mem
ber is connected subordinately to a patriarch and an external
structure according to which each extended family is con
nected subordinately to the head ofthe lineage group. 20
According to Aruga, the major structural feature of
Japanese society was its familial principle of organization.
This principle applied not only to the family, but even to
the community and to "the state. " The overriding principle
of "concentric hierarchies" meant that each group had its
own subunits of organization, while also being part of some
larger organization. The Japanese state or nation was seen
as being the ultimate unit of organization, the Emperor
serving as the patriarchal head of the national family. Just
as the relationships between members of the family were
18. Yanagida Kunio, Noseigaku (Agricultural administration), 1902
1905, in Yanagida Kunio Shu (The writings of Yanagida Kunio), Vol. 28
(Tokyo: Chikuma shobO, 1962), p. 195.
19. Yanagida Kunio, lidai to nOsei (The Age and Agriculture), in
Yanagida KunioShu. Vol. 16 (Tokyo: ChikumashobO, 1961), p. 39.
20. Aruga Kizaemon, Nihon kazokuseido to kosakuseido (Japanese Family
System and Tenant System), (Tokyo; Kawade shobO, 1943), p. 722.
hierarchical, so too were relations between main and
branch families or between the Emperor and "his
people. "21
Aruga's belief in the importance of a peculiarly Japan
ese national character can be seen in the following passage:
Though I do not deny the existence ofsocial classes in Japan,
I believe that the Japanese have a consciousness somewhat
different from thatfound in the West. Western social organi
zation is based on the individual and has developed along
horizontal lines. For example, the political system revolves
around the interaction among representatives from each
social class. Japanese social organization, however, is
based upon the vertical or hierarchical links between
oyakata and kokata or between main and branch families
within the dOzoku. 22
Thus Aruga attacked the Marxist theory of class strug
gle and lauded the Japanese national character during the
Pacific War, a time when the state was brutally suppressing
class struggle and Marxist theory. On one point Aruga's
offensive against left-wing scholars is well-founded. He
criticized the Marxist theorists who defined a nago (a kind
of kokata) as a serf, and saw the labor performed for myoshu
(a kind of oyakata) as being equivalent to labor rent. The
Marxists believed that in Japan too, the forms of the feudal
rent developed sequentially as labor, product, and finally
monetary rent. Aruga pointed out that the labor of nago
was not the corvee of feudal Japan. The labor of the nago
was not a feudal labor rent but a form of the kolmta's
household labor for the oyalmta within the extended family
Of course, he argued that these social relation
ships between the oyakata and kolmta were merely manifes
tations of the Japanese national character. In statements
based on historical data, Aruga was more carefully qual
ified, noting that the independence of subordinate nago or
kokata was the major characteristic of feudal Tokugawa
Japan (1603-1867).
Aruga mustered a considerable amount of empirical
evidence to demonstrate that the oyalmta-kolmta relation
ship within the large extended family was carry-over from
earlier times and existed as such before the small landhold
ing families gained their independence. Yet he exaggerated
the nature of oyakata-kolmta relationships before the feudal
Tokugawa era and gave ideological support to such rela
tionships by claiming that they were the essence of Japan's
unchanging national character. In this regard, then, he
aligned himself with ultra-nationalism as defined by the
peculiar intellectual milieu of the 1930s and early 194Os.
Fukutake, on the other hand, assumed a coincidence
between ranking based on descent and ranking based on
economic standing, and argued that the dozoku type of
village developed into the ko-kumi type. The dozoku had
significance only when the ranking of its descent relation
ships was supported by real economic power, and paral
leled by landlord-tenant relationships. Only in this case
21. Ibid., p. 726.
22. Ibid., p. 323.
23. Ibid., p. 612.
could the original family exercise strong control over all the
other members of the group. But even in the feudal era,
that was very rarely the case. More often the original family
would fall into decline and its branches would become
more powerful.
Fukutake later modified his typology, noting that "the
dozoku group centered on a cultivating landlord could
hardly be said to be typical of the modem period when
Japanese agriculture was characterized by the parasitic
landlord system. "24 But, he continued to argue, "the
dozoku group is, however, undeniably important as a basic
pattern for the social structure of Japanese villages."25 He
admitted that the dozoku groups had been developed along
with the cultivating landlord system at the end of the feudal
era, and not with the parasitic landlord system in modem
Japan. As noted earlier, the typical dozoku groups were not
found in the feudal era when the oyakata's extended family
had dissolved and most kokata-peasants became indepen
dent. The dOzoku groups under the cultivating landlord
were not a prototype but were only seen in the late de
veloped areas where a cultivating landlord happened to
ensure his agricultural labor force through oyakata-kokata
relationships. So Fukutake admitted that "even where they
were typically found it was, in fact, fairly rare for there to
be an orderly pyramid of an original stem family, stem
families and branch families left intact. "26 Therefore, in
the more advanced areas, the absence of such oyakata
kokata relationships was typical by the Meiji era.
Concerning this typological dichotomy, Isoda Susumu
tried to draw a distinction between the family-status type
and the non-family-status type villages.
He established
these two types in a contemporaneous rather than histor
ical way. Under the landlord system in modem Japan, the
determinant of family status was not descent, but land
ownership. Therefore the non-family-status type village
was usually found in the mountain and fishing villages
where the differentiation of arable land ownership was
undeveloped and big landlords were absent. Unless the
village community invariably has a hierarchical structure,
the direction of development from dozoku to ko-kumi is very
doubtful. The dozoku type and ko-kumi type of villages
could exist side by side in the same historical period. On
this point Fukutake was theoretically confused. 28
Fukutake on Japan's Postwar Democratization
As mentioned previously, immediately after the war
Fukutake argued that the democratization of rural Japan
would be possible only through socialist co-operation be
tween farmers. Awaiting socialist democratization, he was
skeptical of capitalist modernization. In his later books,
24. Nihon noson no shakaiteki seikaku. p. 40.
25. Japanese Rural Society. p. 66.
26. Ibid., p. 65.
27. See, Isoda Susumu, (ed.), SonrakukOzo no kenkyu (A study of village
structure), (Tokyo: Tokyo Daigaku shuppankai, 1955), chap. 1.
28. See, Kawamura Nozomu and Hasumi Otohiko, "Kindai Nihon ni
okeru sonrakukozO no tenkai katei" (The development process of the
village structure in modem Japan), Shiso. May-June, 1958.
however, he altered his position and supported the policies
of the government designed to promote "modernization"
and "rationalization" of agriculture by the removal of part
time farmers.
The overall defect of Fukutake's sociological
theories is his underestimation of the oppressive
power of monopoly capital. The basis of the anti
democratic elements in Japan is none other than
big business. For the democratization ofJapanese
society, it is more important to fight capitalist
economic and social development in the interests
of the profits of big business than it is to eradicate
the survival of pre-modern elements in families
and villages.
Under rapid economic growth, agriculture ceased to
be the main stream of economic development. Farmers
who could not maintain their livelihood by agriculture
alone became part-time farmers, and the agricultural labor
force came to consist increasingly of women and old men.
In order to rescue agriculture, Fukutake demanded struc
tural reform: "if a decline in the agricultural population
means a decrease in the number of farms and an expansion
in the average size of holdings, this is something very much
to be desired from the point of view of agricultural de
velopment. "29 The problem, according to him, was that a
decrease in the agricultural population did not necessarily
imply a decrease in the number of farming households. In
this sense he supported the Basic Agriculture Law of 1961,
the preamble of which states:
It is a duty springingfrom our concernfor the public welfare,
and a necessary complement to the mission of agriculture
and agriculturalists in our society, to ensure that those
disadvantages resulting from the natural, economic and so
cial limitations ofagriculture are corrected, to promote the
modernization and rationalization of agriculture while re
specting the free will and initiative ofthose engaged in it, and
to ensure that the nation's farmers can enjoy a healthy and
cultured livelihood not inferior to that of other members of
the population. 30
In line with the Basic Agriculture Law, the govern
ment has since implemented the Structural Improvement
29. Japanese Rural Society. p. 23.
30. "Nogyo Kihonho" (Basic Agriculture Law), 1961, in The Commis
sion of Inquiry into the Basic Problem of Agriculture, Forestry and
Fisheries, (ed.), Nogyo no kihonmondai to kihontaisaku (Basic problems and
basic policies of agriculture), (Tokyo: Norintiikei kyiikai, 1961).
Table 1.
Numbers of Fann Households by
Full-time and Part-time Status
Year Full-Time Part-Time Total Numbers of
1st class 2nd class Households
(%) (%) (%) (%) (1,000)
1950 50.0 28.4 21.6 100.0 6,176
1955 34.8 37.7 27.5 100.0 6,043
1960 34.3 33.6 32.1 100.0 6,057
1965 21.5 36.7 41.7 100.0 5,665
1970 15.6 33.6 50.8 100.0 5,402
1975 12.4 25.4 62.1 100.0 4,953
1980 13.4 21.5 65.1 100.0 4,661
Source: Agricultural Census of each year, cited from Norintokei (Agriculture and Forestry Statistics) (Tokyo: Norintokei kyokai, 1982), p. 123.
Program. Poor farmers and part-time farmers have pro
tested, believing this program to be a program for pushing
out the poor farmer. Fukutake did not see it that way.
"These moves cannot simply be dismissed," he said, "as
they frequently are by some critics, as 'the policy of wiping
out the poor farmer.' "31 According to Fukutake, even if
part-time farmers with tiny holdings had farmed co
operatively, little progress would have been achieved. The
Structural Improvement Program was open to criticism
because it contained no provisions for aiding the migration
of poor farmers. "What is necessary," he stressed, "is that
the poor part-time farmers should be, not wiped out, but
made able to transfer to some other occupation without
hardship or insecurity. "32
Fukutake failed to consider whether in fact the capital
ist system is able to transfer these poor farmers to other
occupations without creating hardship. Did he really ex
pect conservative politicians closely aligned with big busi
ness to do anything of the kind? The ideal of a smooth
transition contrasts sharply with the reality of the dekasegi
(seasonal workers from poor agricultural households).
Clearly, the nature of the co-operation he expects has
changed from a socialist orientation to a capitalist one.
Co-operation among poor farmers is rejected, and c0
operation among the upper stratum of farmers after the
poor part-time farmers are "transferred"-not "wiped
out"-to other industries is considered the only means to
solve the present stagnation in agriculture.
31. Japanese Rural Society. p. 198.
32. Ibid.
However, the real changes did occur in a way different
from Fukutake's expectations. For example, the total num
ber of farm households decreased from 6,176,000 in 1950 to
4,661,000 in 1980. In addition, between 1950 and 1980 the
ratio of persons engaged in agriculture (including forestry
and fishing workers) to the total work force decreased from
44.6 percent to 9.8 percent. But such changes did not create
favorable conditions for agriculture. Statistics show that
the number of part-time farm households increased from
50.0 percent of the total in 1950 to 86.6 percent in 1980.
Especially those who had mainly engaged in other occupa
tions (the second class part-timers) increased from 21.6
percent in 1950 to 65.1 percent in 1980 (see Table 1).
Thus most farmers who cannot maintain their liveli
hood solely by agriculture do not abandon their farming,
but become part-time farmers. Of course, some small
farmers do resign from agriculture. As shown in Table 2,
the actual numbers of farmers who cultivate land of less
than one hectare decreased from 4,420,000 in 1950 to
3,157,000 in 1980, and the total numbers of farmers de
creased from 5,931,000 to 4,496,000 in the same period
(from these figures the Hokkaido district is excluded be
cause of its specific agricultural conditions). The numbers
of relatively large farmers who cultivate more than three
hectares increased slowly from 27,000 in 1950 to 105,000 in
1980. Nevertheless, one cannot conclude from such data
that a real tendency towards capitalist agriculture exists in
Japan. During the 1950s, farmers who cultivated less than
one hectare of land decreased while cultivators of between
1.0 and 1.5 hectares increased. But in the 1960s and 1970s
the latter began to decrease, and in the 1970s only farmers
who cultivated more than 2.5 hectares increased. On the
other hand, the ratio of farmers who cultivated less than
one hectare decreased only from 74.5 percent in 1950 to farmers of the upper stratum might occur regardless of
70.2 percent in 1980. That is, in 1980, only 4 percent of all their co-operation. But, since it is impossible to transfer
farm households, or only 187,000 out of a total 4,4%,000, them and since they should not be "wiped out," they have
have favorable conditions for the development of fanning. to be protected and guaranteed as stable small farming
Nonetheless, they have little opportunity to expand their enterprises. Through the stabilization of their production,
farming by purchasing or borrowing land from small they could co-operate spontaneously and move toward
farmers. non-capitalist large-scale farming.
Fukutake thinks that the problems of Japanese agri From such a standpoint, Fukutake has attacked the
culture derive from the small size of family farming. There left-wing parties for their "formalistic" policies, saying that
fore he supports policies which promote the migration of "the left-wing parties have succeeded in making only a very
j small farmers from rural areas. He considers that further weak impact on the farmer and their policies are highly
capitalist development of agriculture could solve the pres formalistic and lacking in appeal." According to him, when
ent crisis of agriculture in Japan. But, as we have seen the socialist and communist parties attack the govern

above, under the control of big business which supports the ment's policy of improvement of the agrarian structure as
liberalization policies of agricultural products, agriculture "wiping out the poor farmers," or when they talk of co
itself faces great difficulties. The crisis of agriculture in operative management as the solution to the problems of
Japan is the crisis of the small farming enterprise. If, as the disintegrating intermediate stratum, they can hardly
Fukutake mentions, the smooth transfer of small farmers expect to win the confidence of fanners who vote for the
to other occupations was possible, then the development of Liberal Democratic Party. He claims that, by the standards

Table 2.
Fann Households by Scale of Cultivated Land
1950 1955 1%0 1965 1970 1975 1980
(Hectares) (1,000) (1,000) (1,000) (1,000) (1,000) (1,000) (1,000)
Under 0.5 2,468 2,285 2,275 2,0% 1,999 1,984 1,848
0.5-1.0 1,952 1,955 1,907 1,762 1,604 1,436 1,309
1.0-1.5 945 981 1,002 945 868 727 660
1.5-2.0 363 376 404 407 404 349 327
2.0-2.5 132 147 156 170 162 163
2.5-3.0 48 54 59 71 74 82
3.0-5.0 26 28 34 36 55 67 90
5.0- 1 1 2 2 5 9 15
Total 5,931 5,806 5,823 5,465 5,174 4,818 4,4%
(%) (%) (%) (%) (%) (%) (%)
Under 0.5 41.6 39.3 39.1 38.4 38.6 41.2 41.1
0.5-1.0 32.9 33.7 32.7 32.2 31.0 29.8 29.1
1.0.:...1.5 15.9 16.9 17.2 17.3 16.8 15.1 14.7
1.5-2.0 6.1 6.5 6.9 7.4 7.8 7.2 7.3
2.0-2.5 2.3 2.5 2.8 3.3 3.4 3.6
2.5-3.0 0.8 0.9 1.1 1.4 1.5 1.8
3.0-5.0 0.4 0.5 0.6 0.7 1.1 1.4 2.0
0.1 0.2 0.3
Total 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0
Source: Agricultural Census for each year, cited from Norinlou; (Agriculture and (Tokyo: Norintokei kyokai, 1982), p. 125.
Table 3.
The Class Structure ofJapan
(in percent)
1950 1955 1960 1965 1970 1975 1980
Capitalists 1.9 2.0 2.7 3.6 3.9 4.2 4.7
Persons in security services 0.9 1.1 1.1 1.2 1.2 1.4 1.4
Self-employed proprietors 58.9 53.2 45.7 38.3 34.8 29.4 27.3
Agriculture, forestry and fishing 44.6 37.7 30.6 23.0 18.1 12.7 9.8
Mining, manufacturing, transportation and communication 6.2 6.2 6.2 6.2 7.3 6.8 6.7
Sales 6.2 7.0 6.2 5.9 6.0 6.1 6.7
Services 0.9 1.5 1.6 1.9 2.3 2.6 2.7
Professionals and specialized technicians 1.0 0.9 1.0 1.2 1.1 1.2 1.4
Working class 38.2 43.6 50.5 56.9 60.1 65.0 66.6
Salaried employees 11.9 12.5 14.2 17.0 18.7 21.9 23.3
Productive workers 20.0 22.4 27.8 29.2 29.6 28.7 28.5
Nonproductive workers 4.3 6.8 7.8 9.3 10.5 12.2 12.4
Unemployed 2.0 1.9 0.7 1.4 1.3 2.3 2.5
Source: Cited from Fukutake, Japanese Society Today, p. 26. Data of 1975 and 1980 are added from the Census of each year.
ofthe advanced countries, the "poor-farmers" ofJapan are
by far the worst off; and that even the "upper stratum" of
farmers must co-operate if they are to have any future.
He places priority, however, on the co-operation of upper
stratum farmers over that of "poor farmers." Fukutake
advises the left-wing parties that "when it becomes clear
that the hopes of progress by individual management are
illusory and if, at this time, the radical parties can offer
concrete plans to substitute for that illusion, then and only
then can one expect any new developments in the farmers'
political attitudes. "34 Fukutake's conclusion is that the
right to co-operate is reserved for farmers of the upper
stratum. In Japanese Society Today (1974), he also argues
that agriculture cannot be saved unless some measures are
taken to enable large numbers of people to leave the farms
and to develop a system which promotes some form of
co-operation among those families that remain in agri
Once again he reveals the illusion that the policy of
transferring farmers to other occupations without risk of
unemployment can indeed be successfully implemented.
For example, he criticizes the Socialist Party for its weak
response to the needs of farmers, and for its protests
against the conservatives' policy of discarding poor
farmers, but he fails to offer any practical alternative. He
merely writes that "the socialists should have foreseen
changes in the structure of rural society, and should have
assured farmers that unlike the government party it would
find ways to create employment opportunities for them so
that even if they left the farms they could get jobs without
having to worry. "36 According to Fukutake, the reformists'
"conservatism" is far worse than the conservatives'
"reforms. "
Yet, Fukutake acknowledges that governmental ag
ricultural policies are fundamentally adapted to the inter
ests of big business. He points out that although the Liberal
Democratic Party has been at great pains to speak of the
need for modernizing agriculture and to stress its determi
nation not to sacrifice the farmers' interests, "national
policies are in essence always attuned to the interests of big
business and when they speak of consideration for agricul
ture and for farmers there is always the proviso: in so far as
this does not clash with business interests or hinder their
development. "37 Acutally Fukutake himself emphasizes
the need for modernizing agriculture and calls on the na
33. Ibid., p. 221.
34. Ibid. 36. Ibid., p. 143.
35. Japanese Society Today, p. 50. 37. Japanese Rural Society. p. 195.
tional government to "wipe out" the poor farmers from
rural areas, not in the interests of big business, but for the
sake of the farmers themselves.
Fukutake describes the class structure of Japan today
as comprising a handful of capitalists, an old middle class of
independent proprietors (mainly farmers and shop own
ers), the new middle class (consisting of a small number of
service workers and specialized technicians), and finally
the working class which includes salaried workers (see
Table 3).
Table 3 also clearly reveals a steady decline in self
employed proprietors. By 1980 the proportion of farmers
had fallen to less than 10 percent. However, the working
class had come to occupy two-thirds of the total. From the
point of view of class rule, the capitalist's domination of the
working class is equally clear. In Japan as well as other
industrial societies, the capitalists and top managers of
large corporations, who ally themselves with politicians
and high-ranking bureaucrats, have become the ruling
class. Thus Fukutake writes,
The roughly 100 Japanese corporations capitalized at one
billion yen or more constitute no more than 0.1% of all
enterprises, but own half the total capital. Moreover, the
greater part ofindustry is virtually controlled by a few giant
enterprises. The large number of small enterprises and the
high degree ofmonopoly control are two striking features of
Japanese industry. It is those who control the giant enter
prises that run Japan. 38
As Fukutake admits, the national government is con
trolled by the power of monopoly capital, and the dictates
of capital are given priority over social welfare. The
"miracle" of rapid economic growth since 1960 has de
pended among other things on immense environmental
destruction. Such serious problems as pollution, traffic
congestion, population imbalance, income inequality, de
struction of agriculture and small enterprises, and social
tension are all the direct results of a deliberate policy which
the government adopted for capital accumulation, and not
the unavoidable "by-products" of technological develop
ment. In fact, economic policies catering to big business
have increasingly destroyed the livelihood of many people,
and the national and local "development" plans have
threatened the survival of communities and exploited their
inhabitants' land, labor and lives. If this is true, how can
Fukutake look so favorably on the conservatives'
In the period immediately after the war, "moderniza
tion" was seen as equivalent to democratization, although
the conservative government and big business were always
opposed to "modernization" that aimed to expand the civil
liberties and rights of the people. Since the early 1960s, the
term "modernization" has been appropriated entirely by
conservative ideologues in order to sell their own policies
for economic development. In Fukutake's case, "demo
cratization" initially meant the movement toward "social
ism" or "socialization," but later it came to mean the
process of "capitalization" and, in this sense, "moderniza
tion" in its more recent usage. This corresponded to the
national policy of dedication to building up an extraord
inarily high rate ofeconomic growth. As the original goal of
"democratization" was buried in oblivion, Fukutake's own
definition of it also changed.
Fukutake altered his position after the tension gen
erated by the AMP039 demonstrations of 1960 had
receded. At that time a growing concern with "moderniza
tion" was evident. While serving as the American Ambas
sador to Japan, Edwin Reischauer was active in propagat
ing "modernization theory" as a counter-model to offset
the influence of Marxism and socialism. "Modernization
theory" was born out of an ideological competition in
which two parties claimed that they were the true interpret
ers of the Japanese experience. Within this framework, it is
not surprising that Reischauer's activities have been re
ferred to as the "Reischauer offensive" by Japanese in
tellectuals on the left. The design of this "modernization"
approach was succinctly stated by Princeton historian,
Marius Jansen:
... the important thing is that people read, not what they
read, that they participate in the generalized function of a
mass society, not whether they do so asfree individuals, that
machines operate, not for whose benefit, and that things
are produced, not what is produced. It is quite as "modem"
to make guns as automobiles, and to organize concentration
camps as to organize schools which teach freedom. 40
In this statement three basic characteristics of the
"modernization" approach stand out: the belief in prog
ress, the belief in rationality, and the normative judgment
that mechanization or industrialization is good. The schol
ars adopting the "modernization" approach tried to sum up
Japan's experience in terms of a model characterized by
gradual and non-revolutionary development along capital
ist and even "democratic" lines. In Japan, this approach
was quickly adopted by sociologists of the functionalist
school. For example, in 1964 Tominaga Ken'ichi wrote
Shakai hendo no riron (Theories of social change), in which
he used the vocabulary of Parsonian "system theory" to
criticize Marxist theories of social change. The various
social problems and contradictions resulting from Japan's
rapid development he dismissed as minor and temporary
aberrations which simply represented the "time lag" by
which "social development" followed economic develop
ment. He optimistically claimed that this temporary dis
location would disappear as soon as "social development"
caught up with economic development. 41
Fukutake's viewpoint is, ofcourse, different from such
39. AMPO refers to the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty. In 1960 there were
many demonstrations against the revised U.S.-Japan Security Treaty,
and the ensuing mass demonstrations brought down Prime Minister Kishi
Nobusuke's government.
40. M.B. Jansen, "On Studying the Modernization of Japan," Asian
Cultural Studies, no. 3 (October, 1962), International Christian Univer
sity, Tokyo, p. 10.
41. See, Tominaga Ken'ichi, Shakai hendO no riron (Theories of social
38. Japanese Society Today, p. 27. change) (Tokyo: Iwanami shoten, 1964).
"modernization" theorists. But his stance is ambivalent.
On the one hand, he stands against the rule of monopoly
capital and government which speaks in favor of its in
terests. On the other hand, as in the case of the Structural
Improvement Program of Agriculture, he actually supports
the modernization and rationalization policy at the cost of
poor, part-time farmers' interests. Fukutake dreams of the
construction of a new type of community combining agri
culture and industry into one entity. For rural society to
move toward the development of new communities, the
majority of the poor, part-time farmers must make a com
plete break with farming.
In Japanese Society Today, Fukutake stresses the im
portance of social welfare and writes that "the level of
social welfare must rise even at the sacrifice ofgrowth in the
economy." He concludes that "Japan must become a soci
ety which truly guarantees to everyone, whether he can
work to his fullest capacity or is unable to work, 'a healthy
and cultured life.' "42 The goal is admirable, but how can
we attain it without controlling the great power of big
business? The overall defect of Fukutake's sociological
theories is his underestimation of the oppressive power of
monopoly capital. The basis of the anti-democratic ele
ments in Japan is none other than big business. For the
democratization of Japanese society, it is more important
to fight capitalist economic and social development in the
interests of the profits of big business than it is to eradicate
the survival of pre-modern elements in families and villages.
Japanese society today is capitalist society. As capital
ist countries, the United States, West Germany and Japan
are similar, but of course every modem capitalist society
has its own character, historical traditions, political proc
ess, and indigenous elements which are neglected when we
talk about capitalist society in general. Modem society in
Japan has different cultural traditions from modem West
ern societies. As a historical fact, capitalist society first
appeared in Western countries, and since these countries
shared common Mediterranean cultural traditions the ini
tial formulation of the theory of modernization tended to
ignore the experiences of non-Western societies. One re
sult is that people have tended to confuse modernization
and Westernization. In Japan, indigenous elements have
often been regarded as deviations or distortions-aberra
tions not in keeping with the main course of modernization.
On the other hand, Japan as a late-developed capital
ist country has retained many pre-modem and communal
relationships in families and communities. Traditional
values which emphasize communal interests are preserved
in the everyday life of the common Japanese. This cultural
tradition originates from actual realities of centuries of
communal life in the small household enterprises. Thus one
could claim that further capitalist development should be
encouraged. Also one could idealize the model of Western
advanced industrial societies and encourage Japan to strive
toward this ideal. But further "modernization" or "ration
42. Japanese Society Today, p. 153.
alization" in Japan would not resolve contradictions and
problems in Japanese society today. Japan, as well as many
other Western countries, has faced many difficulties which
the capitalist system itself has initiated. The dominance of
monopoly capital has brought disastrous situations for the
Japanese people. "Modernization" policies aim not to dis
solve feudal or semi-feudal relationships but to reorganize
them and facilitate the rule of monopoly capital.
The main obstacle to democratization in Japan is not
the existence of small household enterprises but big mo
nopoly capital. In order to realize a new egalitarian human
society in which each individual can freely develop his or
her potential and attain self-realization, the power of
monopoly capital must be abolished. Exactly this is what
Fukutake fails to posit in his theoretical frame of reference.
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Political Protest in Prewar Japan:
The Case of Fukushima Prefecture
by Roger W. Bowen
Just over one hundred years ago "modern" Japan
experienced its first non-samurai-Ied political protest which
challenged the legitimacy of the Meiji State. The event is
known as the Fukushima Incident, taking its name from the
prefecture in which it occurred. In Fukushima in 1882,
thousands of farmers, teachers, priests, businessmen, local
government officials, and craftsmen, affiliated with or belong
ing to the new Liberal Party (Jiyuto), organized tax boycotts,
anti-labor conscription movements, anti-government rallies,
court litigations, petition campaigns, and finally massive
protest demonstrations before eventually being brutally sup
pressed by the government. The basic issue which they so
fervently contested was the central government's presumed
right to determine local taxation, roadbuilding and administra
tive policies. Acutely aware that Tokyo's powers if left
unchecked could do serious harm to the interests of the landed
and commercial elites of the prefecture, these same elites
assumed the leadership roles in the Incident. The couched their
general demand for greater powers of self-government in the
rhetoric of natural rights.
Man is a creature deriving freedom from heaven. He
therefore has the rights of freedom. On this depends his
happiness. When he loses his rights he cannot secure the
safety of his life or his property; he cannot have nor enjoy
prosperity; it does not take a scholar or a genius to know
this . ... To protect our [natural] rights we need [legal]
rights in our country and in our society. I
More than six decades passed before language remarkably
similar to the above words was incorporated into Japan's
postwar constitution drafted under American aegis. Today,
I. Quoted in Roger Bowen, Rebellion and Democracy in Meiji Japan
(Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980), p. 227.
nearly forty years later and over a century after the Fukushima
Incident, thousands more Fukushima citizens are fighting to
secure, in the words of their forebears, "the safety of ... life
and ... property." The issue has changed, however. Today
they are protesting the construction of several nuclear power
plants in their prefecture. But the older themes of center versus
periphery, and safety of person and property, are still being
echoed. Said one protester:
Let me teach you something good. Electric power used in
Tokyo is not generated in Tokyo. The noise and radiation
generated up here is not sent through the wires reaching
Tokyo . ... My house is here. I live here. I do not want to
become a martyr for someone else.
The citizens of Fukushima of both 100 years ago and of
today, whose voices have been heard only because they joined
political protests, have not been anti-modern provincialists
inveighing against progress per se. Rather, they seem to be
self-interested moderns intent upon protecting their lives and
property against Tokyo's grand designs for developing the
crowded Japanese archipelago. The protest strategies they have
adopted, the political organizations they have created or joined
for purposes of protesting, the self-justificatory ideology they
have employed, and the State's response to all these, serve as
excellent indices for interpreting changes and continuities in
the character of Japanese state and society over the past 100
The purpose of the paper is to offer some very tentative
observations about the changes in state and society in Japan
during the past century that have been suggested by the limited
case studies of political protest in Fukushima prefecture.
2. Quoted in Kenmochi Kazami, Genshi hanto [Nuclear Archipelago] (Tokyo:
Matsuzawa, 1982), pp. 355-56.
Characteristics of Fukushima
Fukushima's representativeness makes it possible to draw
conclusions about the experience of political protest for all
Japan from the experience of this one prefecture. Befitting its
rank as Japan's second largest prefecture (after Hokkaido) and
first in population of all six Tohoku prefectures, Fukushima's
human and economic geography exhibits the same sort of
variation as does Japan as a whole. There are three natural
regions in the prefecture-the coastal east, the central plains,
and the mountainous west-which developed over the past
century along distinctive paths according to the natural and
human resources of each.
On the coast, the southeastern town of Taira served as the
hub of industrial and commercial activities that built up around
farming, fishing, and mining interests. By the time of the First
World War coal-mining, cement factories, mining-machinery
factories, and fishing industries dominated the economy.
The central part of the prefecture, stretching on both sides
of the north-south railroads which cut the prefecture in unequal
halves, developed around the prefectural capital of Fukushima
City. Because it served as a railroad terminal, it became the
central market for goods manufactured and grown in other parts
of the prefecture. By the 1920s it was famous for sake
production, silk-reeling, cotton-spinning, printing, stock
breeding, export companies and, of course, government. It
shared with the western part of the prefecture the task of
generating hydro-electric power.
Of the three regions, the west developed least quickly.
The market centers were Wakamatsu and Kitakata where
lacquerware, silk, cotton, tobacco, carrots, and rice were traded
and sold. Cottage industry was far more important to the local
economy than was factory industry. Here also economic power
was concentrated in the hands of relatively few large
landowners who controlled all phases of production and sale
of rice, silk, and lacquerware. Largely because of the pervasive
influence of a few large landowners over the economy of the
region, the Nippon Times could characterize the west as late
as 24 February 1949 as "an area pervaded by feudalism."3
While no one of the three areas experienced appreciably
more political protest than the others, political protest in each
area can be attributed largely to the differing effects that
economic change had on the population of each area.
Fukushima Incident, 1882
In 1882 the fifteen-year-old Meiji government began
implementing a policy of building roads that would connect
outlying markets and administrative centers with the central
government in Tokyo. Its purpose was the two-fold one of
consolidating central rule and developing an infrastructure for
commercial activities in what was still a largely agrarian-based
economy. Still bothered by a multitude of problems of
governing, ranging from samurai disaffection to foreign
economic and political pressure, the ruling oligarchy did not
3. Quoted in Chalmen; Johnson, Conspiracy at Matsukawa (Berkeley:
Univen;ity of California Press, 1972), p. 96; for a lengthier statement on
Fukushima's demography, see ShOji Kichinosuke, Kindai chihO minshii undo
shi [A History of Modern Regional Democratic Movements], Vol. II (Tokyo:
Kokura shoten, 1 9 7 ~ k p p . 124-26.
hesitate to use repression to quell dissent generated by its
policies of consolidation.
In principle those living in the areas most affected by the
policies of consolidation, such as Fukushima, did not object
to the development of a commercial infrastructure so long as
the attendant increase in taxes was equally shared by the central
and local governments and so long as those affected were
granted rights to help determine the course the new roads would
take. The latter was deemed critical by the thousands of rising
commercial farmers who wished to minimize the expenses of
transporting their products to the market. The course a road
would take could mean the life or death of a traditional market
town, especially since in the 1880s the roads in question would
link Fukushima with the Yokohama export markets. For the
sericulturalists in the west and central part of the prefecture,
the only real silk market was the export market. These two "so
long as" conditions, set by Fukushima farmers, defined the
parameters of the Fukushima Incident of 1882.
Early that year a bureaucrat was sent from Tokyo to
assume the governorship of Fukushima. He arrived with a plan
for building a road whose intended course bore little
relationship to the commercial centers which local power
figures depended upon and wished to see developed; and he
carried a plan for taxation which relied more heavily on rising
local tax revenue than on national. The new governor's plan
met with immediate resistance. Those who initiated the protest
against he road scheme were, not surprisingly, the wealthier
commercial farmers who had the most to lose and who also
happened to be locally elected Jiyl1to officials, some of whom
held seats in the prefectural assembly. Virtually all of those
who began the protest claimed that the road "was arbitrarily
decided" and did not follow a route "in accord with the interests
of the people in the area."4 Subsequent resolutions in the
JiyiitO-controlled prefectural assembly censuring the governor
and his road plan were initiated by the Jiyiito landowners most
affected by the plan.
The government's undisputed success in
suppressing both the local party leaders and the
grassroots movement which formed around
them [in the Fukushima Incident of 1882] sent
unmistakable signals to the national leadership
of the party: protest parties based on principles
fundamentally in conftict with the principles of
central oligarchical rule would not be permitted
in new Japan.
The Jiyiit6-Liberal (or Liberty or Freedom) Party-was
founded in late 1881 by dissident ex-samurai and wealthy
commoners who had been excluded from positions of power
in the ruling oligarchy. While the national leadership and in
some instances the local Jiyiito leadership subscribed to elitist
principles of leadership, they nonetheless embraced the
doctrine of natural rights because its democratic inclusiveness
helped in attracting a large popular following. By openly
touting the doctrine and by carrying its message of equality in
the countryside, the Jiyiito quite naturally set itself up as a
party of protest. Against a government rigidly based on rule
by oligarchical decree in the name of the emperor, the Jiyiito
called for constitutional rule, representative assemblies and
local self-government.
In the Fukushima Incident it was the local Jiyiito which
led the tax boycotts and the demonstrations, and eventually its
leadership wrote a secret pact to overthrow the "oppressive
government which is the public enemy of freedom" in the name
of inherent natural rights to life, liberty and property.
issue of the roads, entirely rooted in elightened self-interest,
served merely as the precipitant for raising the larger issues of
local self-rule and constitutional representative government that
would protect the natural rights of property owners.
The government's undisputed success in suppressing both
the local party leaders and the grassroots movement which
formed around them sent unmistakable signals to the national
leadership of the party: protest parties based on principles
fundamentally in conflict with the principles of central
oligarchical rule would not be permitted in new Japan. What
would be permitted, and this was the message of the 1889
constitution, were political parties represented in the Diet
(parliament) whose membership was restricted to the larger
4. See Appendix A in Bowen, Rebellion.
5. Ibid., p. 237.
tax-paying property owners, the very sort that led the Jiyiito
protest in Fukushima. In this way the Meiji state effectively
co-opted the liberal leadership by adopting a limited liberal
conception of law-making. Its effect in Fukushima was to put
an end for the next forty years to the protest role of political
parties as representatives of a larger population. The Meiji
system of rule was thereafter based on the state's accommoda
tion of landowner parties and with that change, one-time
enemies of authoritarian rule became permanent allies.
Rice Riots, 1918
For the three years following the Fukushima Incident there
occurred numerous Jiyiito-related protests and armed rebellions
which also called for democratic representative government
and greater powers of local self-rule. In this respect the 1882
episode in Fukushima was very much a part of a larger
nationwide protest movement known as the freedom and
popular rights movement (jiyu minken undo). If the movement
had a real end, it was with the dissolution of the Jiyiito in late
1884. Party politics as the politics of protest against
authoritarian rule experienced a very real eclipse until the
1920s. The Rice Riots (kome sOdo) of 1918 were no exception,
though they were a nationwide event and reached an important
level of intensity in Fukushima.
The Rice Riots began in Toyama prefecture on the Japan
Sea in late July 1918, toward the close of the First World War.
The causes of the riots are well known: a war-produced
inflationary spiral at a time when wages were decreasing pushed
the cost of the staple food of the Japanese beyond the purchasing
power of the average citizen; the problem was accentuated by
hoarding and market speculation and rumors that rice was being
exported to client states and the military overseas just when
an unusually poor harvest was creating shortages at home; and
within Japan shifts in population from country to town were
creating a new urban market where demand and ability to pay
outstripped that in the very rural areas where rice was grown.
The anomaly of rice producers, usually tenants, forced to
forego consumption while urban workers enjoyed filled bowls
was an outrage to rural folk"
Anywhere from 600,000 to a million people in thirty-seven
of Japan's forty-five prefectures took part in the riots,
prompting the government to mobilize the army, local police,
and army reservists in over sixty cities, towns, and villages
throughout Japan. For forty-five days the rioters, largely
consisting of members of the lumpen proletariat and lower
middle class, attacked and seized control of rice stores, police
stations, pawn shops, and factories before being stopped.
Some 6,650 people were arrested and convicted of crimes
ranging from riotous action to arson and robbery. The rioters
were not the only victims. Occurring only shortly before Japan
was forced into an unpopular peace treaty ending the First
World War, the riots served as additional evidence of the
bankruptcy of the so-called transcendental governments and
6. See George Totten, "Labor and Agrarian Disputes in Japan Following
World Warl," Economic Development andCultural Change. 9 (October 1960):
193; and Shinobu Seisaburo, TaishO seiji shi [A Political History of the Taishii
Period], Vol. II (Tokyo: Kawabe shobO, 1953), pp. 542,560,572.
7. Ibid., p. 657; and Shoji Kichinosuke, Kome sOtJij no kenkyu [A Study of
the Rice Riots] (Tokyo: Miraisha, 1957), pp. 3 ~ .
helped to usher in what is know as the first genuine party
government and the beginning of "Taisho democracy. 8
The riots of Fukushima closely paralleled the disturbances
that occurred elsewhere, showing very clearly that the "riots"
consisted of something more than the spontaneous action of
mere mobs seeking to gratify hunger pains. The rice riots in
Fukushima reveal highly organized protest activity that
reflected the economic and social changes which had gone on
since the 1882 Incident but had yet to find concrete political
Following the arrest of as many as two thousand
participants and the imprisonment of scores of Jiyiito leaders
in the wake of the Fukushima Incident, the political parties in
the prefecture ceased operation for several years before
re-forming as elitist organizations. It could hardly have been
otherwise. The voting laws which accompanied Japan's new
emperor-centered constitution of 1889 restricted the franchise
for national Diet elections to males, twenty-five years or older,
who paid more than fifteen yen in direct property taxes. In the
case of the first election in 1890, only 13,923 or 1.45 percent
of Fukushima's residents qualified to vote.
Likewise, the
number of eligible voters in the prefectural assembly elec
tions-where tax requirements were not as onerous-varied
from county (gun) to county, ranging from .86 percent of the
population in the poverty-stricken county of Minami-Aizu to
10.35 percent in agriculturally rich Tamura county, with a
mean voter eligibility of 4.07 percent by county prefecture
wide.'o And as tax qualifications for candidates to stand for
election were even more severe at both the prefectural and
national assembly levels, the electoral system became one
where the wealthier property owners elected the wealthiest of
their kind to office, which at this time meant landlords in this
still overwhelmingly agricultural economy. Such remained
essentially the case-landlord control of the Diet and
prefectural assemblies-until at least 1925 when electoral laws
were changed, though the trend for landownership to be
concentrated in fewer and fewer hands, and hence for tenancy
to rise, was not reversed until after the Second World War."
Even after 1925, the conservatism of the major parties was so
firmly entrenched and so deeply tied to state rule that the influx
of non-landowners into the electoral process made little
Party politics in Fukushima mirrored the national trend of
convervative landlord domination. Because of electoral laws
the reconstituted parties in the 1890s and later had no
compelling reasons to build wide popular bases of support or
to represent the interests of the non-landed against statist
policies, except in instances where state policy ran counter to
the interests of the landed elite themselves. 12
8. General Terauchi's government fell; Hara Kei of the Seiyiikai became the
first party premier. The Japan Times Mail, an English-language newspaper of
the time, reported as early as 17 August that "Government May Have to
Resign" because of its "utter failure to foresee and to deal promptly with the
present situation [the riots]."
9. Fukushima ken shi, 16[A History of Fukushima Prefecture] (Tokyo: Yiigen
Kaisha, 1969): Seiji, 2: 56-57 [Heareafter abbreviated FKS].
10. Ibid., pp. 100--101.
II. Shoji, Kindai, Tables 9, 10, II (pp.17-18).
12. FKS, 16-46.
It was precisely people from such political
"out-groups" who participated in Fukushima's
Rice Riots [in 1918]. Industrial workers, day
laborers, jinrikisha pullers, printers, fisher
people, small company employees, construction
workers, miners, drygoods salespeople, res
taurateurs, silk weavers, and a kaleidoscopic
array of other urban and rural workers joined
in forty days of demonstrations, meetings,
petition drives soliciting the assistance of the
wealthy, and robbery and looting throughout
Evidence for this proposition is seen clearly in the political
careers of one-time popular rights activists and Fukushima
Incident participants who had been imprisoned between 1882
and 1889. In the 1890, 1892, and 1894 and, in several cases,
later elections, Kono Hironaka, Aizawa Yasukata, Hirajima
Matsuo, Shirai Enbei and several other Incident leaders who
had been convicted of conspiring to overthrow the state, were
elected and reelected to the national and prefectural assemblies.
Besides campaigning on the popular national issue of ridding
Japan of the unequal treaties imposed by the West a quarter
of a century before, they ran on the issue of reducing the land
tax on the propertied. Except for Kono, \\ho once suggested
a broadening of the franchise, the position these onetime
activists took was conservative and statist. 13 Kono, so moved
by patriotic zeal following Japan's victory over China in 1895,
even announced in 1897 that he was quitting the reconstituted
Jiyiito because he felt it had outlived its partisan purposes. 14
Dozens of other onetime popular rights activists followed his
lead and joined the "establishment party" (kisei seit6) , the
Kenseito. The impact of Kono's defection was felt in
prefectural political circles as well, because the vast majority
of Jiyiito prefectural assemblymen also quit the party to join
the Kenseito.
Many of those who felt Kono had betrayed the
party had by late 1900 joined the other of the two established
parties, the Seiyiikai of oligarch Ito Hirobumi. 16
The Rice Riots in Fukushima serve as a reminder that the
electoral system, dominated by landed interests, failed to keep
up with the dramatic changes in society and economy that took
place between 1890 and the First World War. By 1918,
agriCUlture in Fukushima accounted for only half of the value
of all goods produced in the prefecture (down from two-thirds
as late as 1912) and employed only 56 percent of the workin
13. Ibid., pp. 45-54. The one instance when Kono is known to have supported
a universal franchise law occurred in February 1902; See FKS, p. 133.
14. Ibid., pp. 61-63.
15. Ibid., p. 102.
16. Ibid., pp. 104-5.
population (down from about 67 percent in 1910).'7 Because
of the industrial boom and expansion of the economy produced
by World War I, the manufacturing, mining, service (retail)
and livestock sectors of the economy were outpacing
agriculture.'"By 1918 the industrial sector, though employing
only 4.16 percent of the work force, was accounting for well
over 25 percent of the gross prefectural product. By 1918 nearly
16 percent of the working population was employed in the
service sector and another almost 5 percent in banking and
government service. Miners, not even accounting for .2 percent
of the working population, nevertheless produced more than
10 percent of the prefecture's total wealth that year.' In other
words, there existed highly productive, numerically growing
blue and white collar workers whose contributions to the
economy were in no way compensated by a right to participate
in the electoral process and be represented by a party. They
remained politically insignificant because they paid no land
tax, the prerequisite for engaging in legal politics.
It was precisely people from such political "out-groups"
who participated in Fukushima's Rice Riots. Industrial
workers, day laborers, jinrikisha pullers, printers, fisherpeople,
small company employees, construction workers, miners,
drygoods salespeople, restauranteurs, silk weavers, and a
kaleidoscopic array of other urban and rural workers joined in
forty days of demonstrations, meetings, petition drives
soliciting the assistance of the wealthy, and robbery and looting
throughout Fukushima. 20
The riots began in Fukushima City, the prefectural capital,
on 13 August and then moved on to the regional towns of
Wakamatsu in the west and Koriyama in the east on the 16th
and 17th. In these urban centers the riots began with peaceful
demonstrations involving several thousand people at each site,
demanding that rice merchants offer "bargain sales" (rembai).
Graffiti and insulting posters were written or tacked onto the
shops of the presumed hoarders. But besides the rice sellers,
who often were simply merchants for the large landlords, the
demonstrators also targeted landlords, loan dealers, banks,
manufacturing companies and construction firms, insisting on,
as the case may be, low interest loans, rent reductions, higher
wages, and the like. Refusal of demands usually meant looting.
Instances of demonstrations before government offices, in
which demands included the granting of greater powers of local
self-nile (which translates at this time into lower taxes) or
government intervention to control prices were also reported. 2'
With minor variations, such was the nature ofthe activities
of the "rioters" in 6 cities, 16 towns, 3 farming villages, 3
fishing villages, and,2 mining towns across the prefecture. The
scale and size of the "riots" were heaviest in the cities where
anywhere from five to ten thousand people participated.
Generally speaking, the greater the number of participants, the
greater the level of violence that followed the refusal or denial
of their demands. In the towns, 300 to 500 participants was
the average turnout, several hundred in the mining towns, and
17. ShOji, Kindai, p. 9; and Shoji, Kame sjjtJ6, p. 114.
18. Ibid., p. !OJ.
only a score or so in the villages. Violence was highly specific
for the most part, directed mainly at those rice dealers and
merchant-landlords widely suspected of artificially inducing
shortages and high prices.
The riots are as important for what did not happen and
what happened in their aftermath as for what actually took
place at the time. What did not happen was a collectively
organized appeal for assistance or mediation to party politicians
or prefectural government figures. The only two parties
represented in the prefectural assembly, the majority Kenseikai
(successor to Kono's Kenseito) and the minority Seiyukai, were
indifferent to the rioters' concerns. As the prefectural history
characterized the parties' position,
In the prefectural assembly that year [I918} there occurred
absolutely no debate concerning policy toward the riots.
The members ofthe two parties, the Kenseikai and Seiyukai,
as always the centrists, were too tightly glued to the great
landlords and wealthy entrepreneurs and would not serve
as spokesmen for the poor farmers and urban working class
Rather, the parties supported the government in its policy of
armed suppression of the rioters by the military.
The urban and rural poor, the industrial working class,
and the shopkeepers who joined the riots knew enough not to
expect party or government intervention in their behalf; hence,
they made no entreaties. Because the rioters had no access to
official channels for voicing their demands, their demonstra
tions, meetings, leafletting, and other organized protest activity
were labelled "riot" (sodo) by the authorities. In this sense,
"riot" becomes the official term used to describe protest by the
politically unrepresented rural and urban lower classes.
The kame soda was the last significant collective protest
that enjoyed no genuine political representation in Fukushima.
Thereafter a plethora of political groups emerged, each
representing different segments of the lower classes and giving
meaning to the term Taisho democracy. The connection
between the riots and the emergence of the new political groups
can be understood by looking at the aftermath of the Rice Riots
in Fukushima.
Taisho Democracy, 1920s and 1930s
Shortly after the First World War ended, depression
began. As with the rest of the country, in Fukushima the effects
of a sudden end to the war-related boom and inflationary spiral
began to be felt by late 1919.
Taking 1901 as the base year
for indexing the value of production (l 00) , the value of
agricultural production in Fukushima reached 553 in 1919
before precipitously dropping to 302 in 1920. Industrial
production and mining likewise hit highs in 1919 at 581 and
1,110 respectively before falling to 383 and 897 in 1920.
Rates of tenancy and unemployment rose accordingly.
22. Ibid., pp. 110--11,115; Shoji, Kome sjjtJ6, passim.
23. FKS, p. 118; The Seiyiikai seized control of the prefectural assembly that
year for the first time, indicating that the rice riots may have discredited the
19. Shoji, Kindai, p. 9; and Shoki, Kame sodo. pp. 114-15. Kenseikai administration.
20. Shoji, Kindai, pp. 98-100, passim. 24. FKS, p. 18.
21. Ibid., pp. 116, 127, 129. 25. Shoji, Kome sod6, p. !OJ.
In recognition of the economically troubled times as well
as the recent spurt in industrialization, the attendant growth of
the labor force, urban growth, an increase in rural tenancy,
and an internationalization of the Japanese market and society,
various organizations came into being that sought to represent
politically all these new unleashed social forces. The Yllaikai,
Japan's first labor union (founded in 1912), which had
established two branches in Fukushima as early as 1914,
reorganized as the Nihon R6d6 S6d6mei in 1919.
In 1922
Japan's first Farmers Union (Nihon N6min Kumiai) and Japan's
first communist party were also organized. Industrial strikes
and landlord-tenant disputes led by local groups in Fukushima
affiliated with the larger national organizations began in earnest
for the first time. Eight labor strikes in 1919 and scores of
landlord-tenant disputes following the organization of the union
served notice to the prefectural authorities that the times had
In reaction to these instances of political activity in
Fukushima and elsewhere around the nation, the government
issued a series of repressive laws in 1922 and 1923 intended
to counter what they regarded as radical, subversive movements
in town and country. 28
Urban and rural workers were not alone in organizing and
protesting in Fukushima following the Rice Riots. In early
January 1919, school teachers and newspaper journalists from
all over the prefecture gathered in Shinobu to discuss how they
might contribute to promote "a trend of thought called
democracy (minshushugi)."29 In the same spirit, in May 1919,
some 2000 railroad workers, salaried middle class workers and
city employees demonstrated in Fukushima City in opposition
to a proposed increase in city and prefectural taxes. They
launched a "Movement to Reform City Government" (shisei
sasshin undo), in the process urging the public "to stop obeying
blindly and begin pushing for the just rights of all citizens. We
ourselves should force reform of city government."3O They won
part of their fight as city officials retracted the plan to increase
property taxes.
This sort of temporary alliance between workers and
middle-class salaried employees was consistently reforged in
the next five years during the struggle for universal franchise.
Beginning in late 1919, throughout Fukushima dozens of new
suffrage groups, such as the Association for Establishing
Universal Suffrage, Youth for Reform League, Constitutional
Youth Party, and Society of World Workers, organized
themselves quite separately from the two establishment parties
and proceeded to demonstrate for the vote.
First the newspapers and then ultimately the establishment
politicians began echoing the views of the disenfranchised,
leading in 1925 to the passage of the Universal (male) Suffrage
Law by the 50th Diet. But the victory of the suffrage groups
was bittersweet. Ten days before the establishment parties
passedtbe voting law, they passed the draconian Peace
Preservation Act. This law made it a crime to advocate a change
26. FKS, p. 135.
27. Ibid., pp. 139-40; and Nomin sogo undo shi [A History of the Fanners
Union Movement] (Nagoya: Nichikei Nogyo Shimbunsha, 1960), Appendices,
28. FKS, p. 139.
29. Ibid., p. 141.
30. Ibid.
in the emperor system or in the system of private property.
Naturally it was invoked against socialist groups, especially
those active in the labor and tenant organizations, and was
used most notoriously on 15 March 1928, Japan's Night of the
Long Knives, as police mobilized in thirty-one prefectures,
including Fukushima, to round up 1,568 left-wing organiz
But the important point to be made is that with these two
acts of parliament, the vote and the Peace Preservation Act,
the negative effects of the latter going far to nullify the positive
effects of the former, the establishment parties proved
themselves once again to be the ever-obedient servants of the
The rising popular parties (minto) of the late
Taisho and early Showa periods (1922-1940)
were effectively tethered by legalized suppression
intended to negate the growth of democratic
forces after the passage of manhood suffrage.
In Fukushima, at least, Taish6 democracy struggled to
remain alive despite the Taish6 state's attempts to stifle
democratic dissent. Following passage of the suffrage law a
variety of renewed and new political groups emerged in
Fukushima to protest unsatisfactory social conditions. Though
these groups often worked together, their membership overlap
ped, and they shared the same objectives, the six most
important political movements and organizations in the
prefecture will be dealt with separately below. They are: the
proletarian parties, the consumer union movement, the
right-wing organizations, the citizens movement, the tenant
unions, and the labor unions.
Proletarian parties (musan seito) began organizing in
Fukushima in 1927 with the establishment of a Social Masses
(Shakai Minsh1it6) branch in Fukushima city, then three years
later another branch in the Iwashiro district and three years
after that another in Koriyama. In important respects the Social
Masses Party served as the political arm of the S6d6mei labor
federation. Its introduction into the prefecture was followed in
1929 by the establishment of two branches of the Labor-Farmer
party (Zenkoku R6n6t6). The illegal Japan communist party
(JCP) under the guise of the Political Research Society (Seiji
Kenkyl1kai) began organizing in industrial areas as early as
1925 before going underground in 1927 and encouraging
individual members to join branches of the other proletarian
parties and labor unions and also to create various youth
leagues. By 1929 the JCP in Fukushima was publishing its
31. Shoji, Kindai, p. 150; and Nihon minshU rekishi, Vol. 8 (Tokyo:
Sansh6do, 1975), pp. 169-170.
own newspaper but, like the party, it never fared very well as
the authorities were relentless in hounding it.
The membership figures of the different proletarian
parties, though probably a poor indication of their popularity
and the extent of their influence, are unimpressive. The Social
Masses Party's branch in the mining area of Joban boasted 420
members by 1928 and the Koriyama Ronoto branch had 518
members by 1931, but as few as six members made up
Fukushima City's Social Masses Party branch in 1927.
Membership in the consumers union movement (shOhi
kumiai undO) cut across the membership of the proletarian
parties, the labor unions, and the tenant unions. The origins
of the movement date back to the 1890s in Fukushima when
the first union was started by railroad workers, but the
movement only took off after the Great Depression. Though,
once again, membership figures are an inadequate measure of
influence, by February 1931 there were thirteen unions with a
membership of 516 people, concentrated mainly in Soma
county. Two years later, deeper into the depression, at least
eight more unions were formed around the prefecture, adding
several hundred more members. Soup, sake, rice, knitted
goods, stationery, and other sometimes scarce items were
among the goods that the unions sold at discounted prices to
their members. As the unions became better organized they
became more political and issued position papers and drafted
charters that reflected the social class of their membership. The
obvious political aspects of the unions show they were anti-war ,
anti-imperialism, anti-company unions, anti-big capitalist,
pro-union (labor and tenant), and for the rights of free speech
and assembly. A very concrete action they took was to provide
financial aid to striking tenants and workers. 33
Much the same sort of socioeconomic and political change
that spawned the proletarian parties and the consumer
unions-the impact of the depression and the failure of the
establishment parties to represent the interests of the lower
classes-gave rise to right-wing organizations in Fukushima.
The rightist organizations drew not only from the same
constituency-the lower and lower middle classes-but also,
quite naturally, sprang up in many of the same areas of the
prefecture. 34
Between 1927 and 1934, forty-eight groups with a
combined membership of about 3,000, taking such names as
Citizens' Association for a New Japan (Shin Nihon Kokumin
DOmei) and Greater Japan Producers' (Dainihon Seisanto),
sprang up allover the prefecture, professing loyalty to nation
and national socialism. ~ A majority of the rightist organizations
were located in the cities and towns of the coastal region, in
Date county, and in Fukushima City, that is, in the industrial
and mining areas. They were led by army reservists, hospital
administrators, journalists, village heads, priests, and shop
Their declared enemies were "individualism,
liberalism and capitalism" and the "left-wing of the socialists
and communist movements."37
32. ShOji, Kindai. pp. ISO, 161, 167.
33. Ibid., pp. 167-74.
34. FKS, pp. 339-44; Shoji, Kindai, pp. 174-77.
35. Ibid., p. 176.
36. FKS, p. 343.
37. Ibid., p. 327.
Citizen movements (shimin undo), so called because being
urban-based they drew on city-dwellers of all classes, also
developed into a political force in Fukushima in the late 1920s
and 1930s. As much as anything, they grew out of a widespread
reaction to the ill-effects of unplanned capitalist growth in the
One of the more dramatic of the citizens' movements
occurred in the cities of Fukushima, Taira, Koriyama, and
Wakamatsu in 1927. The precipitating issue was the Tobu
Electric Company's decision to increase the electric rates of
all consumers even though high demand for electricity by new
factories had prompted the decision. The decision threatened
especially the very poor people and many of the small- and
medium-sized factories in the towns. Initially after the Electric
Company announced the hike, the Koriyama branch of the
Nihon ROdo labor union led in protesting the rate hike, but as
the protest movement developed during the year, other
industrial workers, farmers, merchants, miners, shopkeepers,
small manufacturers, and restaurateurs joined.
When negoti
ations between leaders of the movement and the electric
company failed, violence broke out in Koriyama City once the
police ordered the crowd of four or five thousand gathered
outside the negotiation site to disperse. A combination of
repression and government support for the power company
ensured defeat of the movement.
Participants in the consumers, citizens and rightist
movements may have simultaneously been members of any
one of the new political parties of the Taisho period, but the
organizations of rural tenants and urban workers were either
creations or affiliates of the proletarian parties in the prefecture.
This was both a blessing and a liability; the connection was a
blessing for the organizational experience of the parties that
tenants and workers could draw upon when first setting up their
unions, but certainly a liability during periods when the parties
were rent by factionalism, personal and ideological, and when
they were targets of government repression. This happened
most of the time. Consequently, workers and tenants primarily
depended on the more stable and accessible unions of which
they were a part and on which they depended for protection
of their interests.
In the case of poor farmers and tenants, one such
organization, the All Japan Farmers Union (Zen Nihon Nomin
Kumiai DOmei) which prospered in Fukushima, offered its
members a "Farmers Song" (1926) that captured in succinct
terms the farmers' dilemma and the means necessary to escape
from it.
As our lives are threatened
the nation's foundations tremble
while capitalism prospers
with the law on its side.
Organization! Forming groups
offarmers united in Justice.
This will strengthen
the foundations of a new Japan.40
38. ShOji, Kindai. pp. 178-79.
39. Ibid., pp. 189-90.
40. Quoted in the "Forward" to Nomi" sogo undO shi.
Such sentiments, equally serviceable to the right or the
left, found their most organized expression in Fukushima in
the actions and pronouncements of the left, but only after 1927
to any significant degree. Previously, tenant organization had
been negligible and tenant protest activity sporadic. Between
1917 and 1928, only fifty-nine tenant-landlord disputes
occurred in the prefecture, forty-six of which in 1926-28. Few
had the backing or force of a large (trans-village) organization.
Only in 1928 was there a sudden increase, reaching a pinnacle
in 1936 when 455 tenant disputes and strikes occurred, second
in the nation only to Yamanashi prefecture. Moreover, there
was a close correlation btween the rising number of disputes
and the growing number of unions and union membership.42
In 1925 there were only 23 local tenant unions in Fukushima
with a membership of 1,426; in 1931 there were 53 unions
with over 3,000 members and by 1935 nearly 7,000 members
were organized into 130 unions. 43
Organization efforts by tenant unions, especially those
affiliated with the Nihon Nomin Kumiai, became particularly
intense in the sericultural regions of Shinobu, Date and Adachi
when silk prices plummeted because of the depression.
other major union in the prefecture, the Zen-No Zenkoku Kaigi
Fukushima-ken Hyogikai, especially prominent in Onuma
county, had branches in five other counties as well. Of the
two, the latter was the most radical politically, having a close
affiliation with the communist Labor-Farmer Party. The
Farmers Union was closely associated with the center and
center-left factions of the Social Masses Party.4S Nonetheless,
both tenant union organizations in Fukushima were highly
vulnerable to government repression; especially after 1932,
arrests of tenant union leaders in Fukushima became com
The main purpose of the tenant unions was to help secure
rent reduction and secondarily to counter the growing landlord
unions (jinushi kumiai) and government-sponsored "concialia
tion unions" (kyochO kumiai). But in addition to these goals,
the unions also engaged in more overt political activities. In
1935, for instance, the unions in Fukushima ran their own
candidates for seats in the prefectural assembly. In 1936 they
organized a petition campaign to force the central government
to pass legislation protecting the tenants' right to cultivate, that
is, the right not to be evicted. And in 1937 in Fukushima City,
the more moderate of the two large unions celebrated the
anniversary of the founding of the movement by featuring
speeches by leaders of the Social Masses Party who exhorted
tenants to fight for a tenant protection law, special loans to
tenants, lower rents, greater powers of self-government, and
against fascism. 47
Later in 1937, after Japan invaded China, tenant unions
in Fukushima, as elsewhere in the nation, followed the
pragmatic path chosen by their union federations and party
41. Ibid., pp. 4--6 (Appendices); FKS, p. 698.
42. Nomin sogo undo shi, p. 31 (Appendices).
43. Ibid., p. 20.
44. Ibid., p. 699; ShOji, Kindai, p. 158.
45. Ibid., pp. 156-57; Nomin sogo, p. 699; FKS, pp. 626-28.
46. ShOji, Kindai, pp. 157-58.
47. FKS, p. 646.
leaders and joined patriotic farmer organizations in support of
national unity. The impact of the war on the tenant movement
will be taken up below.
The labor movement in Fukushima followed a pattern of
activism quite similar to the tenant movement. In its origins
in the Meiji period the labor movement was an outgrowth of
the mechanization of the silk industry, mining industry, and
the railroads. But up until the First World War labor activity
in each of these industries was limited for special reasons: the
silk industry was largely cottage-based and staffed primarily
by women workers who were culturally oppressed and therefore
politically quiescent; mining was so localized in the east as
easily to permit containment of miner agitation to that area;
and the railroad workers, so vital to the centralization process,
formed a sort of labor elite whose high wages made them
largely indifferent to political activism. The strikes in these
industries that did occur before the war were usually of very
limited duration and of low intensity, and they were carried
out independently of any outside organizations. Only after the
war when the labor force expanded and as new machineries
were installed in a process of "rationalization" (gorika) did the
movement take off. 48
Politically significant organization began only in 1927
with the formation of the Joban Regional Coal Miners Union
which was affiliated with the socialist labor federation of Nihon
ROdo Kumiai Domei. In the year of its founding the Miners
Union was the largest in the prefecture with over 3,000
members organized in eight different locals. 49
The other principal labor federation active in organizing
workers in the prefecture was the Nihon Rodo Kumiai
Hyogikai, which like the tenant hyogikai was one of the most
radical and therefore under constant seige from the authorities.
This union organization enjoyed its greatest successes among
workers in the printing industry in Fukushima. so The left wing
of the Social Masses Party supported this federation, while the
centrist factions of the Party supported the Domei.
Between 1927 and May 1934, ninety-seven labor disputes
and strikes occurred in the prefecture over the issues of wages,
working hours, safety conditions, and so on. Though it is not
clear how many of these were supported by the unions, seven
of twenty-five disputes occurring between 1925 and 1927 did
involve union support. S2 It seems safe to conjecture that a much
higher percentage had union support between 1928 and 1935
when union activity was peaking.
Mter 1935 protest activity by Fukushima labor groups
followed the national pattern and sharply declined. The salutary
effects of Japan's "second industrial revolution" coming in the
wake of the colonization of Manchuria were being enjoyed by
Fukushima workers. Unions became correspondingly less
militant, especially after the July 1937 Marco Polo Bridge
Incident. By late 1937, in an open expression of support for
the China War, organized labor renounced the right to strike
(a "right" they never legally enjoyed), and organized labor's
48. Ibid., pp. 348-78.
49. Ibid., p. 404.
50. ShOji, Kindai, p. 152.
51. Ibid., p. 153
52. FKS, pp. 408-9; Shoji, Kindai, p. 155.
principal political supporter, the Social Masses Party, patriot
declared its support for the war. Then in 1938 the same
party supported in parliament the National Mobilization Law,
clearing the way for total worker allegiance to the New Order
(shintaisei). By 1940 all parties, including the establishment
parties, dissolved themselves in favor of national unity under
a one-party imperial state. 53
It would be a great mistake to leave the impression that
the labor movement in Fukushima collapsed or failed because
federation and/or party support succumbed to the excesses of
patriotism. As much as anything, union activism disappeared
because the economy was not yet ready for it. It is well to
remember that nationally not even 8 percent of all factory
were ever organized into unions in the prewar period,
10 large part because of the industrial dualism that characterized
the period. As late as 1934, 56.5 percent of all workers were
employed by small enterprises with 5 to 9 workers, and another
39.7 percent were employed by medium-sized concerns having
10 to 99 workers.
In such situations paternalism, not unions,
served as the grease to prevent friction between labor and
In Fukushima the situation was similar. In 1932 about
one-half of all factories employed fewer than 10 workers; about
40 percent of all factories employed from 10 to 30 workers;
only 33 factories in the prefecture employed more than 100
Moreover, women made up more than half the
industrial and mining labor force of 33,439 in 1934, 15,500
of whom worked for menial wages in the large clothing and
weaving industry. 56 Very few unions penetrated any of these
enterprises. Where the unions were successful in organizing
workers---in railroad yards, electrical companies, cement
factories, steel factories, mining equipment manufacturers, and
in the mines--they were also successful in the immediate
postwar period when a rebuilt Communist Party oversaw their
efforts. 57 In such industries political protests and strikes
resumed almost as if the war had never intervened, indeed,
almost as if the war had given labor organizing a boost in
credibility and legitimacy that it never enjoyed in the prewar
period. 58 Because of increased industrialization and production
during the war years, a greater number of laboreres, many of
them Koreans "imported" from the colony during the war and
forced to work under slave-like conditions, were fully prepared
after the war to strike against the deplorable working conditions
they had so long been forced to endure. The New Order, it
would seem, gave rise to something much newer than its
architects had ever envisaged.
It might be suggested that the war had much the same
effect on the tenant unions. By the last year of the war the
New Order was encouraging greater agricultural production by
rewarding tenants in Fukushima, who tilled almost 35 percent
53. FKS, p. 204,481-82; and Stephen Large's excellent newhook, Organized
Workers and Socialist Politics in Interwar Japan (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1981), esp. pp. 167-68.
54. Quoted in Ibid., Ch. 4, quoting Lockwood, Economic Development
(Princeton), Table IS, p. 202.
55. FKS, p. 457.
56. Shoji, Kindai, p. 154.
57. Ibid., Part HI, passim.
58. FKS, pp. 483-90; cf. Johnson, Conspiracy, pp.
of all land, a four-times greater cash bonus than the landlords
received. 59 Producers, rather than owners, were being rewarded
for the fruits of their production, which is precisely what the
tenant unions had sought since the 1920s. Indeed, the rapid
resurrection of almost 100 tenant unions in Fukushima within
two months of the end of the war served notice to the defeated
government and to the Allied Occupation that democratic land
reform was going to have to implemented quickly.60
Political protest in "modem" prewar Japan, to the extent
the Fukushima case is representative of the national experience,
was democratic in intent. In the early 1880s farmers,
the mamstay of the economy, sought to make the central
government more accountable to the wishes of property
owners. Most dramatically demonstrated by the tax boycott,
the theme of no taxation without representation was clearly
stated. The "Rice Riots," the most apparently anomie of the
various incidents studied, can be interpreted as the outcry of
the poor and hungry in behalf of instinctive notions of fairness
and equity at a time when they were shut out from a political
system. The establishment parties could not conceive of a
P?litical solution to t.he problems of the economically
dIsadvantaged. The VarIOUS movements of the twenties and
thirties explicitly sought political solutions to the economic
problems the lower classes faced. They sought representation
10 those areas of the public domain where their interests were
most at stake. As they could not gain entry into the established
the period, they created their own organizations
tned to forge out of a mass of politically impotent
mdlVlduals a collective power that the state would have to
The "development" of political protest in Fukushima, if
such a term has meaning, reveals a political system of
remarkable continuity operating within the circle of state
overlordship. The political system, by which I mean electoral
and administrative politics, consistently served rather than
(let alone resisted) the state's primary activities of
the. strengthening the military, protecting
the lmpenal mstltutlOn, colonizing overseas territories and
suppressing democratic, therefore dissident, groups at home.
The sole possible representatives of popular will, the parties,
were early on, as the Fukushima Incident helps illustrate, made
designed to facilitate the linkage of the
SOCIally mfiuentlal strata with the state. The kisei seito or
parties" were exactly as their name suggests.
The nsmg popular parties (minto) of the late Taisho and
early ShOwa periods (1922-1940) were effectively tethered by
legalized suppression intended to negate the growth of
forces the. passage of manhood suffrage.
Asslstmg, perhaps mfiuencmg, the state's containment of
democratic forces was the "double dual economy," double
because the dual economy applied in both the agricultural and
industrial sectors of the economy. Farmers were badly divided
along lines of ownership between non-owners (tenants) and
59. ShOji, .Kindai, p. 17; Ann Waswo, Japanese Landlords: The Decline of
a Rural ELlie (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1977), p. 136.
60. FKS, pp. 736-39.
owners (self-cultivating and landlords); workers were no less
divided between the very few large industrial concerns where
union federations could operate and the many small factories
and cottage industries where an objectively oppressive paternal
rule prevented horizontal relationships from emerging. Between
tenant and landlord, between laborer and factory owner, stood
only a few tenant and labor unions. Had there been no war
and had the economy continued its gradual levelling process,
allowing more wealth to "trickle down" to workers, perhaps
stronger unions and even stronger popular parties would have
become better representatives of the economically disenfranch
Yet in a time of militarization of the world economy, of
steady imperialistic advances by Japan and other major powers,
so-called barely democratic nations like Japan (and Italy)
required greater internal order to be able successfully to take
advantage of external disorder. Wars of territorial and
economic aggrandizement, in Japan's case at least, required
the total mobilization of the nation's resources. That this
occurred just at the time when democratic forces at home were
organizing at an unparalleled rate is a factor of timing too
important to overlook. The timing is crucial and the comparison
with Europe unmistakable. Peter Merkl points out the "crucial
timing of fascist revolution at the precise point where
democratic mass participation is in the offiing for a society in
cataclysmic transition. After all, European fascism is a
perversion of incipient democracy. "61
"Cataclysmic" is not a word that would be used by many,
save extreme rightists of the period, to describe the period of
the twenties and thirties, though few would deny that
"democratic mass participation was in the offing." But that was
nipped in the bud by the 1937 China War and the fascistic
organization of society in mobilizing for the Pacific War and
in this sense helped Japan out of the political impasse posed
by rising democratic forces. And it would seem that the
cathartic effect of the war paved the way for a resurgence of
these same democratic forces in the postwar period. *
61. Peter Merkl, "Democratic Development, Breakdowns, and Fascism,"
World Politics 34, I (Oct. 1981): 118-19.
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Art, Children, and the Bomb
by John W. Dower
Among the various arguments which were advanced by
Americans in the summer of 1945 in support of using the
atomic bombs against Japan, there is one that has been generally
neglected. We might call it the concept of idealistic genocide.
This line of reasoning, endorsed by a spectrum of eminent
men associated with the Manhattan Project, held that the world
at large would never be able to imagine the awesome
destructiveness of the new weapon unless it was actually
demonstrated in combat for all to see. To convey the urgency
of arms control in the future, it was necessary to first create
an unforgettable atomic wasteland in the present.
This chilling line of thought has proven to be both naive
and prescient. The arms race occurred despite the immediate
shock of the bombs, but the memory of Hiroshima and
Nagasaki remains absolutely central to peace movements
throughout the world. No slogan is more graphic than "No
More Hiroshimas." No voices are more eloquent than the cries
for peace of the hibakusha atomic bomb victims).
At least two strong forces work against the perpetuation
of these memories of August 1945, however. One is the
technocratic jargon of the managers of the arms race, whose
language is often deliberately meant to confuse the public and
place the human and moral aspects of nuclear confrontation
beyond the pale of "realistic" discourse. The other counterforce
is the simple passage of time itself. Memories fade and die if
Copyrieht C 1980 by Toshi Maruld
special efforts are not made to preserve them for succeeding
Not surprisingly, it is the Japanese who have done the
most to preserve the memory of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Their
anniversary observances serve this purpose, and the memories
have been recreated over and over again in prose, poetry, and
the graphic arts. It is noteworthy, moreover, that Japanese
children share in these expressions, and much of the work on
the bomb is specifically directed to them.
By contrast to the Japanese, youngsters elsewhere in the
world generally have been shielded from exposure to intimate
and graphic depictions of the atomic-bomb experience. In the
United States, this was readily apparent prior to the television
showing of "The Day After" late in 1983, when self-styled
experts of every stripe debated how old one should be before
being allowed to watch this film about the nuclear destruction
of a Midwestern city. In 1982, a team of American educators
repsonsible for preparing a teaching unit on nuclear issues for
middle-school students actually adopted a policy of using no
graphics whatsoever, on the grounds that young people could
not cope with their traumatic impact.
These are serious, legitimate concerns, and in Japan too,
more cautious and conservative voices have argued that graphic
depictions of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are "too blunt" or "too
cruel" for children. These were, in fact, the very phrases used
Copyright 1978 by Keiji Nakazawa
VlOOR'f Of JAPAt-l ... 'fOUR
SHlTf UP!(
TAArtbR JUST eErAuse
when (in the first instance) the serialization of Japan's most
famous cartoon-style depiction of Hiroshima, Barefoot Gen,
was terminated by its original publisher in 1974. And the phrase
used was "too cruel" in a case of textbook censorship in 1982,
when the Ministry of Education refused to recertify a text that
included among its illustrations a detail from one of the famous
"Atomic Bomb Panels" (Genbaku no Zu) painted by the
husband-and-wife team Iri and Toshi Maruki.
In Japan, however, the political significance of the debate
over exposing children to depictions of nuclear destruction is
clearer than in other countries, for it is transparently tied up
with the issue of accelerating remilitarization and more active
Japanese support of American global anti-communist policies.
Japanese educators, politicians, and parents alike are acutely
sensitive to the importance of historical consciousness in
shaping the political inclinations of the young; and the treatment
of World War Two in the schools and mass media now plays
a central role in the struggle to control this critical aspect of
education and socialization. For the large number of Japanese
who are too young to remember the war, the atomic bomb is
the single most unforgettable symbol of a dark recent past.
In Japan, for adults and children alike, recollection of the
atomic-bomb experience thus leads inexorably to a host of
intertangled non-nuclear issues. The bomb is placed in a context
of militarism and imperialism, for example, and eventually
racism and prejudice enter the picture and even the identity of
"victim" and "victimizer" begins to blur. Thus, we soon learn
that tens of thousands of Koreans were in Hiroshima when the
bomb fell, and the Japanese hibakusha continued to discrimi
nate against their Korean fellow sufferers in medical treatment
and even disposal of the dead. Afterwards, the Japanese
hibakusha themselves were forced to endure discrimination at
the hands of other Japanese.
Both the Marukis and Nakazawa Keiji, the author of
Barefoot Gen, have introduced such themes in their atomic
bomb art, and have gone on to address other non-nuclear
aspects of the war and postwar period as well. After completing
their fourteenth major panel on the Hiroshima motif in 1972,
the Marukis turned their extraordinary talents to depictions of
the Rape of Nanking, Auschwitz, and the victims of the
Minamata mercury poisoning. Nakazawa's cartoon books,
which have been assembled in a 19-volume "peace comics"
collection in Japanese, include such subjects as the Japanese
invasion of Manchuria. He and the Marukis have also used
their art to record the exploitation of the people of Okinawa
under both Japanese and U.S. rule.
The Japanese art of the atomic-bomb experience also
leads, at least potentially, in another direction: to skepticism
toward authority. It is not anti-American per se, but rather a
stark reminder of what was done by both the Japanese and
American sides four decades ago in the name of patriotism and
high ideals. This is not conducive to seeing current global
conflicts in black-and-white terms. And in contemporary Japan,
where the ruling groups are deeply concerned with reinstiIIing
"love of country" and consolidating a highly paternalistic
democracy, any such encouragement of skepticism toward
authority is extremely discomforting to the elites. It is, in fact,
all the more unsettling because, by all available evidence,
young people as a whole respond positively and maturely to
these materials. Barefoot Gen, which has now been expanded
into a 7-voIume paperback edition in Japanese (each volume
is over 250 pages), continues to enjoy immense popularity ten
Copyright 1978 by Keiji Nakazawa
years after the original serialization was terminated. The
museum in Saitama (the Maruki Bijitsukan) in which the
Marukis' "Atomic-Bomb Panels" are displayed is visited by
thousands of school-children annually (I myself have watched
them become absorbed in these masterworks of high art). And
in 1980, Toshi Maruki, herself one of Japan's best-known
illustrators of children's books, published a picture book for
very young readers titled Hiroshima no Pika which quickly
became well known.
Copyright 1980 by Toshi Maruki
Western artists and illustrators have not ventured to engage
the atomic-bomb experience at these levels of sustained
intimacy, but several of the Japanese works, including the best
ones for children, are available in translation. Toshi Maruki's
Hiroshima no Pika, published under the same title in English,
won several prestigious American prizes in 1982. The first
volume of the lengthy Barefoot Gen series, based on
Nakazawa's own experiences as a boy of six living in
Hiroshima when the bomb fell, can be obtained in an excellent
Copyright 1978 by Keiji Nakazawa
black-and-white English version; for young readers, it is hard
to imagine a more vivid and engrossing introduction to life in
wartime Japan, the bomb experience itself, and the ordeals of
the survivors. This famous Gen series was inspired by a short
version of his experiences done by Nakazawa in 1972, and in
1982 this was made available in a standard colored comic-book
format in English under the title I Was There.
Gen can be read as meaning "root" or "source" in
Japanese, and in the introduction to the first English volume
of his famous series, Nakazawa explains how he came to call
his semi-autobiographical protagonist Barefoot Gen:
I named my main character Gen in the hope that he
would become a root or source of strength for a generation
of mankind that can tread the charred soil of Hiroshima
barefoot and feel the earth beneath their feet, that will have
the strength to say "no" to war and nuclear weapons . ...
I myself would like to live with Gen's strength-that is my
ideal, and I will continue pursuing it through my work.
Out of the terrible destruction has thus emerged a heightened
commitment to creativity. Adults may ponder this. Children
seem to appreciate it intuitively. For them, art may be the most
constructive medium through which they can begin to come to
grips with the nuclear world they have inherited. *
11<0 ..
ALL lliE
Copyright 1978 by Keiji Nakazawa
Keiji Nakazawa's
books About HiTOshi",a
aft AV'Aita."l( f..-01Il

box QOlLl6
S&n frAn"S'o
write for a free
After the War: Translations from Miyamoto Yuriko
by Brett de Bary
Within a year of the end of the Pacific War on August
15, 1945, Miyamoto Yuriko had written two companion
novels, The BanshU Plain (Banshii Heiya) and The Weathervane
Plant (Fiichiso), both descriptive of her experiences in the
weeks and months immediately following the surrender. The
fact that this pair of novels, written by an author who had been
under constant police surveillance and whose works had been
banned during much of the wartime period, received the
Mainichi Cultural Prize for 1947, is as indicative of the
dramatic transformation of the Japanese literary scene in the
wake of defeat as it is of the timeliness of Miyamoto's subject
matter. The Banshu PLain remains one of the most soberly
detailed literary evocations of Japan in August and September
1945, while The Weathervane PLant provides an account of
Yuriko's reunion with her husband, Communist Party leader
Miyamoto Kenji, after his release from twelve years of wartime
imprisonment. In The BanshU PLain, Miyamoto's viewpoint is
panoramic, her attention outward-turned; The Weathervane
PLant focuses on the inner workings of Yuriko's marriage and
often reads as a probing, even sadly resigned, attempt to take
stock of the "fit" between her feminism and her personal life .
Translated below are excerpted chapters from the two
novels. The first is the opening chapter of The Banshu Plain,
containing a depiction of the day of Japan's surrender which
is one of those written most closely in time to the actual event.
The setting of the chapter is a town in Tohoku, rural northern
Japan, where Yuriko, represented by the character Hiroko, was
living as an evacuee at the war's end. The chapter captures
well the sense of numbness and moral confusion with which
many Japanese responded to the news of surrender-Hiroko's
evasive brother, a Tokyo professional, cannot explain what is
happening to his children, while the local farmers take to drink.
For Miyamoto, this is symptomatic of a Japanese lack of inner
resources with which to deal with defeat, a "moral bankruptcy"
which becomes the major theme of the novel and which she
sees as the most tragic legacy of the war. The Peace
Preservation Act, which Miyamoto refers to in both novels,
was originally passed in 1925 and prescribed heavy penalties
for participation in a broad range of political and cultural
activities defined as subversive of the Japanese government.
The provisions of the act were made more stringent as the war
progressed. It was on the basis of this law that Yuriko's
husband, Miyamoto Kenji, was imprisoned for 12 years and
that Yuriko herself was arrested, detained for brief periods,
and kept under surveillance during the war.
Although Hiroko expresses concern about the fate of her
imprisoned husband Jiikichi (Miyamoto Kenji) throughout The
BanshU PLain, it is only in The Weathervane PLant that the
subject of their reunion is taken up. The heady renascence of
political and cultural activity among Japan's left-wing intel
ligentsia that resulted from the dismantling of the wartime
Peace Preservation Laws forms the background for this intimate
portrait of a marriage. While the novel is infused with a sense
of the tranquil joy that Yuriko, then age forty-seven, must have
experienced at being reunited with her husband after twelve
long years, the couple's adjustment to living together again is
shown as often painful. Despite many years of activism in the
socialist women's movement, Hiroko is cut to the quick when
Jiikichi intimates she has become "too tough," too independent,
living alone during the war; throughout the novel she is unable
to reconcile her self-assertiveness with her need for her
husband's approval. The disparity Hiroko senses between her
inner strength, tempered during the war, and the accommoda
tions she makes to her husband, is depicted in a particularly
subtle and moving way in Chapter Four, translated here.
The measured rhythm and self-contained lyricism of
Miyamoto's prose in these excerpts is reminiscent of the style
of "I-novelist" Shiga Naoya, whose works Miyamoto studied
as a young woman.
The BanshU Plain, Chapter 1
It was the evening of August 15, 1945. In the dining
room, where an ancient clock hung on the wall, Yukio's wife
Sae was setting the table for the family's dinner. "What do
you think, Papa ..." she called to her husband. "It's all right
to turn the lights on tonight, isn't it?"
From the verandah off the dining room, the Adatara
mountain range was visible in the distance, to the south of
them. Yukio had spent the entire afternoon in silence, smoking
and staring at the mountains. "I don't know ..." He turned
to his wife, in the utterly unhurried manner that was
characteristic of him, and looked into her face intently for a
few moments. "Maybe it would be safer to leave them turned
off a bit longer."
"All right." The compliant Sae continued setting the plates
out on the table.
Hiroko sat at one end of the table, helping her
four-year-old nephew Kenkichi finish his meal before the others
started. The subdued tone of the dialogue between her younger
brother and his wife, who had still not fully recovered from
their sense of shock, resonated with her own mood.
For the past few days this region of Tohoku had sweltered
under a heat wave. Deep cracks had appeared in the parched
clayey earth in the yard outside the house. And at about five
o'clock every morning, with roars that seemed to tumble
straight down out of the glittering azure sky, a large formation
of bombers would attack.
Last night, just as on the night before and on the night
before that, the air raid siren had sounded about 11 p.m. and,
until 4 or so the next morning, hundreds of B-29 bombers, in
wave after wave, had filled up the windless summer night sky.
A barely audible radio broadcast had given Akita Prefecture
as the destination of the planes, but no one in the village placed
much faith in the report. Earlier, when the railroad depot and
the military installation in this village (where the Tomii family
were living as evacuees) had been severely bombed, the air
raid siren had only sounded several minutes after the first attack.
Yukio and Hiroko had kept watch all night on the 14th.
The moon had come out late that evening, revealing in its dim
light the gently swaying fields that lay just beyond the verandah,
the one closest to the air raid shelter, where Hiroko and her
brother-in-law had been sitting in silence with the rain shutters
thrown wide open behind them. In the intervals between the
passing of the American planes, the village civil defense team
would relay their messages. One of the voices was a woman's.
"En-e-my!" Hiroko felt saddened as she listened to the slender
throat strain to prolong each syllable. The sound floated
intermittently across the sweet potato patch, which was covered
with mist, from somewhere near the large pond. Was it a sense
of the importance of her duty that made the middle-aged
woman's voice seem to tremble? The voice brought to Hiroko's
mind a desolate shack on the outskirts ofthe town. She pictured
the sweaty, entangled bodies of several children sleeping under
a worn mosquito netting, the sleeping face of a grandmother.
Surely there was no man in that house.
Hiroko approached the mosquito netting where Sae had
retired to sleep with her three children as quietly as possible,
but no sooner had she peeked inside than Sae asked, in a polite,
concerned voice, "How are you? You must be exhausted. Is
Papa still up, too? What a noise they made last night!" A small,
carefully enclosed oil lamp had been set beside Sae's pillow,
just large enough to light the way if she had to escape with
the children. The blue sheen of the mosquito netting and the
intricate shadows cast by the lamp made Sae' s beautiful nose
look sharp and severe against the white pillow case.
With a roar that seemed to shave the earth right off the
fields, the last formation of bombers passed. Afterwards, no
matter how intently they listened, the sky was empty. Hiroko
suddenly felt the strength rush out of her body.
"It must be over." Sae had inched out from under the
mosquito netting. She unfastened the strings of her air raid
hood, shaking her head as if it had been a real nuisance to
wear it. Yukio had stood, shoes and all, on the step outside
and lit a cigarette. On the first puff he had taken a deep, deep
breath that indented both his cheeks.
On the day of the 15th, before they had finished a late
breakfast, the air raid siren sounded again.
"It's the midget planes!" Twelve-year-old Shinichi's eyes
were wide with excitement. As he dashed out of the house, he
stopped to put on little Kenkichi's air-raid hood and to lead
him into the shelter. Just three days ago, when the nearby
military installation and airstrip had been bombed for an entire
day, it had been done by a formation of midget planes.
"Mother! Hurry! Hurry!" Sae, bearing her sickly oldest
daughter in her arms, came in and sat in the innermost part of
the shelter. Above the hand-dug trench into which the family
had crowded, summer grass grew thickly. When it looked as
if Kenkichi was about to cry from boredom, Hiroko plucked
some wild flowers and had him hold them in his fist as she
made up a little story. But just over three hours later, at 11:30,
it was suddenly quiet.
"That's funny. The planes are all gone. Really." Shinichi
shouted down in a disbelieving voice, as he surveyed the sky
with his telescope from the roof of the shelter. Up until
yesterday, when the midget planes had appeared they would
attack repeatedly until the sun set.
"Strange things do happen . . ."
"Maybe they took a break: for lunch. They'll be back."
Despite these skeptical comments, they poured out of the
air-raid shelter with slightly lightened hearts. Everyone
returned to the dining room.
Sae asked if they should eat right away, or listen to the
radio broadcast. Earlier there had been an anouncement that
there would be an important broadcast at noon today.
"Let's wait. We had a late breakfast," said Yukio. "Sister,
is that all right with you?" Hiroko agreed.
Shinichi had put himself in charge of the radio and was
watching the clock. In a few minutes, a tape recording of the
Emperor's voice came on. But the voltage in the radio was
very low and the feeble voice, uttering strangely formal
phrases, was exceedingly difficult to understand. Shinichi,
amazed that it was the Emperor's voice he was listening to,
kept adjusting the sound. When the volume was clearest, the
speech was just barely intelligible. Even Kenkichi was listening
quietly in Sae's lap. As the tape continued, they caught the
phrase, "We have no choice but to accept the Potsdam
Declaration." Hiroko, who had been standing near the
verandah, edged,in spite of herself, toward a spot just beside
the radio. She pressed her ear against it. This circuitous, nearly
incomprehensible speech was a declaration of unconditional
When the voice stopped, she looked at her brother and
his wife. "Did you understand what he was saying? It's an
unconditional surrender."
The tape was followed by an announcement from the
Cabinet. Then that, too, was over. No one spoke until Yukio
uttered, as if in complete disgust, "Incredible!"
Given what had just happened, Hiroko was astonished at
how quiet everything around them was. The air burned in the
blistering August afternoon; hills and mountains were en
veloped in boundless heat. But in their town there was not a
sound. No voice broke the silence. Hiroko felt as if her entire
body reverberated with it. At some point between noon and
one o'clock on August 15, while all of Japan was mute and at
a loss for words, history had turned this great page in silence.
This stillness that had immobilized this small town in Tohoku
along with the heat-what could it be if not a moment of
convulsion in that terrible history in which, up until this very
day, Hiroko's life itself had been painfully caught up? Hiroko
Sae, with Kenkichi in her arms, stepped out onto the
verandah and quietly wiped away tears. From the back her
matronly figure, clad in the work pants she had worn even
when she went to bed at night, conveyed a mixture of relief
and let-down she could hardly articulate.
Shinichi's sunburnt cheeks seemed to have turned to
gooseflesh in patches and his eyes shifted from his parents to
"Auntie, is the war over?"
"It is."
"Japan lost?"
"Yes. Japan lost."
"Really? It's an unconditional surrender?"
Hiroko was both moved and vaguely frightened by the
expression on the youth's clean-cut countenance--a sense of
humiliation that cut him, personally, to the quick. Of course,
she realized, Shinichi had believed in all sincerity that Japan
would win the war.
"Shin-chan," she addressed him slowly, "right up until
today all they told you, at school and every place else, was
just that Japan would win. There were lots of times when
Auntie wanted to tell you something different, but I was afraid
that if you heard one thing here and something else at school,
you wouldn't know what to believe. That's why I never talked
to you about it."
For the fourteen-year duration of the war, Yukio's family
had quietly skirted the edges of the catastrophe, sustaining only
the most minor shock waves. Yukio had been exempted from
military service for a slight physical defect that did not
incapacitate him in any way. That had been the primary reason
for their good fortune. The so-called "peaceful" construction
work that Yukio had been involved in as an engineer had felt
the impact of the economic blockade. This had caused a
short-term crisis in liquidity. But they had skillfully managed
to stay afloat on the tide of the wartime inflation. Just a year
and a half ago, Yukio and his family had evacuated to this
country house where his grandfather had spent his declining
Hiroko had often harbored doubts about what was reported
in the newspapers and the bulletins from the Imperial Agency
during the war. Usually, the reports seemed either barbaric or
unbearably tragic. For a person like Hiroko, it was natural to
discuss these reactions. Sometimes Yukio would express vague
agreement with her, puffing on a cigarette, but often he would
chide her for taking things too seriously. "There's nothing
people like you and me can do, after all. Whatever they say,
we should just keep our mouths shut." A dark, severe look
would come into his eyes. This aspect of Yukio became more
pronounced as the war progressed. Sensing that his anxiety
extended to the matter of what his son was told, Hiroko had
kept most of her observations to herself.
The paralyzed silence of the village had continued
uninterrupted from noon through evening and into the night of
the 15th.
The next morning, Hiroko, in a bright peaceful atmosphere
that she felt strangely unaccustomed to after all this time,
changed out of her workpants and started a letter to her husband
Jiikichi, who was in prison in the Abashiri Penitentiary. * She
sat at the desk her grandfather had prized and upon which,
during her childhood, her grandmother had always carefully
set out a bronze water container, Chinese porcelain inkstone,
and other writing utensils. Today the desk, reflecting the
turbulent and unstable life of the family who lived in the house,
was littered with clumsily written exercises Shinichi had been
assigned to do while school was in recess due to the air raids,
and with partially nibbled pieces of com left by Kenkichi.
After writing a few lines, Hiroko stopped to muse. Surely
Jiikichi, behind his high, small cell window at Abashiri, had
heard that the war had ended. Jiikichi, who had lived out the
last twelve years in prison. Jiikichi, who had smiled through
the glass panel of a prison visiting room in June, just before
she had moved from Tokyo to Tohoku, and said, "You'll be
there half a year, ten months at the most ..." With what
emotions would someone like Jiikichi learn of the end of the
war? A silent cry of victory welled up in Hiroko's breast.
Over the years, she had written more than one thousand
letters to him, and all had been inspected by prison censors.
As she and Jiikichi had developed an understanding between
themselves, and as their methods of expression had become
more and more deft, they had been able to infuse even
descriptions of the natural scenery with their delicate
communication as husband and wife. But today, as she began
this letter, Hiroko sensed only irritation at the pathetic skill
she had mastered. There was something she wanted to ask
directly, something which was the main point of her letter. It
could be written in a single line. But even now, she was unable
to write it. When will you come home? That was all that Hiroko
wanted to write. When, indeed, would Jiikichi come home?
For over fourteen years, the provisions of the Peace
Preservation Law had been so stringent there was barely room
to breathe. The government had gone so far as to import a
Nazi-style system of detention centers. According to the
recently announced resolutions of the Potsdam Conference,
* The Abashiri Penetentiary was in Hokkaido.
this law, which bore down like a heavy weight on their small
country, was to be dismantled and abolished immediately. But
Japan's rulers had divulged information about this set-back in
round-about phrases that those working in the fields and the
factories could not readily comprehend. Hiroko glimpsed in
this the wiliness of a group straining to hold on to the last
vestiges of its power. What were they trying to do with the
Peace Preservation Law? In what manner, in what areas, might
they be able to maintain it?
A wariness on this point, a painful insecurity which would
be difficult for someone who had not experienced it to
understand, made Hiroko stop writing. The simple phrase "I'm
happy," so direct in expression, was something she couldn't
feel safe putting in a letter to Jiikichi. Too open an outpouring
of her emotion might provoke instant retaliation from some
unforeseen direction, in the form of nasty behavior toward
Jiikichi, who was tenaciously struggling to maintain the
minimal conditions for physical survival. With each line she
penned, Hiroko's pulsating spirit twisted and turned as if in
agony. She thought of Jiikichi, who with his shaven head and
dull red prison uniform still had eyes bright with expectation
for the future. When the heat generated by her contortions
struck his palm, how would he look back over the years the
two of them had spent united, but separated by space and time?
Hiroko's sense that today she had unexpectedly come to the
bnnk of a steep incline was surely vividly shared by Jiikichi.
She felt this strongly.
Beyond the sliding doors that Hiroko's desk faced was a
verandah. Until just yesterday the family, thrown into a panic
by the air raids, had left it open all night long. Their rucksacks
and several bundles tied with cloth were there, along with oil
cans they had packed with edible provisions. Everything they
had hastily set out was still standing there. This morning, two
rain shutters were still pulled across the verandah, and from
one of the knotholes a hot ray of sun penetrated the gloom
inside the house. It fell across Hiroko's wicker travelling trunk
that had been tightly bound with cords.
Hiroko wanted to go and live in Abashiri, where Jiikichi
was in prison. As a writer who had some flexibility in choosing
where she would live and work, Hiroko had made this decision
toward the end of July. One day, a letter she had addressed in
all good faith to Jiikichi in Tokyo's Sugamo Prison was returned
to her bearing an official label explaining that the addressee
had been transferred to Abashiri. Discovering the word
"Abashiri" in blurry characters on the cheap paper of the label,
Hiroko felt as if her center of gravity had been wrested away
to some distant place. Until that moment, Abashiri had been
only a name to her. Yet, confined as Japan was, countless
mountains and rivers now lay between Hiroko and the place
where Jiikichi had been sent. As the air raids increased in
severity and it was even rumored that American troops might
land on Japanese soil, there were times when Hiroko feared
those mountains and rivers might cut them off from one another
for years.
Hiroko had been living in her younger brother's vacated
home in Tokyo when she learned of Jiikichi's transfer. As
quickly as possible, she had arranged for someone to look after
the house and had moved to this town in Tohoku. She had
gone to the train station and travel office several miles from
the house to ask about buying a ticket across the Tsugaru straits.
While waiting for the ticket to become available, she had started
her preparations for her journey.
As far south as Tohoku, where Hiroko was, the mountains
would change color in August. In Abashiri, the autumn mist
had probably already appeared. Hiroko hoped she could at least
make the passage cross the straits to Hokkaido before snow
squalls from the Sea of Okhotsk made the roads impassable.
Selecting items which would be suitable for living in a cold
climate, Hiroko had packed her trunk in the sunlight of a
summer afternoon. She hadn't the vaguest idea what kind of
life she would lead in Abashiri, where she didn't know a single
soul. Wherever Hiroko had moved during the war, the
probation officer consistently forbade her to socialize with other
people. Recently, it had become difficult for her to travel by
sea, even alone and empty-handed. She couldn't carry any of
her belongings with her. Nevertheless, Hiroko kept Abashiri,
the place where liikichi lived, uppermost in her mind, and she
reacted with alarm each time there was another air raid over
Aomori. The city of Aomori had been bombed, and over half
the ferry boats that took people to Hokkaido had already been
Hiroko took out a stamp and put her letter, in which she
had written that if she could get a ticket she would be in
Abashiri tomorrow, in an envelope. Yet she wondered if her
wicker trunk would ever really cross the sea. A thoughtful
acquaintance in Tokyo, concerned about the fact that Hiroko
had decided to travel to Abashiri, where she knew no one, had
written to friends in a nearby city to ask them to help her.
After what seemed an interminable wait, Hiroko had heard
from the man. In characters hastily scrawled on a postcard, he
had informed her that their area, too, had recently been
subjected to air raids, that the people he knew had either been
evacuated or killed, and that therefore it would be difficult for
him to assist her-perhaps she should discuss the matter with
her husband and postpone her journey.
"You might wish to discuss the matter with your hus
band . . ." the man had written, as if Hiroko were planning a
trip to some place he knew nothing about! The message on the
card palpably conveyed the distracted state of the kindly
gentleman who had written it, his eyes darting about his
surroundings as the vortex of war closed in upon him. To be
sure, Hiroko mused, he had also taken into account the fact
that she was a woman under surveillance.
Although Hiroko had come to this town in Tohoku simply
to live for a time with her younger brother, the local Special
Police Officer had investigated her relationship even to people
who came to the house on ordinary buiness. Sae had been told
that, because the local officials were quite considerate, if she
submitted the name and age of any visitors to their home she
would immediately be granted a supplementary rice ration. Sae
had been happy to comply. When the police officer later
questioned Hiroko about people who had come to the house
on such trifling business she wondered how he ever knew about
it, it turned out these were all names which had been submitted
to him in relation to the rice ration. When Hiroko mentioned
this to Sae, Sae raised her eyebrows and seemed taken aback.
"Is that what they were doing?"
In the face of all this, Hiroko was still trying to travel to
When she went to get some paste to seal her envelope,
she heard an unfamiliar male voice in the dining room. The
man was speaking loudly, already rather drunk.
"I tell you, sir, if it weren't for a time like this, absolutely
out of the ordinary, I wouldn't be so bold as to come calling
on you ..."
Yukio made a polite response.
"Anyway, now it's all over, what's a man to do but have
a drink or two? It don't make sense, none of it, so who cares?
How about it, sir? Our sake isn't altogether low class. We put
it through a cloth of pure cotton, y'know. Come on, sir. We're
acquainted with each other, after all . . ."
Hiroko put on her geta and went around to the back door
of the kitchen, which was shaded by an apricot tree. Sae was
squatting on the earthen floor with a pile of firewood to one
side of her, peeling potatoes and listening to the exchange in
the dining room.
"A visitor?" Hiroko asked.
Sae nodded her head, looking somewhat put out.
"Who is it?"
"It's Mr. Oto from Yota's place."
The man worked at the control association in the town.
Hiroko went out to mail her letter at the post office on
the comer, with little Kenkichi at her side. The place had the
typical look of a town which had grown up on the site of a
Meiji frontier settlement; until yesterday military trucks and
motorcycles had sped back and forth along the broad highway.
Today, there was not a single one to be seen. The still, deserted
road was whitened with dust and Hiroko could glimpse Mt.
Miharu off in the distance beyond the patches of cucumber and
pumpkin that had been planted in the open spaces between the
low, squat houses along the road.
When Hiroko returned down the dirt road she saw,
emerging from the gate near the cedar grove, Yukio, in his
white shirt, with Mr. Oto's arm flung over his shoulder.
After the fifteenth, all radio entertainment shows were
halted, throughout the nation. Instead, day and night, the radio
carried demobilization instructions for the army and navy and
directives for those in the local reserve forces and pilot training
schools. Interspersed with these were explanations of the
severity of the atomic bombing catastrophe to which the cities
of Hiroshima and Nagasaki had fallen victim, and of the fearful
power of the atomic bomb. To forestall a run on the banks,
there were broadcasts proclaiming the nation's economic
stability. The Minister of Agriculture announced that there was
no need for anxiety about the food situation. The Minister of
Education declared that Japan would be reconstructed as a
nation of culture and peace. One after another, announcements
filled the air of the country town, as if the silence of an
interruption in radio broadcasting would be unendurable. In
every house, radios were simply left running, and people
listened attentively. Yet their faces, as they listened, registered
a profound aimlessness and confusion they seemed helpless to
express in words. Up until today, they had been like players
in a tug of war, determined to win, pulling with might and
main on their cable. That cable had suddenly snapped. Now,
before they had even had a moment to tumble backward on
the rebound, a different cable was being thrust at them and
they were asked to grab on. How must they feel?
That night, for the first time in six months, the lights in
the Tomoi household shone brightly, illuminating every nook
and cranny on the heavy, old-fashioned beams and floorboards
which had been blackened by years of smoke. At some point,
unbeknownst to anyone, a large round weight stone used for
making pickles had tumbled down out of the high shelf in the
kitchen. When it suddenly became visible tonight, they all
burst out laughing. Hiroko, wearing a tennis shirt for a blouse,
had the feeling that even the outlines of her own body emerged
more distinctly in the unfamiliar brightness. Outside, the
electric lamp beside the well was turned on, and through the
windows behind the raindoors that, for the first time in many
days, had been thrown open at the end of the corridor, Hiroko
could clearly see the dark yard and its overgrown flower garden.
Bathed in light at last, every comer of the ancient house seemed
to take on a fresh, new life. Yet how sharply that same light,
in hundreds of thousands of other homes throughout Japan,
must illuminate the place by the hearth of one who would never
return! When Hiroko thought of this, the joy she felt as light
surged through the house was accompanied by a pang of sorrow.
That night, in the brightly lit atmosphere that exposed
even more glaringly than usual the feeble, inept quality of the
government broadcasts, they listened to the news that the
Suzuki cabinet had resigned. The Higashikuni cabinet had
taken its place.
The Weathervane Plant, Chapter 4
Jiikichi worked at the table that was large enough to sit down
at, writing. Beside the table they had set a Japanese style desk,
where Hiroko was making a clean copy of Jiikichi's draft.
"That's funny. My feet are cold."
1iikichi gazed into the sunlight off the southern verandah,
as if in disbelief that he could feel a chill when its rays were
so warm. It was a tranquil afternoon in early November.
'The chrysanthemums are usually beautiful at this time
of year," said Hiroko, throwing a blanket over his legs. "But
none of the flower shops in this area survived the bombing."
With their neighborhood surrounded on all sides by rubble, the
quiet brightness of late autumn seemed unusually expansive
this year. At night, the whistle of the steam engine in Tabata
sounded as if it was just around the comer.
"I wish, just for once, 1 could get a good pile of charcoal
burning for you in the hibachi. But I guess there's not much
chance of it," said Hiroko.
"That's all right. Now that I'm home I can put on as many
layers of clothing as I want to when it gets cold." 1iikichi spoke
without putting his pen down, and went back to his writing.
After spending so many years without the basic human
comfort of warm food, 1iikichi was now fond of heating
practically everything he ate. Hiroko might bring a plate of
freshly cooked tempura-style vegetables to the table and 1iikichi
would still say, "I bet these would taste even better if we grilled
them," and warm each piece over the electric burner before
eating it. "Let's warm this up!"-whether it was tea, soup, or
whatever, Jiikichi heated things up as if all life's pleasures
were best warm.
Hiroko experienced these little pleasures of Jiikichi's
vividly. A few minutes ago, when she had put a kettle of water
on the burner, Jiikichi had commented, "I seem to be drinking
a lot of green tea these days." He seemed surprised. "I never
liked it that much before."
"It's the same for everyone. There's nothing else to drink.
Did you hear what they used to do with the left-over tea leaves?
When the war first started they fed them to the horses. Then
they told us to eat them."
"I ate them, too. In prison. I was constantly hungry."
They went back to work for a while, until Hiroko came
to several lines she couldn't make out. "Where does this part
go?" She handed the draft, which was full of erasures, up to
Jiikichi. "Right after the line that says, 'In view of the Potsdam
Declaration. ", He traced the lines with his eyes. "Right here."
He showed Hiroko the place he had marked with his pen. '''In
the future, we should adhere rigorously ... '"
"All the way to there? You're jumping allover the place,
aren't you?"
They became silent again. But gradually Hiroko's copying
began to outpace Jiikichi's writing. She filled the idle spaces
by making tea or going downstairs to do some preparation for
dinner, while Jiikichi, totally oblivious to her comings and
goings, continued to work with a will, in a manner which was
both relaxed' and concentrated. Sitting with her chin in her
hands, Hiroko drank in the atmosphere. When had she ever
worked so happily and with such a sense of fulfillment, as if
she were shaking sleek, ripe ears of grain from their stalks?
The sliding doors of the three-mat room behind them were
open. Hiroko's eyes wandered to the room and she stared at
it. The afternoon sun lit up the shOji. A folding bed was stored
against the wall. Hiroko could see the intricate pattern made
by the metal bars of the bed when it was folded in three, and
the patches of rust on the nickel-plated springs. When she had
left this house to go to Abashiri, when 1iikichi had been in the
penitentiary there, she had folded up this bed and put it in the
comer. There it had stayed, collecting a light film of dust, until
this very day. When Jiikichi had returned home and discovered
it, he had remarked, "That's handy. We can use it to rest on
during the daytime." But Hiroko had had no inclination to open
up the bed.
There was one scene that always came to mind when
Hiroko looked at that single-mattress bed. It was the scene of
a spare, six-mat, second-story room, with a small lattice
window on the east and a bare balustrade along the southwest
wall. This bed stood alongside the lattice window, covered
with a light-blue-striped towel on which had been set a flimsy
pillow. To the right, at the entrance to the room, was a large
writing desk. Between the desk and the bed there was just two
mats of open floor space. From afternoon to evening the western
sun, only partially screened out by a bamboo blind, beat down
on the worn brown mats, the bed, and the desk, making the
room broil. One could smell invisible particles of dust burning.
The air was relentlessly dry. The afternoon sun was truly
This was the second-story room that Hiroko had lived in
for four years. She would write there with a towel clenched in
one hand, feeling as if she were gasping in the dry air.
The room had a narrow balcony for drying clothes. On
the balcony stood a large pot with a weathervane plant in it.
It was mid-summer, 1941. Since Hiroko had been banned from
publishing her work from January of that year, she was barely
managing to eke out an existence. Jiikichi, who was in Sugamo
Prison at the time, had not supported the idea that she should
struggle against all odds to go on living alone. He proposed
that she live with the family of her younger brother Yukio.
Without wishing to oppose 1iikichi, Hiroko had not taken
readily to the idea. She had lived apart from the family house
for twenty long years, and to those who were in the old house
now, it would appear that Hiroko was moving back because
the difficult life she had embraced, not out of necessity but out
of her own desire, could no longer sustain her economically.
Jllkichi told her it was out of a base concern for saving face
that she declined Yukio' s invitations. He wrote this in a letter.
Three years previous to this, Hiroko had also been banned
from publishing for a year and several months. But at that time
she had not been alone. Several close friends were in the same
situation. In those days, the capacity to be outraged by such
treatment was still alive in most writers, and Hiroko did not
feel isolated in her distress. There were always people she
could talk to.
Three years later the situation was utterly changed. The
Peace Preservation Laws, like a barbed wire fence, had created
an impassable no-man's land between writers who were
"banned" and those who weren't. Moreover, while both the
morale and the economic situation of writers who were active
on the front line in China and Manchuria were flourishing,
Hiroko's position was like that of a lone wall on a river bank,
holding out against the pressure of the swollen waters which
came flooding over it. It was not merely that Hiroko was in a
precarious situation economically, she was suffocating spiritu
ally. Should she confide in 1iikichi her sense that she was
beginning to choke for lack of air?
During the few minutes that she was able to visit face to
face with Jllkichi-just that brief interval-Hiroko would feel
relieved and would be able to smile. It pleased Jllkichi to see
her chatter brightly. But as soon as she would leave the prison
and stop to visit Yukio's family (her friends' homes were too
far away), whose every word and gesture seemed utterly
divorced from her inner life, she would hurry home, thankful
that at least she had some place where she could live alone.
But how hot and dry that second-floor room was! How
clumsy, how dull the sheen, of that huge desk where all her
writing was locked away!
One evening Hiroko, with nowhere else to go, wandered
out into the marketplace in front of the station. Outside a plant
shop where the blinds had already been drawn, a line of potted
weathervane plants stood on the sidewalk. The plants had just
been watered, and Hiroko took an extraordinary delight in
looking at the profusion of narrow leaves, still beaded with
water and glowing green beneath the electric light. She had to
have one. In an elated mood, she bought a pot, had someone
deliver it to her later that night after the shops were closed,
and set it out on the balcony.
For a few days Hiroko, whose life no longer had room
for such quiet, routine activities as spreading dripping laundry
out to dry, watered the plant on her bare balcony faithfully.
But her situation was worsening, and as her composure
gradually disintegrated, the dry, tortuous summer took its toll,
even on the poor weathervane plant. At some point, a few
withered leaves appeared. Hiroko glared at them. But she
stopped watering the plant.
When she tried to recall it now, Hiroko couldn't even
of wind and for a few seconds the clover which bloomed along
the embankment would be a confused, trembling mass. Hiroko,
with her frayed nerves, one day sensed with a start that her
soul was shaking as violently as the clover. It was as if all her
pent-up feeling had been made visible there. Night and
morning, Hiroko had slept and risen in the bed that was stored
against the wall. At the very sight of it the memories of that
parched summer, when she had nowhere to tum, rose up in
her mind.
She had bought the bed in early summer, 1935. Early one
morning Hiroko had awakened to find a man in a fedora peering
at her from behind the screens in the rented room where she
slept in that bed alone. He was a special police officer who
had come to arrest her, and who had broken into the room by
jimmying open the bathroom door.
After Hiroko had moved out of her room and had turned
it over to a friend, the plant on the balcony had dried up and
been thrown away. But there was another weathervane plant
that was sharply etched in her memory. It was the trim little
pot that stood in front of the window of Cell No. to, Women's
Ward, Sugamo Detention Center. Although Hiroko had pressed
the plant as close to the window as possible, not even the tips
of its slender leaves stirred. No matter how often she looked
at it or how patiently she waited, she had never seen the leaves
moved even once by a breeze, even in the middle of the night.
The building she was detained in, which had a slanted glass
roof like a greenhouse, broiled and steamed in the heat of the
hottest summer in sixty-eight years.
Hiroko felt choked by these memories. Could she ever
tell all, all of it to 1iikichi? It was only after he had returned
home that she had been able to relax, liberated from the tensions
that had threatened to destroy her; it was only then that she
could perceive clearly what she had been struggling against all
those years and how unnaturally stiff she had appeared to those
looking at her from the outside. A friend of Hiroko's, who had
herself been involved in a very complex situation when Hiroko
knew her, had written a short story about two sisters with very
different personalities. At one point, the younger sister, who
sees herself as a woman of feeling, says to her chaste and
dutiful older sister, "But come now, your reputation is the
pride of the whole family!" Although to an outsider these words
would appear to have nothing to do with Hiroko, she could
still hear her writer friend's distinctive voice addressing them
to her. When she had read the book, she had stopped and stared
at the line. A feeling that was difficult to put in words had
flared up inside her . . . was it something she would ever be
able to talk about?
She went over and put her hand on the shoulder of J ukichi,
who was still writing. "What is it?"
"Please let me write." She took his empty hand in hers.
"Please. I want to be active politically, but be sure I have time
to write."
Jukichi smiled warmly into Hiroko's flushed face, and
with a touch of amusement. "Now, now. Calm down." With
the same fingers that held his pen he traced a pattern, like a
magic charm, on Hiroko's brow. "Let's not misunderstand
each other. Hasn't it been I who has been urging you to write?"
They were involved in the formation of a new literary
association around that time. Critics, poets, and novelists
remember what she had eaten to keep herself alive. She could whom Hiroko had not worked with for more than ten years
remember the stalks of blooming clover near the Sugamo were coming together again to raise a cry from the heart of a
* station. When the electric train sped past there would be a blast nation whose lips were no longer sealed.
Socialist Development: The Political Economy
of Agrarian Reform in Vietnam
by Jayne Werner
Since reunification in 1976, Vietnam's faltering economy
has produced a crisis of grave proportions, the causes of which
are not yet fully understood. The drawn-out consequences of
45 years of war and international isolation are obviously
important elements affecting the Vietnamese economy, but the
crisis has continued-if not worsened since the end of the war.!
Grain production-16.2 million tons in 1983-has not kept
pace with consumption needs. Official figures indicate that
during 1983 per capita food production was 296 kg., up from
a 1978 low of 243 kg., but still well below war-time levels.
Central to the debate about Vietnam's economy is an
assessment of agricultural cooperativization. Agricultural
cooperatives, in place in northern Vietnam since the late 1950s,
were designed to increase agricultural productivity, a promise
which has yet to materialize. It is clear that agricultural
collectives must be evaluated politically as well as economi
cally, and there is a strong argument to be made for the fact
that their political successes have been greater than often
1. Vietnam's small industrial capacity was crippled by the war, urban centers
in the south became dependent on foreign military and economic aid, and
programs of "forced urbanization" created severe rural/urban imbalances. U.S.
diplomatic and economic isolation has played a role in Vietnam's economic
difficulties and Vietnam's cold war with China has been costly, but the break
with China and the military occupation of Kampuchea exacerbated existing
economic problems-they did not create them. By the time Vietnamese troops
went into Kampuchea, the 1976-1980 Five Year Plan was already being
scrapped. The economic crisis in Vietnam is thus not directly linked to the
Vietnamese occupation of Kampuchea.
2. Calculations made by Alec Gordon, "Vietnam's Food Crisis," paper
presented to the conference "A Critical Examination of Vietnam's Economy,"
Transnational Institute, Amsterdam, June 1982. Figures for 1981 and 1983
are from the Weekly Bulletin, published by the Socialist Republic of Vietnam,
Permanent Mission to the U.N., October 4, 1983, p. 5. Average caloric intake
in Vietnam is well below world standards-I 800 calories in 1979 compared
to the world average of 2590 calories. See the Bulletin d'lnfonnation et de
Documentation, published by the Association d' Amitie Franco-Vietnamienne,
Nos. 52-53, SeptembrelDecembre, 1983, p. 4.
acknowledged. The economic issues are a good deal more
During the war years, agricultural collectivization pro
vided a crucial political bond between village and state, which
sustained nation-wide mobilization against the Americans.
Until 1975, however, villagers in the north had a good measure
of economic autonomy. Higher-level producers' cooperatives
(hop tae xa) tended to coincide with the traditional village (lang
or xa). Production at the local level aimed at self-reliance.
Although national unity (and party control) were unassailable
during the war, economic links between state and locality were
tenuous; economic administration was fragmented and infra
structural development was weak.
3. Le Duan and Pham Van Dong, Towards Large Scale Socialist Agricultural
Production. Hanoi: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1975.
4. See Nguyen Tu Chi, "The Traditional Viet Village in Bac Bo: Its
Organizational Structure and Problems," Vietnamese Studies, No. 61 (Hanoi:
FLPH, n.d.). Traditionally, village and state were integrated through the
Council of Notables and its administrative agents, the ly dich, who ran the
everyday affairs of the village and "defined the options and measures aimed
at conducting the affairs of the village and the nation" (lang/nuoc). By the
19th century the ly dich had become, for all practical purposes, the executors
of state directives (trat). Ly dich conferred access to communal land to male
peasants, by which they gained entrance to the adult community. Ly dich also
compiled the tax and land registers which gave public citizenship to males,
and with it an obligation to pay taxes, do corvee labor and be available for
military duty. The allocation of communal land to male villagers on behalf of
the village and the nation (lang/nuoc) required villagers to defer to the exactions
of the nation (nuoc).
The second mechanism of state legislation was the statutes of the village
(huong-uoc), a codified set of laws which included prohibitions, rewards and
punishments for certain types of behavior, and compensations for meritorious
deeds. Huong-uoc were, according to Nguyen Tu Chi, "a masterly combination
of village traditions and state power."
The third mechanism was the tutelary spirit of the commune, which
defined its personality and provided a focus for village/state identification. The
cult of the tutelary spirit or the thanh hoang (the "spirit of the ramparts and
the moats"), around which the spiritual life of the village revolved, was
With the end of the war, the peasantry's willingness to
produce for the state weakened. Since the supply of consumer
goods was very sparse and access to agricultural inputs such
as fertilizer, equipment and seeds was limited, peasants simply
curtailed their transfers to the state in like manner. The state
was as a result obliged to devise stronger incentives to motivate
peasants to raise productivity and release their surplus to state
collection agencies. In addition, drastic cuts in aid from the
Soviet Union and China, poor weather and profound political
disputes within the Vietnamese COll)lIlunist Party itself
combined to produce an agricultural crisis of immense
proportions, which peaked in 1977-78. The Party responded
to the crisis with a series of economic reforms, designed to
spur agricultural productivity, and initially known as the "Sixth
Plenum Reforms," following the sixth plenum of the fourth
party congress in the summer of 1979.
Decentralization of Production: Subcontracting and
the "Family Economy"
A central aspect of the new reforms is the system of dual
contracts between the state and peasant producers. These
contracts oblige peasants to deliver a negotiated amount of
grain to the state in exchange for the state's obligation to supply
fertilizer, seeds, and certain kinds of equipment at a reasonable
price to the peasants. In 1981, the key policy of subcontracting
agricultural tasks to families was introduced, known as the
khoan san pham ("contracted products") or subcontracting.
Subcontracting has proved to be very successful. After a year's
time, production in some cooperatives was said to be up by
30 percent.
The contract system provides incentives to
increased output by setting a quota of production at averaged
levels which is to be sold to the state at state prices. The
producers can keep the surplus and dispose of it as they desire.
For agricultural products, free market prices are considerably
higher than state prices,6 so that with the new system peasants
have the opportunity to increase their income and their purchase
of consumer goods, which provides incentives for the
production of these goods.
The widespread adoption of subcontracting, in addition
to the system of private plots in existence since the beginning
of collectivization, has reduced the role of collective structures
in agricultural production to the point where non-collective
practiced at the village dinh or communal hall. State power conferred identity
and legitimacy on local spirits which were the focal point of village festivals,
ceremonies, and competitions, all contributing to a strong sense of communal
Communist party rule restored the nation to the village. by achieving
national independence. The local party leadership, transformed in its class
basis, found itself in the same position vis-a-vis the state and village as the ly
dich. The local party as the agent of the state was obliged to collect taxes,
procure grain and mobilize military manpower for the state. The party rules
of the village cell were derived from national party statutes. Land was allocated
through the party appartus.
I am not suggesting that "national integration" was or is weak in Vietnam,
because I see cultural and political dimensions to integration that have been
highly cohesive. However, labor productivity and agricultural production have
been two weak points in'the system.
5. Interview with Huu Tho, agricultural editor of Noon Dan, 8/26/82, Hanoi.
6. For instance, peasants sell rice to the state for 2.6 dong per kilo, 3 dong
in the south. On the free market, peasants can sell rice for 10-12 dong a kilo
and upwards (1982 prices).
forms of production now equal collective structures in
importance. Since productivity has been found lacking,
agricultural reform necessarily has involved questions of unit
productivity, be it the cooperative, the team, or the family.
This in tum has entailed questions of centralization vs.
decentralization and local autonomy vs. state control.
Both subcontracting and private plots rely on the family
or household as the unit of production. As family forms of
production, they involve different types of relations with
collective structures. Private plots in Vietnam are farmed on
"5% land," or land which is owned by the family and which
constitutes about 5 percent of the total collective land. Farming
on 5% land bears no formal relationship with the agricultural
cooperative. Subcontracting, another form offamily production,
consists of the family signing a contract with the collective
unit (the cooperative or the team) for farming on state-owned
land, that is, on land owned by the cooperative. Responsibility
for fulfilling the contract lies with the family, which allocates
work based on relations within the household.
It can be argued that decentralized forms of production
increase productivity, but they do so by strengthening local
autonomy at the expense of the state. In Vietnam, decentrali
zation in agriculture has shifted responsibility for production
down from the level of the cooperative to the production team,
and from the team to the family. Half of the six agricultural
tasks formerly performed by the agricultural cooperative are
now performed by the family as a result of the adoption of
The three new tasks taken over by the family
are transplanting, weeding, and some harvesting. Plowing,
water control, and pest control, with the remaining harvesting,
are still performed by the cooperative using collective labor.
It is mainly women's work, rather than men's work, that has
been de-collectivized and reverted back to the family, with a
concomitant loss in the role in production of the collective-unit
leaders at the level of the cooperative management committee
or the team, many of whom were women. As collective units
of production lose their role in production, the state finds its
leverage vis-a-vis the localities reduced. Non-state mechanisms
such as the family and the market have picked up the slack.
Thus economic reforms in the form of moves toward
decentralization seem to call into question the original socialist
vision put forward by the party. Especially troubling are the
increase in women's work and domestic labor as a solution to
the economic crisis and the decline in participation of women
in social production and public life.
The pros and cons of subcontracting are debated openly
in Vietnam. Party cadres appear to dislike the contract system
for ideological reasons, but since the results have been good,
the party leadership has been reluctant to abandon it. Many
officials argue that subcontracting is a temporary measure, and
that following this period of crisis, it will prove to be
unnecessary and can be scrapped. Others argue that individual
and family forms of farming are "appropriate" to an
underdeveloped economy which relies primarily on manual
labor, has limited mechanization, and virtually no small-scale
industry.8 Despite intense debate, subcontracting has proved
7. Interview with Huu Tho, 8126/82, Hanoi.
8. Interview with Nguyen Huy, Deputy Director of the Economics Institute,
8/23/82, Hanoi.
its usefulness and probably will not be abandoned in the
foreseeable future. Its benefits were recently affirmed at the
4th party plenum (5th party congress) in mid-1983.
Agricultural cooperatives in the north which the writer
has visited since the adoption of subcontracting have generally
reported substantial gains in production. As a rule, cooperatives
with production problems have stood to benefit more from
subcontracting than those with no problems in meeting their
quota. But even successful co-ops or state-aided co-ops
("model" co-ops), most of which adopted the contract system
later than the weaker co-ops, have reported progress. Adoption
is voluntary but presumably the party line is a very effective
means of persuasion.
At Yen So co-op near Hanoi (Thanh Tri district), which
I visited in 1980 and 1982, families exceeded their quotas by
an average of 200 kg. in paddy in 1982, which they were able
to keep as surplus. 'O This co-op achieved self-sufficiency in
rice in 1982 without state aid, I was told, which suggests it is
a strong co-op. Half of the agricultural work here is carried
out by individual or family labor under contract to the
cooperative, and the remaining half is organized by the
management committee of the cooperative. Family and
individual contracts are made for transplanting, weeding, and
harvesting, whereas the cooperative manages plowing, irriga
tion, and pest control. The contract system is also used for pig
production. After raising a fixed quota, extra pigs can be sold
on the free market at the family's profit."
At Dong Hoa co-op in Thai Binh province, the contract
system was adopted rather late because the peasants were not
enthusiastic about implementing a new policy. Nevertheless,
it did spur production; 50 percent of the families exceeded their
quota.'2 Pigs and fish are also raised under the contract system.
It was explained that peasants now enjoy the system because
they can use additional labor to advantage. That is, leisure
hours spent working for the cooperative are remunerated-once
the quota is met, the surplus belongs to the producer. Family
labor in this context becomes particularly valuable.
The standard of living at Dong Hoa is still low, and
self-sufficiency in rice has been achieved only with great effort.
Average per-capita paddy production used to be 95 kg., but
with assistance from the state in the form of irrigation and new
seeds per-capita production went up to 240 kg. With grain
self-sufficiency state aid ceased.
At Nguyen Xa village in Thai Binh province, famous for
its traditional water puppets, the agricultural co-op registered
a 7 percent increase in family income after a year's adoption
9. Hoang Tung, "Some Views on Thoroughly Understanding the Resolution
of the 4th Party Central Committee Plenum," Noon Dan, 30 August 1983, in
Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS), Asia andPacijic, 14 September
10. Talks with the Manager and Deputy Manager of the Agricultural
cooperative. Visits were made to the northern and the southern parts of Vietnam
in the spring of 1980 and in August 1982. During both month-long trips I
visited the following provinces: province of Hanoi city, Ha Nam Ninh, Thai
Binh, Hai Hung (in the north); Ho Chi Minh province, Tay Ninh, An Giang,
Hau Giang, Cuu Long, Dong Nai, Tien Giang (in the south).
II. In 1982, a pig raised in Yen So sold on the free market for twice as much
as the state price.
12. Talks with the Chairperson of the Commune People's Committee and the
Manager of the cooperative. Mine was the first foreign visit this co-op had
of the contract system." Nguyen Xa is a successful co-op in
a fertile valley and has invariably met its production quota
despite vagaries in agricultural policies. After the contract
system was adopted, it was explained, work was more intensive
and of better quality.
The contract system is also used for handicrafts, which
provide over 40 percent of the income at Nguyen Xa. The
handicrafts co-op, in which women make up 90 percent of the
labor force, manufactures carpets and mats. Each loom is
operated by a worker in a large, one-story farm-type stucco
building. Half of the building is devoted to carpets, the other
half to multicolored mats. The quota for carpet production is
12 sq. meters a month, for which workers get 25 dong a meter.
If they produce over that, as most do, they getthe same amount.
For the mats, the quota is 160 sq. meters a month (pay: 2 dong
a meter). The average monthly production for carpets is 14
meters (2 meters above quota), for mats, 180 meters (20 meters
above quota). Handicraft workers thus average around 350-360
dong a month. The cooperative sells the mats, exported to the
Soviet Union, for 45 dong a meter, making a handsome profit
even after administrative and building expenses are met.
The contract system has stimulated production, but its
extensive adoption has put most of agricultural labor under the
control of the family, In addition to the reversion to the family
of half of what the cooperative previously managed, the family
also reaps the fruits of its labor from the private plot. Income
from the private plot is known as the "family economy" (kinh
te qia dinh). The family economy alone comprises 40-60
percent of total peasant income.'4 Therefore, if this can be
quantified, roughly 75 percent of agricultural labor, according
to source of income, is now being carried out by the family,
and the rest is collective.
The family economy is quite distinct from the contract
system. Peasants practice highly-productive intensive farming
on 5% land and, in some cases, obtain four crops a year on
this land. Vegetables, fruit, pigs and poultry-all fetching good
prices on the free market-are preferred, although rice is also
sometimes grown. In suitable areas, mulberry trees and
silkworms are raised on 5% land rather than collectively since
their cultivation requires intensive effort. (This is the case, for
instance, in Dong Hoa commune.) The family economy supplies
90 percent of the pork and chicken produced in Vietnam and
more than 90 percent of the fruit. 15
Although the family economy is highly productive,
officially it is considered to be a "subsidiary" economy. It is
also sometimes termed a "supplementary economy" because
workers and civil servants can have a "family economy" too.
Teachers can tutor on the side in addition to their regular
employment; doctors working for a state enterprise can treat a
few private patients. The deputy-director of the Economics
Institute in Hanoi illustrated this point by saying that his wife
and children make clothes that are sold to the state. (He says
he cannot take part-he already works 14 hours a day for the
state). So the family economy, according to the official view,
13. Talks with the Chairperson of the People's Committee and Manager of
the Agricultural Co-op.
14. This is my own estimate, based on a reading of the Hanoi press and
extrapolating from averages of the eight co-ops I have visited to date.
15. Noon Dan, 8/23/82.
is the economy of work done in the family, at home, or on the
The bounty of the family economy reflects the economic
difficulties of Vietnam. In other socialist countries, it is
reported in the Hanoi press, the family economy contributes
about 30 percent of the over-all GDP. Nhan Dan frequently
carries articles on this subject concerning the situation in the
USSR and Eastern Europe. In Vietnam, the state economic
sector fails to provide enough work to sustain full-time labor
force participation. Workers in industry and agriculture may
work only Y2 or 2/3 of the year. Factory workers are sometimes
turned away at the door (they receive 70 percent of their salary
if laid oft),'6 if repairs on equipment are slow or shipments of
raw materials have been delayed. Even village carpet-making
in rural cooperatives can be held up by lack of raw materials,
as the wool is provided by the state and in some cases the state
cannot meet the demand.
Agricultural co-op workers may only work 150-180 days
a year, although the obligation for both men and women is to
work 200 days a year in collective production. The "subsidiary"
economy can also boost incomes considerably, sometimes
more than state employment.
The contract system, although it applies to work for the
cooperative or the state, operates according to some of the
same principles. It seeks to utilize labor more rationally and
productively and increase the number of worker-hours in
production. It also seeks to motivate workers, especially
agricultural workers, to invest more time and effort in their
work and increase their respect for the common property in
agricultural equipment, livestock, and the land.
Low labor productivity is not always the cause of
production difficulties, however. Peasants may not meet their
quotas due to corrupt or inefficient management which assigns
the best land, tools, and even livestock, to cadres' families. It
is difficult to say how prevalent this is, but it comes up in
one's conversations with top economic specialists. The true
figures for production, in fact, might well be higher because
peasants underreport their yields and purposely lag behind in
meeting their quotas. Since the state does not always fulfill its
part of the bargain-prompt deliveries of fuel, fertilizer,
adequate power and electricity-the incentives to tum over the
fruits of one's labor to the state are not always there.
There appears to be little debate about the permanent
inclusion of the family economy in the socialist system in
Vietnam. It is likely to remain in effect for the indefinite future,
but subcontracting may be shorter lived. In the short run,
subcontracting is in the individual interest of the producer. At
the same time, it undermines collective spirit, cooperation, and
the cooperative structures. While subcontracting rewards
individual initiative, it encourages peasants to underreport their
yields. It is difficult for the state to police production reports,
especially if the cooperative management has its own figures
to hide.
Furthermore, subcontracting has de-collectivized entire
operations that were formerly run by the cooperative, which
will arguably be more difficult to transfer back to collective
management. For instance, in 1980 when I visited Yen So
16. According to Nguyen Huy, Vice-Director of the Economics Institute,
Hanoi, 8123/82.
cooperative outside Hanoi, pigs were being raised in a newly
built, impressive series of roofed pig-stalls and the co-op
produced 150 tons of pork that year. It seemed to be an efficient
operation. Two years later when I returned to the co-op, I
noticed the pig stalls were empty. Pig production had been
de-collectivized and transferred back to the family. Less pork
was being produced, which is ironic considering the goal of
increased productivity with contracting. Some of the stalls were
being converted into buildings for the expansion of handicraft
production (embroidered silk and carpets). This mayor may
not have been a "rational" move on the part of the co-op, but
certainly handicraft production is highly lucrative since it is
geared to the export market. The embroideries being manufac
tured were beautifully done, but the efforts and the obvious
pride of the co-op leadership in 1980 in having built up a rather
large-scale piggery went for nought. It should be noted pigs
are raised not only for meat but also for manure, a vital local
"raw material" in light of chemical fertilizer shortages.
Comments have also been made in Nhan Dan, the party
paper, about the spirit of collective endeavor being adversely
affected by the contract system. 17 Obviously good party
leadership at the local level is important to manage a balanced
application of the policy and provide guidance for the wise
investment of surplus income. It has been found that as incomes
rise, peasants prefer putting their money into brick houses and
expensive furniture to investing it in fertilizer or tools to make
their agricultural work more productive.
Furthermore, the contract system actually penalizes those
families who make the most sacrifices for the country, since
families from which males have been mobilized for military
service lack the labor power to profit from the contract system.
Invariably those families with more pairs of hands have more
"extra" time to subcontract to the cooperative than those whose
labor power is limited. In the co-ops I visited the deleterious
effects of the contract system in this regard were invariably
pointed out. It was explained that families whose male members
were in the army were far less enthusiastic than those who
were not and that the co-op had in effect to assume the
responsibility to aid those families with men in the army.
It is difficult to see how long this situation can continue.
In Nguyen Xa, 90 percent of the families have men in the
army, which does not seem to have affected production or
party loyalty, but Nguyen Xa is clearly an atypical commune.
Its revolutionary roots go back to the first liberation war, and
one of its leaders is a former provincial party cadre. 19
At Dong Hoa commune, 50 percent of the families have
men at the front and these families experience greater
difficulties in their living conditions than non-combatant
families. At Yen So, I was informed 80 percent of the families
have sons and fathers at the front.
17. There was an important debate in Nhlin Dan on the contract system in
January-March 1982.
18. Huu Tho referred to this problem in our discussion, and it is noticeable
in many villages, where one sees fancy altar tables and china cabinets adorning
even the simplest houses.
19. A revolutionary martyr, Nguyen Chat Xe, came from Nguyen Xa, and
party loyalty has always been very strong. During the French War, the French
suffered a big defeat near there. One thousand men from Nguyen Xa joined
the army during the U.S. war, some families contributing three to five sons
to military service.
Also, families with war dead and war invalids suffer and
need compensation or special benefits from either the commune
or the state. In some co-ops, these families are allocated the
best land for subcontracting and their quotas are reduced. The
state sells them paddy at reduced prices and will give them
advances on their workpoints before the harvest. Furthermore,
the mass organizations like the Fatherland Front and the
Women's Union have developed special programs to help war
Yet subcontracting may lead to extreme inequalities in
income and undermine collective unity as well as the spirit of
collective sacrifice which has been one of the strongest bonds
between peasant and state in Vietnam.
Women and "Family" Production
In the long run, the shift of economic policies toward
family forms of production conflicts with the goals of raising
the status of women and promoting sexual equality. The new
policies will have deleterious effects on women unless
conceived as short-term measures to solve the crisis in food
production. Indeed, the condition of women and the women's
movement has declined since the mid-1960s when North
Vietnam was battling the air war against the U. S. 20 This is in
part due to the increase in family forms of production, but also
to the deteriorating economic situation.
Under the contract system, the tasks that have been
subcontracted to the family are mostly women's work-trans
planting, weeding, some harvesting. In fact, one estimate is
that women are performing 90 percent of these subcontracted
tasks.21 Women also perform most of the labor in the
"subsidiary economy of the family" and indeed participate in
family production far more than in collective production. Now
that the family pays more attention to the work being performed
in subcontracted tasks women have to work harder and longer
hours. At Dong Hoa co-op in Thai Binh province, I was
informed women are even doing the plowing because they
cannot wait for the men to do it. Therefore their work load has
considerably increased with the contract system.
The contract system has helped to increase family income
but it has also decreased the time women need for rest, to
supervise their children, and to attend to their own health needs.
There appear to be no statistics on the effects of the contract
20. See Werner, "Women, Socialism, and the Economy of Wartime North
Vietnam, 1960-1975," Studies in Comparative Communism, Vol. XIV, Nos.
2 & 3 (Summer/Autumn \981), pp. 165-190. In this article I argue that
women's status and position in society rose considerably during the war because
of the initial effects of cooperativization, war-time mobilization of males, and
party policies to promote the training and promotion of women cadres and
local leaders. In a conversation with Nguyen Khac Vien in Hanoi in August
1982, I discussed my assessment, with which he agreed, that the women's
movement had declined since the war. This conclusion is also reinforced by
a frank and self-critical examination of the Women's Union by Mme. Nguyen
Thi Dinh, President of the Women's Union, in a speech given to the 5th
Congress of the Women's Union, held in Hanoi in March 1982. In this speech,
Mme. Dinh describes the great difficulties facing women in Vietnam today,
which the Women's Union has been slow to respond to. She says the number
of women cadres has declined, and implies conditions for women have
worsened. See Mme. Nguyen Thi Dinh, "Report of the Central Committee of
the Vietnam Women's Union to the 5th Congress of Vietnamese Women,"
Hanoi, 1982.
21. According to Huu Tho, interview, Hanoi, 8122/82.
system or the family economy on women's health, miscar
riages, and infant care, and these investigations are a pressing
need. Also, the scientific institutes are neither seriously
studying problems of women's work nor focusing specifically
on the participation of women in the labor force, Indeed there
appear to be no policies regarding women's labor as such.
Those agencies responsible for women's welfare must be
of two minds about the contract system, as perhaps the women
producers and local Women's Union officials are themselves.
The role of the Women's Union is to help women with family
problems and encourage them in specific areas. For instance,
in Dong Hoa commune, where silk-worm raising is important,
the Women's Union decided that all of its members would
plant ten mulberry trees and encourage non-members to plant
two or three in their courtyards, The work of the Women's
Union is therefore closely tied to production and is oriented to
helping those families with production difficulties. It is the
most important communal mass association in terms of
assistance to war families, along with its affiliate organization,
the Association of Combatants' Mothers. Membership in these
women's organizations can be quite high: in Nguyen Xa,
membership in the Women's Union was 450, in the Association
of Combatants' Mothers 170. In Dong Hoa, the Women's
Union had 450 members. Each of these villages has a
population of about 600 people.
Of all the mass associations, the Women's Union is by
far the most important because it deals directly with production
via the majority of producers (women). The Women's Union
plays a multifaceted and vital role in the implementation of
economic policy, its economic responsibility outweighing even
its social obligations. The Women's Union has developed
programs to practice intensive cultivation, to increase acreage
devoted to cultivation, including subsidiary crops, to adopt
new seeds, to prepare manure, to encourage soil improvement,
water conservation, and improve livestock raising. Local
branches of the Women's Union, in cooperation with the local
party cell, design and publicize slogans such as "three hens
per family member," "two-three pigs per family." These
slogans are directed towards women, who in family production
raise the chickens and the pigs. The Women's Union also
sponsors emulation drives for transplanting rice, silkworm
raising and livestock breeding. These drives encourage
competition for higher output and provide awards for model
The Women's Union has been actively involved in helping
families to achieve self-sufficiency in grain production and to
meet their quotas and in campaigns to encourage sales of
surplus rice to the state. There has also recently been a strong
emphasis in Women's Union activities in the local areas on
encouraging peasant women to practice thrift. Whenever I
talked with Women's Union officials at the provincial or the
communal level, this aspect of the work of the Women's Union
was usually mentioned.
Local branches of the union also operate as a sort of social
welfare agency. They try to help women with medical problems
or family difficulties, to make their lives easier. They even
help with field labor if need be, and give advice on selection
of seeds and fertilizers, as well as plan meetings to exchange
farming experiences and talks about improving women's
condition. In some cases they supervise the distribution of food
aid from the co-op or state to needy women and children. They
also encourage women to sell their surplus farm products to
the state.
In its social programs, the Women's Union promotes the
current party line regarding women-"New women build and
defend the homeland" -and encourages women to practice
family planning, to raise their children well, and develop "new
type" socialist families, which means encouraging children to
have socially responsible attitudes. Political activities include
political sessions to make women aware of their rights and
duties and explain party and state policies.
There are a number of contradictions between family
forms of production, especially the contract system, and other
policies like population policy. Current population policy is to
limit births to two children per family, yet Vietnam has one
of the highest birthrates in Asia. There are no reliable statistics,
but it may be as high as 2.8-2.9 percent per annum.
contract system promotes a greater birth rate; the more hands for
extra work, the greater the income. Families which have five
or six children are doing well under the contract system. Indeed
population policy and even family policy seem loosely
implemented, especially in comparison to economic policy.
Population campaigns are evident in roadside and ferry-side
"billboards" (signs painted on near-by farm buildings) such as
pictures of a happy couple with two children, with the slogan
"Two Children per Family." But an official (a woman) at one
commune remarked that "family planning is encouraged here
-our goal is three children per family."23
Population policy appears to be poorly coordinated and
unfocused indeed. While the government encourages family
planning, there is no nationally coordinated program to support
it. Local branches of the Women's Union are also more
concerned about economic policy at the moment than family
planning. Monetary supplements are still being given to
families with more than two children. The Ministry of Health
gives families 5 dong a month for the third child up to the
tenth child. Housing policy is contradictory. If there are two
children a family is allocated an extra six square meters in the
ctiy, with nine square meters for a three child family, and so
on.24 These interrelated policies remain uncoordinated.
The contract system may also conflict with educational
policy. The pressures to mobilize women's labor have
undoubtedly led to adolescent girls dropping out of school
earlier than their brothers.
One other important aspect of women's labor needs to be
mentioned. This is handicrafts production, which in recent
years has seen a tremendous expansion. Family forms of
handicraft production exist, but handicraft co-ops in almost
every commune are being expanded or newly developed for
all kinds of products. These include carpets, mats, em
broideries, knitted and other apparel, wicker-work, lacquer
work, ceramics and glassware, furniture and silver-ware. Craft
co-ops also produce spare parts, work-tools, motors, bicycles,
bricks and small machines for the home market, and
22. Different agencies give different statistics. The Sociology Institute claims
the birth rate is 2.5 percent per annum, and the Women's Union gives the
figure as 2.3 percent. A demographic survey for Vietnam has yet to be done.
The Sociology Institute has completed a survey for Hanoi, with findings that
the population rate is 2.24 percent per year.
23. Yen So Commune, interviews, 8/25/82.
24. According to Do Thai Dong, the Vice-Director of the Sociology Institute,
interview, Hanoi, 8/23/82.
transportation equipment like carts and sampans. Every
commune appears to be searching for ways to expand handicraft
production for the export market.
In fact craft production is seen as somewhat of a panacea
for agricultural difficulties. Workers in craft co-ops have the
potential of making higher incomes than those in agricultural
co-ops, and those communes with 50 percent or more of their
income from crafts are much richer than non-diversified
communes. Crafts are also being promoted by the state because
of their adaptability to local, low-scale conditions, their
flexibility alongside family production, their absorption of
surplus rural labor, their production of much needed consumer
goods, and their ability to contribute, eventually, to regional
industry.25 Craft production requires more initial investment on
the part of the commune (for buildings and raw materials) but
once production is under way it produces more income because
craft prices are market-determined and higher per worker-hour
than rice prices, which are deliberately kept low by the state.
Handicraft work not only pays more to the workers in wages
in comparison to rice production, the workload is also lighter.
In some communes, women workers provide virtually all
the labor in the handicraft co-ops. The handicraft co-ops I have
visited employed women workers almost exclusively (in
carpets, mats, embroideries, textiles). According to the
Women's Union, women make up 85 percent of the workers
in handicrafts,26 but at the communal level the percentage is
probably higher.
Women's labor in the countryside is thus of double value,
although it is not yet recognized as such, contributing to both
agricultural production and to the new forms of industrial
production. Women's labor in family production is not as
visibly paid as it is in collective work where women
individually collect wages in cash or kind.
It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the increase in
family labor for women in recent years is connected to the
decline in their public position. This does not mean that the
many profound changes and improvements in women's lot
since the August Revolution are now being reversed. It is now
an accepted pattern of village life for women to play a role
and voice an opinion in the "affairs of the nation and the
village." Their educational and medical opportunities have
vastly improved, as have those of their children. They playa
greater role in the affairs of the family and attitudes have
demonstratively changed, especially among younger women.
As far as family relations with the state are concerned, it
should be noted that the nuclear family has been the
predominant kinship unit in Vietnam since pre-colonial days.
Consumption, production, residence, and ancestor worship
were organized mainly by the single family (a couple and their
unmarried children). Extended family forms of residence were
rare, unlike in China, with more positive implications for
women's position. Furthermore, although women's political
and social participation were restricted, they virtually
monopolized the local trade and marketing networks, which
periodically kept women away from home. Income from trade,
in addition to agriCUltural work, was often a substantial
25. A recent issue of Vietnamese Studies is devoted to handicrafts (No. 62).
26. Women's Union of Vietnam, Women o/Vietnam, Statistical Data. Hanoi:
Vietnam Women's Union, 1981.
contribution to the family purse, and its sole source was women.
In addition, although women were not given access to
communal land (their names did not appear on the communal
tax and land registers), they did have the right to own private
land, with the titles in their own names. Thus as private land
encroached upon public land in the 18th and 19th centuries,
women probably benefitted from this trend as well. In an
investigation of the private land registers in Tu Liem district
near Hanoi, it was found that women constituted one-fourth
of the private landowners. Generally speaking, they owned
less land than men, amounting to 3 mau (10,000 sq. meters)
on the average.
Neighborhoods of small families constituted
the basis of peasant society, where residential relations took
precedence over the patrilineage (ho) and extended family
allegiance. Lineage relations were also weakened by stratified
relations within the village which had already produced many
Women thus occupied a somewhat ambiguous position
toward the state when the Communist party came to power.
Land reform and cooperativization eliminated the class basis
of society and weakened the power of the lineage. The small
family cell, however, was strengthened by social change, as
well as women's position in it. Cooperativization, even during
more radical phases of land policy than the current one, always
rested on family production and women as "family producers."
This mutually reinforcing relationship in fact served the system
well during the liberation war. But on the other hand the state
promoted women's equality (nam-nu binh dang), granted equal
rights to women in the land reform, established the legal basis
of women's equality, and established pressure points and lobby
groups within the state and party structure to improve women's
livelihood. Of these, the Women's Union was the state
organization par excellence devoted to improving women's
Conclusion: Agricultural Productivity and
Socialist Transition
It has been argued that private plots and by extension
other forms of family farming like subcontracting provide a
way for socialist economies at a low level of development to
use "surplus labor," that labor which cannot be entirely utilized
by the collective, to their greatest advantage. In this sense,
moves toward decentralization and contracting to the family
unit are methods to "control surplus labor." As such they are
"realistic" accommodations to conditions and constitute a
positive contribution to production. 28
Implicit in this argument is that such socialist economies
are at a very low level of development, in effect, are
non-industrialized. The poorly developed industrial sector is
what makes the collective economy weak. Under these
conditions, family forms of production stimulate labor
27. Nguyen Duc Nghinh, "Land Distribution in Tu Liem District According
to the Land Registers," Vietnamese Studies. No. 61. In the villages of this
district, according to the land registers of the Nguyen dynasty, family land
took up 6.27 percent of the total land acreage.
28. Nguyen Huu Dong, "Agriculture collective, agriCUlture familiaie,
economie socialiste: quelques op. cit.
productivity since peasants are more highly motivated when
their immediate self-interest is taken into account.
This view is challenged by the argument that "surplus
labor" in cases such as Vietnam's is often performed at the
expense of collective labor. Peasants have a choice-and they
choose to reduce their contribution to collective labor and
devote themselves to their private plots. The incentives for
their behavior in Vietnam come from the fact that prices on
the free market for food produced on the private plot are much
higher owing to their scarcity in the collective sector. The fault
therefore lies with the planning apparatus and the system of
distribution which is unable to supply sufficient amounts of
meat, fruit, vegetables, and other products needed by the
consumer. The fault does not lie with the individual producer
who may lack sufficient "socialist consciousness"; she or he is
merely responding to economic realities. 29
More basically, there is good reason to question whether
"surplus labor" actually exists. If 75 percent of agricultural
work is being performed by de-collectivized labor, and if most
of this labor is being performed by women, it is difficult to
see how women's labor can be termed "surplus labor." Family
forms of labor add to the work women already have, rather
than take up the slack in their collective labor or their leisure
time. The labor they performed in their collective work that is
now subcontracted is the same work. Women's collective labor
has been reduced because the contract system has been adopted,
and the same may also be the case for private-plot labor. Family
labor increases women's work-hours, rather than taking up idle
hours. Women now perform three types of labor: domestic
labor (for which they are unpaid); family labor, private-plot
and contract labor (for which they are paid by the task or the
product); and collective labor (for which they receive wages).
Following the end of the war (1975), women's labor for the
most part has fallen outside of collective labor. As has been
shown, the value of women's labor is linked to the prominence
of the family economy and is in large part responsible for the
increase in food production associated with the contract system.
While on the one hand, women's labor is thus contributing to
increased productivity, on the other, the form in which it is
being done reduces women's autonomy and places them under
greater family control. This situation threatens to undermine
the advances that have been made by women during the war
and the principles of women's liberation that the revolution
has been based upon.
It can be seen from the above that the labor process in
Vietnam has not been fundamentally transformed by the
cooperativization of agriculture. Even the reorganization of
agricultural production with collectivization did not represent
a new labor process, as such. Rather, cooperatives were and
have been collective organizations to manage agriculture, at a
rudimentary level; distribute social security; organize collective
care for children, the old, and the sick; and run public schools
and health facilities, which they fund themselves. Cooperatives
should be seen less as "units of production" than as "structures
of distribution."30 The real transformation of labor in Vietnam
29. U Thanh Hoi, op. cit.
30. See A.D. Magaiine, "Cooperative et transformations du du travail
dans I'agriculture vietnamienne," Critique Socia/iste. No. 46, 2"-3" trimestre,
will occur when agricultural tasks become mechanized, at
which time the labor process will be reorganized. This will
necessitate intervention from the state.
As the above discussion has indicated, intervention from
the state may be difficult. The state's wartime political
successes were achieved on the basis of considerable economic
autonomy for Vietnam's peasantry. Peasant loyalty to the
"nation" is sometimes juxtaposed to peasant suspicions of the
The wartime experiences of the party have cautioned party
leaders against squeezing the rural populace too hard. It appears
unlikely, therefore, that "development" in Vietnam will occur
as a result of the exploitation of the peasantry. The new
economic reforms, especially subcontracting, are noteworthy
for their attention to strengthening the incomes of rural
inhabitants. It is an observable fact in Vietnam that peasants
live better than city dwellers. Taxation policies and even price
policies which could control peasant income for the sake of
state capital accumulation have not been fully implemented. It
may well be that agrarian collectivization will not provide the
basis for development as such. Given the nature of the
peasant-state relationship in Vietnam, economic development
may require massive external assistance to finance capital-inten
sive projects in key sectors such as hydro-electric power,
transportation, petroleum, steel and cement, fertilizer and other
areas. This would at least provide the infrastructural capability
to meet rural demands on a consistent basis for agricultural
inputs and some industrially produced goods.
In the absence of a clear foreign threat, the Vietnamese
leadership will need to reassess and revitalize its ties with local
society.31 As it has begun to do so, it has encountered a major
contradiction between its political and economic goals. As a
socialist government, Hanoi would like to incorporate its
peasantry into a centralized political system, abolishing the
traditional and highly individualized peasant producer once and
for all. The need to increase economic productivity, however,
has necessitated decentralization, which has in tum reinforced
the nuclear family as the basic unit of production. This not
only runs the risk of weakening the bonds between peasant and
state, it also threatens to undermine the gains made by
Vietnamese women since the beginning of the war of resistance.
As Vietnam grapples with these dilemmas, it should be
taken into account that development contains an element of
desire and capacity of a populace to achieve national goals.
This voluntaristic aspect of the process depends in large part
on the cohesion and will of a people, and it is too soon to tell
how the ability to muster these resources mayor may not affect
the final equation. *
* Ho Chi Minh was the symbol par excellence of the nation; the extractive
functions of the national government are taken to be the "state."
31. My thinking on state-peasant relations has been considerably aided by a
thoughtful conversation with Pham Huy Thong. 12/6/83, New York.
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The Dark Valley Illuminated:
Recent Trends in Studies of the
Postwar Japanese Economy
by Laura E. Hein
Historians are continually fascinated by the way a new
idea, seemingly independently and simultaneously, emerges
from many minds at once. Such ideas step assuredly into the
mental environment that has been prepared for them by material
conditions, but they seem to belong so naturally that it is easy
to forget to question how they arrived. In the case of historians
this often involves a re-examination of a historical period. The
most recent years to emerge, reorganized in a novel
interpretation, are those of World War Two. In several recent
publications the war has been described as the crucible for
Japan's postwar growth. This presents the embryo of a new
theory of the origins of Japanese economic growth, competing
with the earlier explanations of culture, miracles, and rational
and evolutionary modernization.
This new emphasis on the war suggests some fresh
directions for research on such topics as postwar labor relations
and industrial policy. It also raises questions about the
relationship between war and the Japanese economy that are
relevant today to the current debate on rearmament. This
resonance with contemporary events is hardly surprising.
Following E.H. Carr's dictum that the historian's topic, above
all, reveals the age of the historian, the echoing refrain to the
question "what is new?" is always "why now?"
Chalmers Johnson's historical study of the Ministry of
Trade and Industry is a striking example of the increased
emphasis on the war years and the effect of the war experience
itself on postwar Japan (MITI and the Japanese Miracle,
Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1982). Johnson argues
that Mm's powers were foreshadowed by wartime economic
centralization and by mobilization of the economy in
bureaucratic hands as part of the war effort. He backs his
argument up with specifics: for example, the Ministry of
Munitions established a presence in electric power development
and airplane manufacture which its successor, MITI, retained
after the war. Furthermore, Johnson argues, industrial policy
itself was a child of the war effort which only matured in later
years. Emblematic of the new prestige of industrial policy, the
Ministry of Munitions finally achieved coveted office space in
Kasumigaseki shortly after it was established in November
1943 (Johnson, p. 169).
Johnson's insights into the impact of wartime mobilization
on bureaucratic centralization are corroborated by a recently
translated book by Nakamura Takafusa (The Postwar Japanese
Economy: Its Development and Structure. Tokyo: University
of Tokyo Press, 1981, originally published in Japanese in
1980). Although Nakamura's first chapter is entitled "Prepara
tion through Destruction: The Wartime Economy," he argues
for a much more positive legacy. At the very outset he writes:
To a real extent the system which was created during the
war was inherited as the postwar economic system. The
industries which were expanded during the war became the
major postwar export industries; and the postwar national
lifestyle. too. originated in changes that began during the
period of conflict (p. 3).
Farther into his book, Nakamura details his argument at
length, stressing the fact that the effect of reorienting the
economy to meet wartime demands was of greater long-term
significance than was the war destruction itself. This extended
to the structure of the economy.
The chemical and heavy industries had far more plant and
equipment capacity during the war than prior to it. The
conspicuous reductions in light industry capacity. particu
larly textiles. were due more to wartime conversion to
military production and scrapping ofequipment than to war
damages. This shift in emphasis formed the basis for the
heavy and chemical industrializationfollowing the war (pp.
Industrial organization was similarly reoriented during thf!
war, according to Nakamura. The famed subcontracting
system, while first appearing before the war, emerged on a
large scale in the munitions-related plants. Nakamura explains
large firms in the military industries had at first made it a
rule to produce everything in-house. including parts. But
they developed a system of sub-contracting parts and other
work out to small and medium-sized firms as an emergency
measure to facilitate production increases . ... Here lie the
origins ofthe long-term postwar relationships between small
enterprises and their patron or "parent" companies (pp.
Similarly, in-firm production techniques, product standardiza
tion, and technical training all developed under the stimulus
of war. Nakamura places the origins of yet another important
aspect of interfirm relations squarely in the war years. This is
the bank-centered grouping known as the keiretsu, and is
certainly one of the most distinctive features of the present-day
Japanese economy. He argues that this arrangement dates from
the spring 1944 "System of Financial Institutions Authorized
to Finance Munitions Companies." In 1944 the leading
economic sector was, of course, the set of firms supplying the
government-coordinated military effort.
The government, in turn, designated "authorized financial
institutions" for the munitions companies and arranged for
these institutions to provide an unimpeded supply of needed
funds to the companies. The arrangement was so contrived
that other financial institutions, as well as the Bank ofJapan
and the government, were to back the authorized institutions
so that they would not lack for funds (pp. 16-17).
These relationships reappeared in the late occupation years as
the keiretsu.
While Nakamura concurs with Johnson in arguing that
MITI's power was first amassed during the war, he extends
the argument to other economic ministries. In particular, he
believes that the Bank of Japan's "window guidance"
techniques were developed through experience with wartime
controls (p. 18).
Labor-management relations similarly owe their form in
large part to a wartime institution, the Patriotic Industrial
Association (Sangyo Hokoku Kai). Chapters ofthis association
were established by government decree in each firm as an
explicit replacement for labor unions. They were organized
along military lines with the company officials occupying the
leadership spots. The primary functions of the organization
were to maintain production and ensure industrial discipline,
not to protect workers. Nakamura's contention that the form
associated with this coercive institution was carried over into
the contemporary period as the "enterprise union" is supported
by a recent book on the 1945-47 labor movement by Joe Moore
(Japanese Workers and the Struggle for Power, 1945-1947,
Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 1983). Moore
details the ultimately unsuccessful efforts of labor organizers
immediately after the war to build democratic industry-wide
labor organizations and block government and industry efforts
to retain the authoritarian core of pre-surrender labor in
In other recent developments, a panel at the March 1983
meeting of the Association for Asian Studies focused on the
"trans war" continuities of aspects of the Japanese political
economy. One of the participants, Richard Samuels, argues
like Nakamura and Johnson that the postwar pattern of
business-government relations in the energy industries is based
on relations established in the 1934-1945 period. (Within that
framework, however, Samuels differs sharply from Johnson
on the question of the relative power of government and
business within the economy.) Another panelist, Sheldon
Garon, detailed the continuity of bureaucratic personnel who
made labor policy from 1939 through the 1950's, as well as
of their policies. Andrew Gordon disagreed with Nakamura
and Moore's thesis that enterprise unions owed much to the
wartime Patriotic Associations, arguing that that body was
largely ineffective, but he stressed the wartime origins of the
seniority wage system.
Jointly these authors cover many of the most conspicuous
aspects of the postwar Japanese economy: industrial policy
and the role of the state in the economy, industrial structl)re
including keiretsu and sub-contracting, enterprise unions, and
the postwar sectoral shift toward heavy industry. These features
are attributed not to Japanese culture, not to a miracle, not to
the slow, rational modernization of the economy, but to military
mobilization and the reorganization of the Japanese econorny
for the purpose of conquering much of Asia. The implications
of this analysis have yet to be fully explored, and I can only
begin to do so here. How does the new focus on the wartime
economic mobilization as precursor to the postwar economy
contribute to existing debates about Japan?
One implication of this approach is to minimize the
importance of the Occupation-era reforms. When the central
focus is on the direct continuity between wartime and
contemporary economic institutions, the Occupation reforms
become either ineffective or a minor (As is
described below, this notion of an interrupted historical trend
is not new but has been moved slightly forward chronolog
ically.) The emphasis on the war also steers Western scholars
away from dating the period of modern Japan from August
1945; rather, Westerners are drifting toward the Japanese
emperor-centered dating system which begins a new era with
the current reign in 1926. This Showa dating structure itself
acts to minimize the Occupation years and!\tresses the
continuous flow of events from 1926 to the present. No longer
is the war set apart; the roads out of the "dark valley" are
suddenly being illuminated and the territory 100kl' surprisingly
A second major implication derives from the fact that
these observations paralleled studies done of tQe. American
postwar economy. Very much like Japan, the of
mobilizing for and fighting a "total war" acted, to centralize
economic organizations, legitimize bureaucratic planning of
the economy, standardize production enhance
technical training procedures. (For example" see C.harles
Maier, "The Politics of Productivity: Foundati0'.ls.of American
International Economic Policy after World War n" in Bt;twe,fln
Power and Plenty, Peter Katzenstein, ed., MaQison, WI:
University of Wisconsin Press, 1978.) . :
These parallels suggest directiqRs fot the, continuing
debate over the uniqueness of Japanese.eCQoomk i,nstitutions:
while the specific forms of the the enterprise union
may be unmatched in other nations, the,impact of .total war
mobilization on Japan closely resembles,the effect on other
industrialized, capitalist countries. The Qf an
experience like the Second World War, whether or
on vanquished, seems to transcend .
These studies of the war econOlllY d,\(fer from, earlier
research in yet another way. Previou& $1Udies pfwelWStwar
Japanese economy have revolved around. t)te
was there a secret to Japan's
believers have generally ignored the
experience although some have .argued,that .. prewar vue
structures play a central role in postwar
These scholars stress the utter collapse
in 1945 to highlight the contrast
(Probably the best-known proponent Qf thisargumen,tis the
late Herman Kahn in The Emerging Japanese Sw'et;state:
Challenge and Response, Englewood
Inc., 1970.) This argument has become a bit in
scholarly circles but much of the best research in the field has
been dedicated, in part, to refuting it by unearthing the rational,
historical roots of the postwar boom. Significantly, until
recently most Western scholars have skipped over the war years
in their analysis of the relationship between the prewar and
postwar economies.
For example, Kazushi Ohkawa and Henry Rosovsky, in
their influential monograph, Japanese Economic Growth:
Trend Acceleration in the Twentieth Century (Stanford, CA:
Stanford University Press, 1973), argue that Japanese economic
growth occurs in "long swings" which connect the economy
of the 1930s directly to that of the 1950s. Since the decade in
between is by definition abnormal (although distortions caused
by the First World War, the colonization of Formosa, Korea,
and of Manchuria are not), Ohkawa and Rosovsky simply left
those years out of their statistical calculations. Similarly, W. W.
Lockwood echoes this assumption of economic abnormality
and, therefore, irrelevance. ''The bitter experience of World
War II, followed by the reforms of the Occupation, permitted
the nation once more to resume the trend interrupted in 1931"
("Japan's New Capitalism" in Lockwood, ed., The State and
Economic Enterprise in Japan, Princeton, NJ: Princeton
University Press, 1965). This thesis of an interrupted historical
trend is echoed in many analyses of the political system, which
stress the link between "Taisho democracy" and postwar party
politics and skip over the "dark valley" in between.
The basic assumption underlying the thesis of the
interrupted trend is that the war was an aberration in Japan's
otherwise smooth path to modernization and development. This
approach, which John Dower, after Yoshida Shigeru, calls the
"historic stumble" theory, has often resulted in an a priori
assumption that the vast economic and social changes of
wartime Japan were of minor relevance to the present (Dower,
Empire and Aftermath: Yoshida Shigeru and the Japanese
Experience, 1878-1954, Cambridge: Harvard University Press,
1979). In this view, it was as if the nation had gotten lost in
a dark cavern for a few years; once it had returned to the right
path, the experience was over. This analysis tended to see only
the war-related factors that hampered the process of "normali
zation" (such as the destruction offactories) and not those that
changed the Japanese economy in new ways.
By stressing continuity between the war and the present,
the new arguments outlined earlier implicitly reject the notion
of an "historic stumble." They also strike at the assumption
that Japan has been evolving into a more modern and
democratic society since the Meiji Restoration, for this
assumption has been closely tied to the practice of ignoring
the war as an aberration, or assuming that Japan has inherited
the democratic traditions of Taisho without being tarnished by
the authoritarianism of early ShOwa. The direction of postwar
change, however, is not at all clear.
There are two logical directions one could go after
recognizing the contribution of the war to the contemporary
Japanese economy. The first is to reexamine postwar economic
institutions with a fresh eye to the repression and instability
inherent in their formation. This is of necessity a critical eye,
but it does not imply a wholesale condemnation of Japan's
postwar economic structure. Rather it clarifies the role that
state power and military force has played in organizing that
For example, the argument that the postwar enterprise
union grew out of the wartime Patriotic Associations raises
interesting questions. The mandatory organization was not set
up for the benefit of workers or even the enterprise itself.
Rather, it was a state-sponsored means of securing productivity
and obedience. The fact that this structure was retained after
the war suggests that it was probably useful to the enterprise
and/or labor later, but this is a more complex development
than previously argued. It is certainly not simply a manifestation
of a culturally derived paternalistic corporate family. The
coercive roots of the institution suggest that there was some
conflict over its adoption. The role of harmonious values
remains important at the level of justification of the institution's
existence but perhaps not at the level of causation.
The other possible response is to admit the role of the war
without accepting the reality of the wartime oppression of the
Japanese and other Asian peoples. This solution is essentially
to justify and recast the war as the precondition for economic
growth. This is curiously reminiscent of the argument that the
Americans did the Japanese a favor by bombing all their
obsolete plants. There is precedent for this type of scholarly
recasting of Japanese history.
In Japan the dominant Marxist analysis of modern
Japanese history has been that "feudal legacies" such as class
oppression and bureaucratic disdain of ordinary people lived
on into the twentieth century. In response to this argument,
Western scholars, led by John Hall, have thoroughly redefined
feudal Japan as a nearly modern, nearly democratic era. In the
Hall analysis, the Tokugawa legacies to modern Japan are
indeed strong, but they are positive bequests. Tokugawa
centralized feudalism has been completely recast as legalistic,
fair, and as "a rather good sort" of political system. The
undoubted economic vibrancy of the period has been
reinterpreted as an integral part of samurai rule rather than as
an unwelcome development that proceeded in spite of the
Shogunate's best efforts to quash it.
My fear is that, in a parallel way, the World War II period
will be mined only for positive legacies; scholars will excavate
from the wartime archives only those historical facts which
support the conclusion that global conflict contributed to
Japan's economic growth.
The context for this fear is the current rearmament debate
in Japan. Crudely put, the Japanese government, backed by
the American government, wants to rearm on a large scale.
The majority of Japanese people are against the plan partly
because of memories of the last war. A major element of the
government's response to this anti-military attitude has been
to try to blur those memories. The Ministry of Education,
which has betrayed a shrewd understanding of the uses of
history in its censorship of school textbooks, is trying to prevent
transmission of the bitter memories to Japanese children. The
meaning of World War II is a major political issue today. This,
then, is the problem which scholars as participants in their own
society must face. As researchers carry their lamps and
mattocks into the unexplored recesses of World War II
research, it is important to remember that whatever is brought
to light will have an impact on the rearmament debate. *
by A.D. Haun
The life and works of Nakano Shigeharu, (1902-) are
of interest to Western readers for several reasons: his in
volvement in radical politics, his experimentation with new
literary forms, and his contributions to the left-wing liter
ary movement. As an author he moved from early commit
ment to the thirty-one syllable tanka poetic form to free
verse, journalistic polemics, and proletarian writings. His
literary radicalism paralleled his attachment to Marxist
Nakano entered the German Literature Department
of Tokyo Imperial University in 1924. The next year, he
joined the New Man Society, a group described in de Bary's
introduction as "Japan's first Marxist student organization
and a center of intellectual ferment on the Tokyo U ni
versity campus" (p. 1). Over the next two years, Nakano's
main contribution to student debates on the issues of the
day consisted of critical articles on the arts and politics.
The translator sees this period as a time when the
writer was tom between his leanings toward traditional
rural society and filial obligations to his father-who
wanted him to take over the family farm-and his commit
ment to the new, urban way of life, with the excitement of
radical politics and cultural activity. From 1928 to 1932
Nakano was active in the left-wing literary movement as an
editor and contributor of articles to radical journals. De
Bary summarizes his work as an effort to find a balance
between "revolutionary consciousness in literature" (p. 3)
on the one hand, and aesthetic demands and "the experien
tial reality of Japanese life" (p. 3) on the other.
Authors active in the left-wing movement soon came
under police surveillance. Radical writing was banned,
political organizations were repressed, and writers were
censored or arrested. Nakano was arrested three times
between 1928 and 1932 for his literary and political activity,
including membership in the Communist Party which had
gone underground after being prohibited by the Peace
Preservation Law. He was released after admitting his
participation in an illegal organization and promising not to
resume such activity. This "ideological conversion" was
important in the lives of several Japanese intellectuals like
Translated by Brett de Bary. Cornell East Asia
Papers no. #21. Ithaca: Cornell University, 1979.
Nakano. It involved the physical rigors of arrest and impris
onment, as well as the psychological wounds that arose
De Bary points out that this turning point in Nakano's
career is related to his "emergence as a mature novelist"
(p. 4). One work from this period is the autobiographical
story, "A House in the Village" ("Mura no ie") which
deals with his return to his rural home after leaving prison.
A later article by Nakano on the officers' rebellion of
February 26, 1936, was banned. He was under surveillance
from 1936 to 1945 and was banned from publishing be
tween 1937 and 1938. Nakano registered protest by main
taining silence instead of expressing patriotic support of the
After the war, Nakano resumed the life of a Com
munist Party member and radical writer. The long story
"Five Cups of Sake" ("Goshaku no sake") and the short
story "The Crest-painterofHagi" ("Hagi no monkamiya")
came from the early postwar body of writing. He published
longer works as well, such as Pear Blossoms (Nashi no
Hana), based on the experiences of his rural childhood. It
won the Yomiuri Prize in 1960. His political activity was not
satisfying, however. Following a clash with the leaders of
the Communist Party, he was purged in 1964. De Bary
notes that his relationship with the Party, "though often
tense and beset with adversities, was a major source of
creative energy in his literary career" (p. 6).
Nakano's works, including the three translated here,
are similar to much of modem Japanese literature in that
they incorporate a great deal of autobiographical material.
"The House in the Village" centers on the conversion
experience, as do literary works by several authors of
Nakano's generation. Historical incidents are also alluded
to in the other works. "Five Cups of Sake" discusses the
promulgation of the new constitution during the Occupa
tion, while "The Crest-painter of Hagi" contains oblique
references to the Pacific War and its aftermath.
The interplay of incident, characterization, and
atmosphere is more effective in "The House of the Village"
than in the other two stories. The autobiographical story
line depicts the arrest, imprisonment, conversion, and re
lease ofthe young hero, Benji, partly through narrative, and
partly through flashbacks in the main character's mind. The
text is mostly concerned with the hero's thought processes,
his motives for behaving as he does, and the conflict be
tween him and his family, especially his father Magozo.
Magozo is the only other fully drawn character, and he
appears more vivid and convincing than his son. Benji
seems weak-willed and inconsistent-not a very admirable
or interesting personality. Other characters are either men
tioned in conversation or in flashbacks. They are sketched
briefly, and serve as foils to illustrate the conflicting per
sonalities and viewpoints of the father and son.
One conflict is caused by their divergent ways of life.
Magozo represents the rural setting of old Japan and the
continuity of traditional values, especially the importance
of family obligations and patriarchal authority. Benji's
father is not entirely old-fashioned, though. As a successful
farmer, land-holder, and part-time businessman, he is a
respected and important figure in the small community
where old ways of life and thought still prevail.
In contrast, Ben ji prefers the new, foreign ways, rep
resented by the city, the university, and left-wing politics.
He resists his father's influence by refusing to shoulder the
responsibility of taking over the family farm. But his resis
tance proves to be self-centered and conditional. When
arrested, imprisoned, and physically and psychologically
pressured to renounce Communism and to demonstrate his
loyalty to the government, he gives in. It is true that he only
complies with the minimum requirements and is still under
police surveillance when he is released and sent to his
father's home. Nevertheless, both father and son feel that
Benji has been more weak-willed than others in the same
position. His "conversion" provokes a sense of shame and
Magozo feels contempt for his son's turning away from
his former views and his comrades who remained loyal to
the Communist movement. The father feels that his son's
spinelessness renders worthless all his left-wing writing and
that Benji should now begin a self-respecting and responsi
ble life as a farmer. In the end there is a standoff. Benji
stubbornly maintains that he wants to continue writing, in
spite of his father's ridicule and his own sense of shame.
Most of the story's first part is taken up with Benji's
flashbacks to his pre-prison activity, his life in the city, and
his mental arguments with himself as he tries to rationalize
his decision to recant in prison. The first half of the story
reads like a conventional first-person novel (shishosetsu),
the personal narrative style of fiction popular in modern
Japanese literature.
This type of writing tends to become tedious and repe
titious, because after a time it appears that the narrator is
mostly interested in talking endlessly of his own affairs.
The verbose review of one's personal life seems done not so
much for the purpose of examining motives, or clarifying
the proper course of action to take next, as simply for laying
out everything in the open. The narrator seems to be self
absorbed rather than interested in life in the larger world
outside his own mind.
The most prominent feature of the second half of the
story is Magozo lecturing to his son on the difficulties that
he, as the father, had in keeping the household together,
and in particular, his frustration at trying to deal with his
son. In the course of Magozo's argument, the man's
strength, confidence, and determination become evident,
in contrast to his son, who is flabby, self-centered, and
irresolute. The father carries out his responsibilities, while
expecting others to do the same. Benji lacks a strong sense
of obligation toward members of his family, his comrades
in the Party, and even himself. Magozo sets standards for
himself and tries to live up to them, whereas his son has
little clear idea at this point of where he belongs. It seems
incongruous to call Benji the "hero" as he is not a heroic
individual. The contrast between the two men extends even
to their physical features: the father, though nearly seventy
years old, is more vigorous and powerful than his much
younger son, who is physically frail and subject to illness.
The story is more successful as an evocation of mood
and character types than as a portrayal of Benji's psycho
logical conflicts. Perhaps the work is too short to allow for
an adequte development of the theme. A longer novel
might show the evolving personality of the hero, describe
the conflicts within the family in greater detail, and explore
the psychological processes that led the imprisoned Com
munists to convert or to stay loyal to their comrades. Then
the themes of ideological conversion and intergenera
tional, urban-rural conflict would be more persuasive. As it
is, the reader is not completely convinced of the historical
and social importance of the issues because they are not
adequately explaineed in "The House in the Village."
There is not enough analysis of the protagonist's personal
ity to make his decisions seem significant and convincing.
Thus, the story succeeds neither as psychological fiction
nor as a realistic development of plot. It does not seem to
be a completed work. In these respects, it shares the prob
lems of the first person narrative genre.
The next story, "Five Cups of Sake," emulates an old
Japanese literary form, "following the brush" (zuihitsuj) ,
the rambling, impressionistic essay which allows the writer
to muse on whatever comes to mind. It is frustrating to read
such works, because they tend to lack the coherence of the
essays as the genre developed in Western literature. In
"Five Cups of Sake" the writer indulges in a protracted
narration of what is on his mind, talking to himself, and not
committing himself to persuade the reader of a particular
point of view.
The work is structured around a fictional convention
that supposedly holds the work together, namely that a
school principal spends an entire night writing a letter to a
student, with a supply of sake to fortify himself. If we
accept the convention of late-night activity under the influ
ence of alcohol, then that might account for the incoherent,
disconnected quality of the composition. The writer discus
ses the reform of the Emperor system, the farcical nature of
some of the new democratic institutions of Occupation-era
Japan, and the clash with the persistent tradition of au
thoritarianism. These issues may be significant enough to
warrant an actual essay, editorial, or article, but couched in
the loose, sprawling style of this work, the result is dis
Too long and repetitious to hold the reader's atten
tion, it is the most difficult and inaccessible of the three
pieces because of the random, casual style, which falls
somewhere between the bounds of personal narrative and
impressionistic essay. Although Nakano fictionalizes in
"Five Cups of Sake" to the extent that he presents the essay
as a letter is written from one person to another, de Bary
identifies in the story a mixture of-not necessarily in
tegrated or balanced - "personal reminiscence, prose
poetry, and political commentary" (p. 12).
If the author had concentrated on one theme and
adhered to one form, the piece would be more enjoyable to
read and the author's line of thought easier to follow. There
is sufficient material in Nakano's own experience concern
ing, for example, the importance of the mass media in
society, their obligation to serve the public well, and Com
munist Party activity in the educational system to justify his
writing a straightforward political essay concerning the
Communist movement and their publications. In fact, he
wrote an article on cultural affairs for Red Flag (Akahata)
shortly before this piece appeared.
The point of the authyor's arguments is diluted further
as he wanders into another area of interest, the Emperor
and the postwar role of the monarchy. These musings are
even more personalized, idiosyncratic, and discursive than
the discussion of the Communist Party's problems, which
at least has the conviction and clarity of a debate on practi
cal matters reflecting Nakano's personal knowledge and
experience. Some of his ideas are well-reasoned-such as
the need for a change in the Emperor's status and in the
attitudes of the public toward the throne-but they are
hard to pick out from the abundance of more personal
Finally, "Five Cups of Sake" contains the personal
narrative of the high school teacher who is supposedly
writing the essay/letter. This alone would provide in
triguing material for an independent story on the impact of
the war on teachers and students. The moral dilemma of
the teacher, who tries to protect his students from the
intrusion of the outer world, especially the militarism
prevalent then, makes for provocative reading by itself.
But the effect is vitiated by the rambling style of so much of
the rest of the story.
This work can be enjoyed more for its individual parts
than for its overall effect, since the concerns of the teacher/
writer are so varied. The variety of topics and opinions is so
great that it is hard to know what to think of the whole,
however much a reader may admire the components.
"The Crest-painter of Hagi" is much shorter than the
other two stories, yet it is similar to them in its tone,
technique, and general impression. The piece has little by
way of a plot or directly stated resolution. Because Nakano
resorts frequently to flashbacks to minor events in the
narrator's life and concentrates more on mood, atmos
phere, and description than on narrative, action, or charac
ter development, it would be more accurate to call this
story a sketch.
The story concerns the narrator's trip to the town of
Hagi, where he is supposed to settle a dispute between
Party members. Given the rather isolated setting and
minor mission, the narrator has occasion to wander aim
lessly around the town. The stroll provides the pretext for
describing the physical surroundings and recalling events in
the past which are tenuously connected with the present.
The sights of the town and the reminiscences which are
evoked serve no specific purpose, nor do they necessarily
lead to a significant action or to important decisions by the
narrator. The descriptions and reminiscences, like the mus
ings in "Five Cups of Sake" and similar "follow-the-brush"
writings, appear to be more for the gratification of the
writer than the reader.
Since it is not completely clear what the point is, it is
difficult for the reader to become emotionally or intellectu
ally involved. Perhaps it is unreasonable to expect to find a
clearly defined purpose from the immediate act of writing
in this style. Such pieces are moderately entertaining, but it
is a mistake to burden them with too great expectations.
The feelings that are evoked by such a story or sketch are
likely to be a slight nostalgia or melancholy of the kind
often encountered in Japanese literature, rather than
strong emotion of any kind.
A large section of this third piece is taken up by a
description of how the narrator comes across a particular
kind of candied fruit in a shop and of memories of some
years ago evoked by the sight of the fruit. For example, he
wonders whether he should take some home as a souvenir
for his daughter, muses at length over his usual neglect of
such souvenir-buying, and debates with himself whether to
mail the package or carry it. Following this rambling sequ
ence, he comes to another minor episode, when he sees the
crest-painter and reads a broader significance into this.
In telling about the woman who paints crests,
Nakano's narrator describes in detail how she appears as
she bends over her work. He takes such a long time to come
to the point and labors so much over the description that
the reader supposes that it must symbolize something, that
the scene of the woman and the emotions aroused by it
should lead up to something. But in the end, the emotional
build-up dissipates and we are left feeling rather deflated,
as though we expected too much.
De Bary states that the story deals with the realization
that the Pacific War is over and that people must come to
terms with it. The outward connection to the war, other
than the reminiscences called up by seeing the candied
fruit, is the narrator's realization that the crest-painter is a
war widow. The narrator expresses sympathy for the losses
of wartime which are symbolized by this individual tragedy,
but draws no conclusions. It seems that the author has
drawn attention to this phenomenon as something remark
able in itself, without connection to anything else.
On the one hand, we can appreciate the skill with
which the author uses images and associations to portray
incidents, sketch striking visual impressions, and evoke an
atmosphere. All ofthis, as de Bary notes, connects Nakano
with the Japanese lyric tradition of word play and associa
tive imagery which are so important in tanka and haiku. On
the other hand, it is somewhat disappointing and frustrat
ing to see little of substance beyond this. It is a problem that
exists in a good deal of Japanese writing, especially in
essays and personal narratives, wherein writers draw atten
tion to details and minor features of their works, so as to
inspire moods and create atmosphere. The elements, feel
ings, and incidents can be appealing on a small scale and are
impressive close to the eye. But much of this writing lacks a
strong, substantial basis underneath the intricate surface
Similarly, the elements of these three pieces by
Nakano are attractive in themselves, but seem loosely as
sembled when it comes to viewing each work as a whole. It
is as though in concentrating on the fine details, the author
has forgotten to relate them to one another within an
overall scheme. The individual components seem to be
associated by accident as much as by design and could be
rearranged without changing the overall effect. Each ele
ment may relate to the segments immediately adjacent to
it, but the effect of the whole would not be seriously altered
if any particular element were omitted. It is discouraging to
see the gifts of someone like Nakano widely dispersed in
such works instead of being concentrated on achieving a
more singular objective.
Works such as the three here may be too esoteric-too
bound up with events and the atmosphere integral to the
Japanese experience-to be readily enjoyable to an out
sider. Explanatory notes might make them more accessible
as social documents but cannot make them universally
appealing as works of art. Nakano deserves credit for at
tempting to tackle in fictional form such significant social
themes as the war period and the new constitution, but the
effort is not altogether successful. De Bary has shown skill
and dedication in presenting such a challenging and im
portant author to a wider public and in providing important
background notes which help us to understand Nakano's
work. We may hope that more of his writings will become
available to the general audience, so that we can have a
more balanced appreciation of his achievements. *
'DAY OF INFAMY' - FDR .... OR 'YEARS OF INFAMY' - Michi Weglyn
Some Historical Consequences of the Pacific Crisis 1941
by James]. Martin
James J. Martin is a historian and editor specializing in
American intellectual history, contemporary diplomatic
thought and practice, and analysis of the fonnation of
public opinion. He is a graduate of the University of
Michigan (M.A., Ph. D.) and, following a
quarter of a century in the edu
cational world. is now engaged
in independent writing and
editorial work.

snorlly after Gen. Mars"all early Saturday ""on. Dec. &. the
Memorandum 902 from TOk,yO l:Iegan to corne Hl. and tne JaPdnes.. Embassy
In WUhington wa. taking II down, unknown 10 tMm,the Amertcan ,ntell'gence
,ntems were dOin,. the same, 'lid ""ollerlong ,\ 'nto Engl"h ,omewha! IHter, And
tr", nad catastrophiC con$<lquences Th" comboned Army .nd Navy team of code
were nOI only mOre succeS!lul l!'lan tn.. EmM,w people ,n (".om)(\9
up w,tn an EngliSh I,nguage .... of this memoranOum. 3,,0 well ahUO of Ihe latter
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with a lIerslon in time to make tne scheduleo preseMat'on al Ihe SIMe O.. partm.. nl.
compounOlng the" problem with of PlanneO dece,t to Caller Ihe alf al
laCK on Hawaii u a con ....
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Sa!:>u.o lenag Ihough !:>ilterly hostH. to the JaPanele '8g,m.. whiCh lOOK Japan ,nto
war with the U.S.A., exonerates them of Ih. unille.\.ally-heid notion In me
u.s',A. that tney had "planned ill perfidiOUS attaCk wllhaul any p,lor warning." Tn"
., ",ncorrect," lenaga flatly declared. It was tile Japanese gove,', clea, ,no
tention to nohfy the Siale Depa.tment "immediately oefore the attaCK'" at Pearl
Ha'bor that dlplOmat.c .elalio'" were conslde.ed broKen, but th .. lormal nollee wa,
delayed because "Ihey had difficulty with the lasl long me...."'e frnm TOkyO."
(lenag', ThtJ Pacific w",.. 1931'1946, N.w York: Pantheon 600'<'. 1978. p_ IJb,)
"Pearl Harbor. Anler;;edenls.
BackgrOUnd and Consequences"
and "The hamingor Tokyo Rose."
permission of Ralph Myln,
Publisher, Inc., P.O. Box IS33,
Colorado Springs, Colorado 1l0901.
The renew of YRIJ'

by permiwon or lIben"i.n Review
Inc., San Francisco, ('a1irornia 94111
Previously unpublished material
mcorporatt:d In t:dilioD copy
'----____---' right by James J, Martin, May 1981
71P lHlfltry
The Beginnings of a Feminist
Consciousness: A Review Essay
by Sandra Buckley
There have been many English-language histories of the
Meiji-Taisho period, but for the most part the writers of these
histories have ignored the existence of women as effectively
as the Japanese governments of the time would have liked to
do themselves. However, as Sharon Sievers makes clear, the
government was no more able to ignore the voice of Japanese
women during the Meiji and Taisho periods than it is today.
The extremes to which the Japanese state was willing to
go to obstruct and discourage the activities of Japan's earliest
women activists is the best testimony to the potential political
force they represented. Article 5 of the Meiji constitution-the
exclusion of women from all political activity-was the most
blatant expression of the government's concern over the threat
posed to its nationalistic policies by women's protests. As
Sievers points out, it is no longer satisfactory to simply go on
lumping the women's movement together with the popular
rights movement. The introduction of Article 5 and other
discriminatory policies, and the government's determination
over the next fifty years to retain the most restrictive elements
of its anti-women legislation, are proof of the seriousness with
which the government treated the political activity of women.
Why then have western scholars of Japan not treated Japanese
women with the same seriousness?
The first sign of any serious attempt to redress the balance
in western scholarship came from Joyce Lebra et al. in their
volume of essays Women in Changing Japan (1976). Those
familiar with the Lebra book will be aware of the uneven quality
of the essays, but despite this the overall impact of the work
was still significant. Essays such as those on factory women
and women's suicide rates exposed the holistic theories of a
homogeneous, happy Japanese family/nation for the fallacies
they are. The cracks these essays left in the image of Japan so
enthusiastically peddled by Japanologists in the seventies (and
still today) allowed many readers-non-specialists, students
and, one suspects, even some Japanologists-their first view
of Japan as experienced by the majority of Japanese women.
Susan Pharr (Political Women in Japan. 1981) and Joy Hendry
(Marriage in Changing Japan. 1981) followed Lebra several
years later. Both works stop short of making any significant
Flowers in Salt: The Beginnings of Feminist
Consciousness in Japan, by Sharon L. Sievers.
Stanford, Stanford University Press, 1983. 240
pp., $22.50.
The Hidden Sun: Women of Modern Japan, by
Dorothy Robins-Mowry. Colorado, Westview
Press, 1983.
political interpretations of the mass of data they collected
between them. The language of both Pharr and Hendry is the
language of the establishment upon which they have depended
for so much of their data. Both works were written entirely
within the context and limitations of the paradigm which so
many Japanese women (feminist and non-feminist) are fighting
to dismantle.
The next work to appear in the tradition of Lebra et al.
was Alice Cook and Hayashi Hiroko's Working Women in
Japan: Discrimination. Resistance and Reform (1980). The
willingness of the authors to confront the exploitation of women
head on, which is implicit in the title, runs through the fabric
of the entire work. Hane Mikiso in his Peasants. Rebels and
Outcastes: The Underside of Modern Japan discloses a few
more flaws in the portrait of the happy Japanese family/nation.
Prostitution, for example, is brought out of the "family"
cupboard to be aired publicly.
Sievers' Flowers in Salt is a history of the emergence of
the Japanese women's movement during the Meiji and Taish6
periods. As she traces the activity of textile workers, Christian
Reformists, Socialists and the New Women of the Seitosha
(Bluestockings), Sievers creates a history of dissent. Flowers
in Salt is also a history of the State's concerted and ongoing
efforts to obstruct and restrict the activities of anti-establishment
women. The forms of government interference included
discriminatory legislation, the support of pro-establishment
women's groups, harassment and imprisonment. Sievers'
portraits of Fukuda Hideko, Hiratsuka Raicho and Kishida
Toshiko are welcome tributes to these pioneers of a radical
tradition. The choice of these women over more conservative
women such as Shimizu Toyoko, Tsuda Umeko or Hatoyama
Haruko, serves the dual function of undermining both the myth
of the homogeneous, non-radical Japanese and the popular
image of the passive Japanese woman. Sievers' respect for the
work of these women is implicit in the care and detail of her
research into their lives. This same respect is evident in her
willingness to stand back and allow her subjects to speak for
themselves. The intelligence, eloquence and confidence of
these voices is a strength of Flowers in Salt. Japan's earliest
feminists speak out and demand the attention of the modem
reader. Sievers deserves praise for her skillful use of quotations
and her thoughtful and lively translations.
In her treatment of radical women Sievers is inevitably
drawn into the area of debate between patriarchal-capitalist and
Marxist feminists (Michele Barrett's Women's Oppression
Today offers a good summary and bibliography). The following
quote from Fukuda is as relevant to the current debate as it
was to the socialist women of Meiji-TaishO Japan.
Unless the (communist) system is carried out, the achievement of
voting rights, of opportunities for women in universities, courts
and the government bureaucracy, will benefit a few elite women.
... As there is class struggle among men, so there will be class
struggle among women. (Fukuda, 1913, quoted in Sievers, p. 178).
As early as 1884, Kishida showed an inclination to encompass
the exploitation of women under a broader umbrella of
economic exploitation.
Accepting the right of those with superior force to dominate those
who are weaker, whether man over woman, or Western nation
over Asian nation, was an argument for savagery, not civilization.
(Paraphrase of Kishida, 1884, in Sievers, p. 39).
There has been a shift in Sievers' own position since her article
in Signs, "Feminist Criticism in Japanese Politics in the 1880s:
The Experience of Kishida Toshiko." Sievers has moved away
from the traditional view of Kishida as a mere drawing card
for the Liberal Party (a passive voice), to a more serious
treatment of Kishida's political career.
Although she occasionally refers to the gap between the
urban, educated women who form the focus of her study and
rural or working women, Sievers does not locate herself in
relation to either side of the class-gender debate-then or now.
Sievers is drawn into the debate through the political position
of the women she gives voice to, but stands on the sideline
without engaging herself in it. Sievers seems confused when
she asserts on one page that "what Japanese women needed
was something to make them realize how similar their
experiences were ..." (p. 129) only to state on the next page
that "class and political divisions were apparently too great to
permit a unified front."
The institutionalization of the capitalist class structures
which divide Japanese women to this day date from the period
of Sievers' study. While Sievers refers to the emergence of
these class structures in discussions early on of textile workers
and the "Victorian lady" of the Rokumeikan period, the
distinction between elite and working women-a distinction
which was much clearer then than in these days of the ideology
of the middle-class-bulge-becomes less clear as the work
progresses. Flowers in Salt is a political history rather than an
economic history. It is also worth noting the political risks of
treating these two as discrete areas of analysis. This is perhaps
never truer than for the history of women. Can the extent of
the Japanese state's resistance to calls for political equality for
women be understood without reference to the interests of
industry? At a time when up to 60 percent of the workforce
was female, is it surprising that even some non-socialist women
considered class struggle a prerequisite for women's equality?
Sievers' concentration on political reform groups tends to
exclude the less organized resistance of rural and factory
women. The predominance of urban, educated women
apparently accounts for the absence of any reference to the rice
riots of 1918 in which rural women played a significant role.
The rural workers of poor fishing and farming villages carried
much of the burden of the early industrial and urban
development. However, any discussion of the relationship of
the women who constituted the membership of the Reform
Society, the Blue Stocking and the socialist movements to their
poor rural sisters would have required Sievers to engage in the
class-gender debate.
Flowers in Salt falls short of being a feminist account of
Meiji-TaishO women, that is, an account based on feminist
theory. It is a history of feminism, not a feminist history. These
comments should not detract from the important contribution
of Sievers' research, for this work has broken the ground for
a new school of Japanese studies informed by the developments
of feminist theory. Flowers in Salt marks the beginnings of a
feminist consciousness in Japanese studies.
Another book to appear in 1983 on the subject of women's
history was Dorothy Robins-Mowry's Hidden Sun. This book
is the product of the author's experience and research over a
ten-year period in Japan as an officer of the United States
Information Service attached to the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo.
There is no space here even to begin to address all the
problems of Robins-Mowry's treatment of pre-Meiji women's
history. Let it suffice to say that in attempting to cover the first
1,600 years of recorded history, an area with which the writer
is clearly unfamiliar, in fewer than thirty pages, all that is
achieved is a confusion of historical and mythical "fact"-in
cluding various of the myths which constitute the archetype
''The Japanese Woman."
Chapter Two is called "The Way of Modernization." Here
the stark contrast between Robins-Mowry's book and Flowers
in Salt is clear. Compare their disparate readings of the same
moments in history. Sievers' treatment of the "textile workers"
leaves no doubt as to the dreadful conditions these women
worked under. Robins-Mowry on the other hand, while
describing to some extent the harshness of factory conditions,
comes across as patronizing. In one place she focuses on the
"pitiful little songs" sung by these "spinning girls." The almost
fairy tale quality of "spinning girls" is reinforced by the
reproduction of the painting of Empress Haruko's visit to the
Tomioka Mill. The illustration is a total romanticization of the
working conditions of the women who are not, anyhow, even
the focus of the painting. The humid, steamy conditions which
ate away at the health of the young workers are transformed
here into a romantic mist, framing the imperial presence.
Naruse Jinz6 is, to Robins-Mowry, a progressive and
influential educator; in Sievers his institution is described as
"little more than a finishing school for upper-class women."
To Robins-Mowry, Kishida Toshiko was "brilliant and
beautiful" and "enchanted her audiences." This is a far cry
from the woman whose attacks on the Japanese family system
led to the disruption of her meetings by authorities and her
eventual arrest.
Sievers devotes a whole chapter to the socialist and
would-be assassin Kanno Suga, while Robins-Mowry does not
even mention that the leader of the "plot to assassinate the
Emperor" which led to a massive crack-down on all
anti-government activity was a woman. The failure to identify
the leader of this plot as a woman is one of the earliest examples
of Robins-Mowry's determination throughout The Hidden Sun
to deny, or at best ignore, the strong historical links between
the left and the women's movement in Japan. Although she at
one point acknowledges that "on the local level women more
often find help from leftist or progressive anti-establishment
groups," the activities of socialist and communist women are
only occasionally referred to. When they do appear it is usually
only to be derided in a frighteningly McCarthy-like tone.
Socialist or communist attention to women's issues is
scorned as election "tactics" while the LOP's failure to do the
same is described as "heeding too little the changing needs and
expressions of the people." The activity of Communists in the
Occupation period is described as fanning out to "penetrate
labour unions, schools, organizations." The quotation, "a tiny
group of people can lead a large number of foolish people,"
is an insult to the communist workers, unionists, educators and
politicians of the day. The source of this quote is only identified
in a later footnote as Hashiguchi Toshiko, an LOP stalwart.
The Fujin Minshu Kurabu (Women's Democratic Club)
was established in 1946 with the "blessing and advice of
SCAP." The group announced that a "time has finally come
in which we can think, choose, and act of our own accord for
our happiness." Less than two years later the group had fallen
victim to "red guard tactics" and lost SCAP support. We are
told elsewhere that at the same time (1948) the Occupation
"cracked down" on Japanese Communism. So much for
"freedom to act of our own accord." The account of the
"Communist infiltration" of the International Congress of
Mothers is not only neurotically anti-communist but elitist.
Communist influence is explained as the exploitation of
women, while "ordinary women" are described as naive pawns.
The message is clear-no intelligent woman would become a
Communist and all communist activity is suspect and
Anti-V.S. activity is treated in much the same way. The
1960 AMPO crisis is described as "nasty violence." We are
told of the concern of "sensible Japanese people" that the crisis
would damage democracy, while the massive non-partisan
opposition to this newest of Japan's unequal treaties disappears
under the McCarthyite rug.
Robins-Mowry repeatedly attributes the success of indi
vidual women and organizations to their exposure to American
and Christian influences. Much credit is also given to the
Occupation and the 1946 Constitution. Robins-Mowry defends
the "separate approach" of Occupation women's policies, but
her simplistic arguments will not pacify the women who are
fighting the current constitutional battle against the discrimina
tory legislation which encodes the "separate" -ness of women
a legal heritage for which they have the Occupation to "thank."
The repeated emphasis on the "V. S. -connection," though
presented as proof of ongoing cooperation, can only infuriate
Japanese feminists by its implicit denial of the initiatives of
Japanese women activists and the independent status of the
movement in Japan.
A corollary of the ChristianJV. S. emphasis is the frequent
assumption that what Japanese women mean by equality is
achieving the life-style of a middle-class American woman.
Progress towards equality is confused with increased consumer
capacity and leisure time. The term "women" is often used to
describe the specific category of urban, educated, middle-class
women. The book is dominated by the history of the success
of women of this one group. The women who work within the
existing political framework-"establishment women"-are
the focus. This is not surprising given Robins-Mowry's own
affiliations. In her position as Women's Activities Officer
attached to the V.S.LS. the writer was able to collect a
considerable bibliography of materials as well as establish
contacts within certain areas of the women's movement.
Robins-Mowry's bibiliography and the mass of statistical and
other detailed information contained within this book will be
of value to the student of women's history. The accounts of
women's participation in citizen's consumer movements and
the "clean elections" campaign are the more informative
sections of this book. Readers familiar with the life of Ichikawa
Fusae will be sympathetic to Robins-Mowry's extensive tribute
to Ichikawa.
There can be no doubt, however, that The Hidden Sun is
written in the poijtical tradition of the Mandarins. It is therefore
only appropriate that the foreword should be written by Edwin
Reischauer. He describes Japanese women as combining
"meekness and ironlike strength, docility and domestic
dominance, gentle beauty and daring action." Robins-Mowry
even anger, a feminist reader, but she can only
gain by comparison with this attempt of Reischauer's to address
women's history-an area he has successfully ignored or
misrepresented for some forty years now. Although we might
share Reischauer's hope that much more will be written about
women in Japanese society, let us hope that future research in
the area will follow in the alternative tradition begun by Lebra,
Cook and Sievers. *
Berkeley Journal
of Sociology
A Critical Review Volume XXIX 1984
Terry Strathman on Child-Rearing and Utopia
Martin Gilens on The Gender Gap
Denise Segura on Labor Market Strati8cation and Chicanas
Jennifer Pierce on Functionalism and Chicano Family Research
Jeff Holman on Underdevelopment Aid
James Jasper on Art and Politics
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Univ. of CA 458A Barrows Han Berkeley, CA 94720
by Audrey Kobayashi
The contention of this book is that it is necessary to study
political activity at the level of the common individual. This
position is in clear contrast to the common assumption that
individuals are ineffectual in asserting their political rights,
unaware of political issues and unimportant in the course of
national history. Bowen has aimed his study deliberately at the
actions and associations of the commoners involved in the
Meiji popular rights movement. He focuses upon three gekka
jiken ("incidents of intensified violence"}-the Fukushima
Incident of 1882 and the Kabasan and Chichibu incidents of
1884---seeking "to learn why they happened; what they tell
about general social, economic, and political conditions; and
what consequences they had for society and politics as a whole"
This work challenges the "failure thesis," advanced in a
number of Western interpretations, that there is no historical
precedent in Japan for the extension of democracy and civil
rights and that Japan's past provided neither a basis for the
success of ''TaishO Democracy" nor for a popular challenge to
the authoritarianism, ultra-nationalism and militarism that
dominated the 1930s. Bowen's approach takes the effectiveness
and representativeness ofinstitutional-level politics for granted.
It assumes that the failure of democracy at the institutional
level precluded the possibility of resisting political and
economic oppression by those without institutional power,
much less changing things for the better.
The first chapter provides a descriptive account of the
three incidents and introduces some of the major figures
involved. In the Fukushima incident, local residents reacted
against demands for taxes and corvee labor to complete a road
scheme for the self-serving purposes of a corrupt governor.
The Kabasan incident involved a small group of radical
opponents to political repression following the Fukushima
incident, and was initiated in a spirit of revenge against the
same governor. The Chichibu incident occurred on a larger
scale, as an attempt to organize commoners to achieve debt
deferment, tax reductions and an end to usury. The three events
were dissimilar in terms of duration, number of participants,
degree of violence involved, as well as in their "precipitating
causes," the specific circumstances towards which the rebel-
Bowen. Berkeley, Los Angeles and London: Univer
sity of California Press, 1980, 367 pp., maps and
lions were directed. Nonetheless, Bowen claims that they were
fundamentally linked in that their "underlying causes" all
stemmed from the social, economic and political constraints
under which the Meiji commoner lived. All occurred as
opposition to a recognized governmental authority. All began
with organized, lawful attempts to initiate reform, but later
gave way to radical factions that saw violence as the most
effective means of struggle. All involved an alliance between
the Jiyfito (Liberal Party) and local farmers. The analysis of
the underlying causes in the bulk of the book is in terms of
two broad areas: the circumstances within which rebellion
occurred and the role ofcommon ideology in bringing it about.
Chapter IT analyzes concrete historical circumstances. It
presents the paradoxical situation faced by the Meiji farmer
who confronted a range of new "rights" defined within a free
market economy: rights of contract, property ownership, and
access to the market and to the accumulation of capital. At the
same time the right to subsistence, guaranteed under Tokugawa
moral economy, was threatened by the exigencies that
accompanied the new rights, in particular, the obligations of
taxation and the intensifying effects of monopoly and usury.
Rights guaranteed in theory could not be translated into
practice, and rebellion occurred in order to overcome obstacles
to economic rights. Bowen rejects "the commonly held belief
which says that 'unique Japan' could not have experienced
anything akin to Western liberalism," in favor of the Marxist
position that the Japanese popular rights movement occurred
within a context in many respects similar to that of Western
bourgeois liberalism, characterizing a particular stage in the
development of capitalism:
heavy and arbitrary taxation following on the heels of a
period of prosperity; the commercialization of agriculture
to a significant extent; a sharp drop in demand for
commercial products, accompanied by indebtedness, bank
ruptcy, loss of landownership, and the corresponding fall
into tenancy; the consciousness of agricultural producers
that they lack the political rights necessary to defend their
economic rights as producers; the rise of an opposition
movement whose platform promises producers the political
rights they lack; and the social fact that the leaders of the necessitated changes in the form and rationale of revolt, and
opposition are generally educated, relatively wealthy, and, that in the Japanese popular rights movement the rationale was
for the moment at least, believe that their interests coincide provided through the incorporation of Western notions of
with those of the uneducated and relatively poor but "natural rights" as expounded in the theories of Locke,
nonetheless small capital producers. (p. 176) Rousseau, Jefferson, Mill and, especially, Spencer. They all
The parallel with Western revolutionary history is drawn,
however, only "insofar as it has been shown that certain regions
... exhibited economic, social and political features which
could have engendered a liberal revolution" (p. 75). This does
not in any sense imply a reduction of Japanese conditions to
those of the West; nor joes it mean the above-cited factors
should be called determinants. Rather than providing a
simplistic shopping list of possible causes, Bowen attempts to
show that the conditions of developing capitalism occurred
throughout Japan in. various local economies.
The rebellions occurred in areas where, particularly in the
sericulture industry, the money economy was well established.
These were areas ofcomparative wealth which were nonetheless
highly susceptible to the vagaries of market conditions. Against
this economic background, Bowen claims that the sufficient
causes for rebellion in these particular areas depended upon
the of recognition among the participants that they must
acqurre a greater measure of political power. It is suggested,
paradoxically, that it was the awareness of the freedoms
theoretically guaranteed within a market economy that led to
rebellion against the constraints imposed in practice by the
market economy's more insidious results. The issue becomes:
"did this development of a liberal economy affect the farmers'
consciousness of their political rights and how was this
consciousness expressed?" (p. 128).
The discussion of political consciousness tries to establish
a relationship among three elements: the individuals involved
in the rebellions, the ideas which justified the rebellions, and
the means by which they were organized. Chapter III provides
of in each of the incidents: over ninety
mdividuals are dIscussed in terms of residence, age, status,
occupation and property relations. Although the data available
are limited and do not fully represent the thousands involved
in the incidents, they do provide grounds for a number of
general observations. Most of the participants were young, of
heimin (commoner) status, and farmers, though a variety of
rural occupations and economic status groups were represented.
Yet most were not poverty-stricken and a few were even
wealthy. The leaders especially tended to come from only a
few geographical regions. Bowen's intent is to show the social
make-up of the groups and to assess how this make-up related
to the possibility of revolution. Not all of the factors chosen
for analysis, especially age, provide much indication of the
causes of the incidents. The most significant conclusion that
Bowen is able to draw is that those participants for whom
information is available came predominantly from the class of
small landholders, the sector of society in which the economic
conditions for a liberal revolution might well be found.
Despite the limited value of the discussion of individuals
to understanding the overall causes of the incidents, the
importance of certain individuals who were instrumental in the
organization of the incidents is clearly demonstrated in Chapter
N, in which is developed the major theme of the book: the
relationship between ideology and social organization. The
central thesis is that the shift from the older moral order of
subsistence farming to a new moral order of capitalism indeed
supported the principle of equality within a society of property
owners based on a capitalist economy. No claim is made that
there was a direct embracing or understanding of liberal ideas
by all commoners, but only that the influence of those
intellectuals who did embrace them was sufficient to establish
the beginnings of "rice-roots democracy."
At this point the argument is on rather uncertain ground.
While it. is easy to show that western theories of natural rights
were bemg read and advocted by Japanese intellectuals, it is
very difficult to assess the influence that those intellectuals
exerted on the ordinary farmer. Upon Bowen's evidence, which
includes the fairly high degree of literacy in the countryside
and the existence of popular songs espousing a natural rights
doctrine, rests only a tentative claim that commoners could
have been exposed to, and influenced by, such ideas. Even
fairly conclusive evidence of interaction between the common
ers and those who held certain doctrines tells us rather little of
the actual expression of the ideas, or of the form of
understanding achieved by the commoner who might have been
exposed to them. Subsequent discussion of the "force" of ideas
in guiding the development of history is both mystifying and
empirically unsubstantiated.
The book is saved from a headlong plunge into idealism
by its culminating emphasis on the more pragmatic issue of
!he organization of the rebellions. This emphasis shows that
how.ever they are conceived, are expressed only in
.and must be understood in the light
of therr practical mtegratlOn at every social level. Thus a second
edge to the book's thesis claims that the organizational forms
used to propel of the incidents led to differences among
them. Three major factors are identified: the degree of
awareness of oppression, the type of recruitment within
different traditional forms of socialization, and the methods of
continuation. Bowen argues that the direct influence of natural
rights doctrine was much stronger in the Fukushima and
Kabasan incidents than it was in the Chichibu incident which
involved a larger number of commoners and a much more
spontaneous form of organization. Concern there was for the
amelioration of immediate conditions, rather than for funda
of social order. The most significant aspect
of thIS discusslOn IS the type of relationship which existed
the In each case it derived from traditionally
that defined such things as class, patronage
or mantal affiliations. Bowen reminds us that "events" such
as the. gekka jiken are historical conceptions only if it is
.that they are by individuals acting with
other mdividuais and withm an established structure of social
relations, that structure being continued and transformed in the
Bowen's work with the expanding
field of Mel]I hlstonography. The first lies in recognition of
!he degree of regional variation in Meiji Japan and of the
Importance of this variation in influencing the course of local
history. Differences existed both at the prefectural level in
terms of concentrations of certain economic conditions and
social forms, as well as at the local level, where elements of
cooperative enterprise, communal ties, strength of leadership
and specific traditions of landholding and familial relations
dictated that each social group stood as an expression of its
own history. For example, the book discusses the specific
consequences of a new road project for the participants of the
Fukushima incident and the effects of Meiji economic policies
on the sericulture industry in all three areas, showing that
although the parameters of the market economy may have been
set consistently throughout the country, the particular situations
that developed within those parameters varied. Such discrepan
cies further justify the importance of understanding any
situation in terms of concrete, historical praxes.
A second point concerns the degree of continuity between
the Tokugawa and Meiji regimes. In Bowen's estimation, there
occurred among the commoners a major shift in ideological
perspective from the "benevolent lords and honorable peas
ants" conception of social order within which Tokugawa
uprisings occurred, to the liberal democratic ideology that
fuelled the Meiji incidents. Despite the fact that there was
widespread de facto participation in a market economy well
before 1868, this shift occurred, Bowen claims, because the
de jure status of the Meiji capitalism made a profound
difference to the development of heiminshugi (consumerism).
A similar argument could be made with respect to other aspects
of Meiji liberalism, such as the right to private ownership of
property, the growing independence of the family, and the
expansion of individual occupations. This discussion of the
significance of explicitly legal reforms casts new light upon
the moral economy debate, and underscores the need for more
detailed studies of Meiji conditions.
Conspicuously absent from Bowen's discussion are
references to class structure, either as it changed in the course
of ideological shifts in the Meiji period or as it may have played
a part in the development of the popular rights movement.
Implicit in Bowen's argument is that the class system in Meiji
Japan derived not from categories imposed by a system of
capitalist production (although this may indeed have become
the case subsequently), but from the hereditary classifications
established during the Tokugawa period. This situation is
directly linked to the way in which the development of political
activism received traditional justification and occurred in
different forms through local indoctrination. For Bowen, these
facts provided strength to the organization of the gekka jiken;
class divisions were transcended in a common ideological
pursuit. Opposed to this interpretation is what seems to be the
more popular one which claims that the failure of the gekka
jiken was in part a result of the class contradictions inherent
in the alliance of small farmers and landlords.
Resolution of
the issue surely lies in ascertaining what exactly determined
the outcome of the uprisings. Was it the ability of both small
farmer and landlord to draw upon traditional bonds of social
relationship in order to organize common activity? Or did the
market economy create sufficient social divisions to curtail the
successful achievement of democratic reforms by splintering
1. Irwin Scheiner, "Benevolent lords and honorable peasants: rebellion and
peasant consciousness in Tokugawa Japan," Tetsuo Najita and Irwin Scheiner,
eds., Japanese Thought in the Tokugawa Period, 1600-1868 (Chicago and
London: University of Chicago Press, 1978), pp. 39-62.
2. See Mikiso Hane, Peasants, Rebels, and Outcastes: The Underside of
Modern Japan (New York: Pantheon Books, 1982), pp. 22-27.
the effects of common activity against a bulwark of political
oppression and economic deprivation? Bowen offers some
intriguing suggestions as to the relationship between the two,
but because he fails to address the issue directly by specifying
either conflict or change in status as the dominant factor, his
final position is equivocal. The issue of whether class is indeed
an issue remains unresolved.
It is partly this weakness that requires the reader in the
end to make an overwhelming leap from a claim concerning
the development of liberal reform principles during the 1880s
to a diagnosis that the strength of liberal ideology was both
broadly based and increasing. The first claim is well supported
by Bowen's empirical evidence, but I find less convincing the
suggestion that the effects of this movement were not in their
immediate results (which were firmly squashed by the power
of governmental authority), but in that they germinated during
the 1880s, took root during the "TaishO Democracy" of the
1920s, and finally were allowed to burgeon in the post-World
War IT reform movement. Contrary to the expressed intentions
of the author, this is a lapse back into the practice of pulling
"ideas" out of their specific material contexts. One can share
Bowen's faith in the ability of the commoners to organize their
activities toward a common goal of overcoming political or
economic oppression, redefining their circumstances as they
become aware of their own power as a group. One can also
recognize that this has happened in Japan throughout the past
century, in circumstances perhaps less dramatic than those of
the gekka jiken in question. We await, however, a more
comprehensive empirical study that will provide evidence of
development and continuity in the rural democratic movement,
and that will provide due analysis of the changing structure of
class relations over that period of time.
Important questions for further study arise from the book,
such as the nature of rebellion and of commoner political
organization, and the paradoxes of Meiji society, with its
combination of marlcet freedom and political and economic
restriction. The book represents a challenge, not only to rethink
some of the complacent assumptions upon which events of the
Meiji period have been interpreted, but also to continue
empirical studies of historical conditions in specific localities,
eventually to provide a strong basis for comparative understand
ing. Above all, it stands as a reminder that the common
individual can never be ignored. *
P. O. Bo= 647~ Ben FrankLin Sta. '
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THE SARA W AK CIllNESE, by John M. Chin.
Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press, 1981.
Review ix, 158 pp., iIlus., maps, bibl., index. (Oxford in
Asia paperback series.)
by Kenyalang
Chin's The Sarawak Chinese is a welcome addition to
the only other serious work on the Chinese in Sarawak,
T'ien Ju Kang's The Chinese of Sarawak: A Study of Social
Structure. t In this slim volume, the former Principal Wel
fare Officer of the Ministry of Welfare Services, Sarawak,
Malaysia, traces the history ofthe Chinese in Sarawak from
the self-governing kongsis in the West Borneo goldfields in
the eighteenth century to their uneasy position in the 1970s.
The Sarawak Chinese, the author claims in the preface, is
written primarily for the general reader but it also aims to
serve as a basic introduction to more detailed studies onthe
subject by other researchers. It is in the light of the latter
that this review must be read.
Of the nine chapters that make up the book, the eight
that examine the relationships among the social, economic
and dialect groups within the community, and the treat
ment by the "authorities" in the pre-Malaysia period of this
minority, "whose contribution . .. has been largely re
sponsible for the State's growth and development" (Pre
face), make interesting reading. The last and ninth chapter
is a straight-forward account of Chinese participation in
party politics in the Malaysian period with little analysis.
The Chinese presence predated the creation of Sara
wak, on the island of Borneo, by the Englishman, James
Brooke, in 1841. This was a part of the periodic migration
from the "Middle Kingdom" that was to scatter Chinese to
the four comers of the world in search of fortune which the
1. T'jen, Ju Kang. The Chinese of Sarawak: A Study of Social Structure.
London: London School of Economics and Political Science, 1953.
individual' Chinese hoped to bring back for his retirement
in his birth-place. The Chinese-finding themselves in the
anarchic environment ofWest Borneo-transplantedtheir
traditional village organization of the South Chinese social
structure to form kongsis, mining-and-agriculture coopera
tives, for their governance and self-protection, and to se
cure their livelihood. Marshalling anthropological and his
torical evidence, Chin builds up a convincing case for the
legitimate position of the kongsis in the evolution of the
autonomous Chinese Hakka communities in Sambas,
Montrado, Bau and other Borneo goldfields, as opposed to
the conventional view of their origin in the secret Triad
Society. All this is set against the background of Dutch
imperial expansion inland from the Borneo coast. By 1854
the Dutch had vanquished the strongest of these kongsis,
and the scene in the book shifts to the Bau Kongsi just
beyond what became the Dutch sphere of influence in the
East Indies.
The first half of The Sarawak Chinese, culminating in
the turning-point of the "Chinese Rebellion" of 1857, is the
more significant part of the book. The conventional view of
this "rebellion" puts the onus on the "treacherous"
Chinese of the upriver Bau Kongsi for having attempted a
coup d'etat against the legitimate government of Rajah
James Brooke at downriver Kuching. Chin's account,
based on oral history and European sources, argues con
vincingly that the Chinese were not entirely blameworthy.
In particular, he points to the "curious" episode where the
Chinese "rebels," having overran Kuching on the fateful
day in 1857, did not rape the women or raze the town, but
instead retreated, leaving most of the town people un
molested. They also left a message for Rajah James Brooke

to the effect that the line has been unbroken, and Chin remarks
"river water does not trespass on well water," that they
would not interfere with him so long as he did not interfere
with them and confined himselJto the districts he governed.
Chin adds interesting details to the "thesis" of the
American scholar, Craig A. Lockard,
first advanced in an
article in 1978, in which the "rebellion," set in the wider
Borneo context, is seen as part of a well-established West
Borneo pattern of rivalry between a self-governing upriver
mining settlement and a downriver trading port-in this
case, one ruled by an Englishman who was beginning to
extend his fief-for the resources of the same river basin.
For some odd reason, neither Lockard's article nor James
Jackson's path-breaking monograph4 on the goldfields of
West Borneo is mentioned in Chin's footnotes or bibiliog
raphy. The "Chinese Rebellion, 1857" is indeed a mis
nomer for Chapter Four of The Sarawak Chinese, but the
immediate result of the conflict was the near-massacre of
the Chinese at Bau. The long-term effect was equally disas
trous: a lasting stigma, if not odium, to plague generations
of Chinese in Sarawak. Henceforth, although immigration
was encouraged under the second Rajah, Charles Brooke,
the community was kept under watchful eyes, and Chinese
industry and business acumen were harnessed to the econ
omic development of the State. Rajah Charles Brooke
asked the Chinese he brought in to grow rice but such was
the influence of the external world economy that the set
tlers invariably turned to cash crops like pepper, gambier
and rubber.
The rest of the book is uneven. In a sense, the second
half comes as a disappointment after the promise held out
by the refreshing first half of the book. More than a century
of history-roughly between 1863 and 1979-is covered in
eighty-five pages, but the ground scanned is mostly descrip
tion, and tantalizingly brief at that, of surface events that
adds little to what one reads in the standard history text
books on Sarawak/Malaysia. Few names of the notable
families in the mercantile elite that continued to dominate
the import-export business in the decades after the 1930s
are mentioned. Their inter-family and patron-client rela
tionships are not delved into, and the linkages with their
counterparts and the agency houses in Singapore are not
explored despite a chapter on "Pre-war Social and Eco
nomic Organization." Even less is said about the post-war
evolution ofthe mercantile elite.
The personae of the Chinese notables come alive in
the vignettes sketched by Chin. Representing the Chinese
Hokkien mercantile group in Kuching who had supported
Rajah James Brooke against their "fellow countrymen"
from upriver Bau in 1857, these notables succeeded more
in amassing personal fortunes because of their official con
nections than in fighting for the rights of their less
privileged fellows as citizens of the new state. Since 1857,
2. John M. Chin The SarawakChinese (Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University
Press, 1981), p. 36.
3. Lockard, Craig A. "The 1857 Chinese Rebellion in Sarawak: A Reap
praisal," The Journal of Southeast Asian Studies. IX (1) (March 1978):
4. Jackson, James C. The Chinese in the West Borneo Goldfields: A Study in
Cultural Geography. Hull: University of Hull, 1970.
the social and economic power wielded by a select group of
wealthy merchants and others as recognized leaders con
tinued to ensure that the Chinese Chamber of Commerce
remained the primary political link between the government
and the Chinese people. 5
There was much to be desired about the leadership, which,
in spite of the compromises made with the "enemy" during
the Japanese Occupation during World War II, continued
to be accorded official recognition by successive govern
ments. The community tended like water to try to find its
own level and did not always follow.
Chin's characterization,
In the past, lack ofproper understanding ofthe Chinese way
of life, their cultural differences and social background led
successive administrations in Sarawak to think of them as
aliens and to regard their intentions and motives with mis
has a familiar ring about it beyond the shores of Sarawak.
Written from "the Chinese perspective," The Sarawak Chinese
offers insights that counterbalance the hagiographic ten
dencies of most histories written from the "top" looking
down. It is, therefore, regrettable that, in the conclusion,
the author allows his sanguine feelings as a citizen of Mal
aysia-of which Sarawak is now a part-to get the better
of his judgment as a historian. For instance, the admonition
to the Sarawak Chinese leaders to give up ambitions of
personal aggrandizement to serve the needs of their
people, and the assertion that the days of political op
portunism are over are contradicted by the behavior of the
mercantile elite which Chin described earlier in his book.
It is perhaps difficult for the author, having spent a life
time in government service, to shake off the bureaucratic
mind-set with its infinite capacity for rationalizations that
fly in the face of facts. In the same concluding paragraph,
he applauds Malaysia's "assiduous practice of parliamen
tary democracy" (p. 132). This is laudable only if one were
to compare Malaysia's record with the worse of her neigh
bor's and ignore inconvenient facts like: the suspension of
the Sal'awak State Constitution by the Federal Govern
ment in 1966 to remove unconstitutionally the recalcitrant
Chief Minister, Stephen K. Ningkan; the suspension of the
General Elections in peaceful Sarawak in May 1%9; the
suspension of the Constitution of Malaysia at the same
time; and the subsequent blackmail of the opposition
parties into cooperating with the Federal Government
prior to the restoration of "parliamentary democracy."
Chin's undemanding style, clear maps and ample
black-and-white photographs make The Sarawak Chinese an
easy-to-read history book. The author will have achieved
his purpose in the long run of encouraging more detailed
studies on the subject by other researchers if readers,
whose appetites are whetted by the first half of this intro
duction to the subject, are provoked into questioning much
of the "conventional wisdom" in the second half of the
~ ~ . *
5. Ibid., p. 110.
6. Ibid., p. 132.
by Brad Geisert
Chi's main thesis is that the Guomindang regime's
preoccupation with military power, dating from at least
1927, prevented it from dealing effectively with China's
social, economic, and Political problems. An additional
thesis is that, like a straw breaking an already emaciated
camel's back, "the Sino-Japanese War of 1937-45 repre
sented a. stress beyond the KMT's coping abilities and
eventually forced it to collapse" (p.3). However, the book
is more disparate than these theses would indicate, as Ch'i
traces Guomindang military strategy, party factionalism,
regionalism, personnel management, taxation policy, and
a host of other concerns. Not surprisingly, considering the
wide field of vision of the work, the treatment of many of
these areas is shallow.
Ch'i is undoubtedly correct that the Guomindang re
gime had a predilection for military solutions to problems,
though it was seldom as candid about this as the 1936
government publication which stated: "it is an undeniable
fact that [our control of] the localities depends on suppres
sion (chen-ya) by the armed forces."1 However, Ch'i's ex
planation of the origin of the Guomindang's "politics of
militarization" is less satisfactory. He points the finger of
accusation at: 1) the Guomindang's decision during the
Northern Expedition to strike easy deals with Northern
Warlords-and the concomitant necessity to redress the
preponderance of military power those regionalists re
tained; and 2) Jiang Jieshi's peculiar attraction to bushido
and other militaristic streams of thOUght. Unfortunately,
Ch'i passes over some of the most salient causes of militari
zation, a phenomenon hardly found exclusively in the
Guomindang regime.
The sad fact was that from the early 1800s on, China
had been undergoing a creeping militarization of every
level of her society and politics. Village and local politics
were increasingly dominated by local military power. At
COLLAPSE, 1937-45, by Hsi-sheng Ch'i. Ann
Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 1982.
309 pp., index, $20.00.
the root of this process of militarization was the lack of
legitimacy of any set of elites, indeed the lack of any set of
values held by all or most Chinese that could legitimize
anyone in power. Thus, all power was illegitimate, and
being so could only be generated by controlling and apply
ing the means of violence (or by assembling a set of
legitimizing values and in some way rallying the Chinese
people to those beliefs).
To be sure, Ch'i understands this
legitimacy problem, as indicated by his criticism of Jiang
and the Guomindang for failing to mount an "ideological
and organizational offensive" (p. 10), though he fails to
pursue this as a cause of militarization.
Still, it could be argued that the Guomindang's re
liance on military approaches was less thoroughgoing than
Ch'i would have us believe. As Ch'i observes, many of the
regime's difficulties stemmed from the continuing exist
ence of regional military forces. In this very important
realm Jiang foreswore aggressive military solutions, choos
ing instead to construct ad hoc political coalitions of re
gional militarists through negotiation, rather than preemp
tively moving to wipe them out militarily. What Ch'i calls a
Guomindang strategy of pursuing "easy military victory"
(p. 233) was actually a policy of seeking an easy political
solution. Likewise, if Jiang sawall problems from a military
vantage point and sought military solutions to all difficul
ties, it is curious that he moved as slowly as Ch'i says he did
in modernizing and expanding the armies he himself con
trolled (p. 37).
Ch'i does not succeed, to my satisfaction, in demon
strating that it was truly the bias toward military solutions
and analysis that doomed the Guomindang. Many of the
failings of the regime seem in no way to have been dictated
by emphasis on military affairs. Corruption, lax admin
istration, inefficient taxing systems, and regional insubor
2. Guy s. Alito, "Rural Elites in Transition: China's Cultural Crisis and
1. Jiangsu sheng zhengfu mishu chu, San nian lai Jiangsu sheng zheng the Problem of Legitimacy," Select Papers from the Center for Far Eastern
shuyao (Zhenjiang, 1936), baoan section, introduction, p. 1. Studies, 1978-79, No.3, pp. 218-275.
dination are hardly things willingly embraced or tolerated
by militaristic dictators, no matter how narrow their intel
lect or horizons. Additionally, it could be argued that
leaders at all levels of the regime tended to rely on ad
ministrative tinkering, reorganization, and reshuffling of
offices at least as often as identifiably military approaches
to problems.
The major importance of the book lies less in its some
what strained thesis than in its engagingly new interpreta
tions in other areas. For example, Ch'i provides plausible
rationales for the Guomindang army's all-out defense of
Shanghai-which decimated China's best-trained and
-equipped armies. He holds that Jiang bet most of his forces
in a Shanghai stand: 1) in order to pursuade regional mili
tary leaders to fight Japan by demonstrating that he was not
holding his own troops in reserve; 2) because Shanghai was
the hub of Jiang's power base and the heart of China's
economic resources, and he could not afford to lose it (it
was also, Ch'i says, the most heavily fortified area in China
and presumably the easiest to hold); 3) because the Chinese
success in holding the Japanese around Shanghai in 1932
had resulted in the conclusion by Chinese military leaders
that fighting in urban areas somehow canceled out
"Japanese superiority in firepower, mobility, and logistics"
(p. 46). Thus Ch'i rejects the common view that the disas
trous Shanghai strategy of attempting to hold Shanghai at
all costs was a ploy by Jiang to grab world attention, sym
pathy, and aid. It was, he says, the opening curtain in a
Chinese strategy of fighting a war of attrition.
Many who have written on wartime China have felt
that the Guomindang's policies and war strategy were de
signed more to prepare for eventual war with the CCP than
to defeat Japan. Ch'i's analysis of politics within the
Guomindang regime creates the impression that Jiang and
his advisers were more concerned about regional military
leaders than about competition with the CCP.
One bloody flag often hoisted by both CCP and Guo
mindang polemicists has been that the opposition party
bore less of the brunt of Japanese attacks and either fought
in a lackluster fashion or sat back avoiding any significant
engagements with the Japanese in order to save its forces
for the coming civil war. Neither side will find complete
vindication in Ch'i's book. He argues that even after the
battle of Shanghai the Guomindang launched a military
offensive-the disastrous winter offensive of 1939-thus
proving that it had not yet adopted a strategy of holding its
forces in reserve. Later, after the miserable failure of the
offensive, and especially after the Japanese Ichigo offen
sive, the Guomindang armies were simply too weak to do
other than bide their time. In other words, planning for
civil war had little to do with the Guomindang sitzkrieg. His
line on Ichigo is that the Guomindang troops (and particu
larly the crack units aligned with Jiang) bore the fury of
Japanese armored thrusts, so much so that Ichigo very
nearly sealed the fate of Jiang. In Ch'i's view Ichigo, like
the failed winter offensive and the Shanghair defeat, dra
matically shifted the military balance in China, strengthen
ing the hand of regional militarists vis a vis Jiang. Thus
Jiang's power was slipping away during the war. Increas
ingly, rather than effectively imposing his will on the
Chinese army, Jiang had to negotiate with its various re
gional leaders. Seen from this perspective, Jiang's re
luctance to relinquish complete control over the army to
U.S. General Stilwell stemmed from the fact that Jiang
himself never had such powers to give away.
Historians of CCP military strategy will undoubtedly
debate Ch'i's analysis of the evolution of CCP military
tactics. Most notably, he outlines a significant shift in the
early- and mid-1940s from reliance on guerilla soldiers and
tactics toward emphasis on regular army forces and large
engagements (pp. 122-128).
Ch'i's presentation is marred by a few minor inac
curacies (for example, Sun Yat-sen's death is wrongly
dated 1924) and the prose is occasionally poorly edited
(e.g. the author identifies Jiang Jieshi as an "it"-p. 29).
Yet Ch'i is a pioneer stepping into an academic wilderness.
His book and Lloyd Eastman's soon-to-be-released work
are virtually the sole scholarly studies of the Guomindang
in the Sino-Japanese War. Ch'i'smonograph is a useful and
essential work for all who would understand the fate of the
Nationalist regime. *
AFGHANISTAN W. Howard Wriggins
PERSPECTIVES Review Article A.bok Kapur
Vol. 57, No. 1:
Summer 19&t
\n Intt1rnational H('rie" (If .\sia and tilt' Parilit"
Published Quarterly
University of British Columbia
Vancouver, Be, Canada V6T lW5