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Lives in the rural areas of Japan were affected both positively and negatively by the drive for, and

achievement of, industrialisation.

The Meiji restoration of 1868 saw the beginning of a shift from an agrarian economy to an industrial one. In the interests of building and sustaining a militarily strong, economically productive nation state, emphasis was placed by the Meiji administration on industrial development. However, the prime locus of production in the Meiji period remained as it had throughout the reign of the Bakufu, in the rural domain. Faced with a lack of export surplus, and foreign exchange, coupled with a need for tax revenue, it was the rural economy which was to be the driving force of the movement towards industry, creating not only a rural elite at the expense of those who had traditionally sustained themselves, but also opportunities for many to work independently of their village communities. The effects of industrialisation on rural communities were mixed, with many suffering as well as succeeding, which eventually fed the drive for modernisation.

In 1665, the rural proportion of Japan‟s population was 80%, and by the time of the Meiji restoration, this figure had fallen to 70%. Despite this fall, and the shift towards industry, agriculture and the rural community remained essential to the modernisation of Japan‟s industry and society (Gordon, 2003, p.15). Yet, despite the importance of the countryside to Japan„s development, there were those who struggled to maintain a livelihood in the changing economic conditions, including the onset of inflation. The cost of development was met by Japan‟s rural community, with a dramatic shift emerging between those already in possession of a certain largesse, who gained yet more wealth, and those without, who in turn had to

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Yet at the same time. and the capacity for acquisition that this brought them.(Gordon. leading farmers with smaller plots to sell their land in order to pay taxes (Tsurumi. p.96).20). 1990. p. p. rather than village. In an effort to stimulate economic growth and satisfy the demand for capital. thereby increasing inflation. The result of this economic shift was the procurement of poorer farmer‟s land by landlord farmers.491 Page 2 . p. 2003.94). was responsible for paying tax (3% of assessed land value) in cash. The ownership of land and employment of tenant farmers led to an increase of tax revenue for the government. due to poor harvests and the introduction of land-tax reforms. Yet.sought gainful employment in the industries that were transforming rural life (Gordon. In addition. which ensured that each landowner. the Meiji administration introduced a scheme of quantitative easing.4). resulting in destitution for many who had to find cash to pay for that which they would have easily cultivated in times gone by. The cost of developing Japan‟s industry affected the rural economy both favourably and adversely.96). the Matsutaka deflation of 1880 saw the value of commodities drop. The short-term benefit of this programme was that taxes remained at a pre-inflation level. The ultimate beneficiary of this James Prowse (297635) Words: 1. 2003. leading to the so-called “Meiji Miracle” (Tsurumi. 1990.70). p. This led to a greater concentration of wealth in the hands of landowners who owned the most land. these benefits were short lived. allowing farmers to benefit from the excess wealth which resulted from having to pay less tax (Gordon. an increased need for cash led many tenant farmers to mortgage their land. rather than tribute in kind. 2003 p. The number of tenant farmers rose by 30% in the years between 1870-1880 (Gordon. a situation exacerbated by their higher output. 2003.

1990. This led to the rise of the “merchant farmer”.491 Page 3 . However. the basis for a strategy which placed agricultural production at James Prowse (297635) Words: 1.147). where disputes between tenant farmers and absentee landlords threatened the cohesion of rural society that had been maintained throughout the centuries (Gordon. galvanising their importance to the state in the process. benefiting from not only a surplus of land and a cash-based income derived from the widened level of production. p.development was the landlord. Despite the threat posed to farm labourers brought about by industrialisation. The paternalistic commitment of landlords. Industrialisation became a “national project”. While driving the national industrialisation effort. which in turn promoted an increase in output (Gordon. Yet.21).145). brought on by increased wealth and workforce. the increased influence of landlords also drove many to seek employment away from the countryside to the cities. to whom landlords could delegate responsibility for the running of day-to-day affairs while the landlord engaged in other economic or political activities (Gordon. dating back centuries had come to an end. its inception proved beneficial for many landowners. p. p. This brought about a schism within rural society. but also bolstering their influence in the local community (Tsurumi. this increase in output also diminished some of the need for agricultural labour. 2003. thus satisfying the national need for tax revenue. hastening the imperative for many former tenant farmers to head for the city. a product of the progression from subsistence farming to cottage industry. such as silk thread production. In addition to this lack of paternalism came an increased mobility for landlords. The rise in affluence for landlords led to an introduction of agricultural technology. 2003. p.148). particularly those already involved in cottage industries. the role of the landlord in ensuring an accumulation of tax revenue ensured continued industrial development.

due to a combination of poor harvest. p. 1990. p. but also thanks to an unforeseen economic advantage. the task of cultivating and processing silk formed the backbone of the ‟national project‟. The importance of the silkworm industry provided a continuity to which the extant skills of the labour force could adapt easily. in the guise of an „urban flight‟. Initially performed by daughters of wealthy land-owners. which contributed to an increase in the urban population of James Prowse (297635) Words: 1.the centre of the drive for a bulwark against cheap foreign imports (Tsurumi. p.9).4) remained crucial to both the rural and national economy by providing a skilled and numerous work force. 1990. As well as out of a concern for ideology.491 Page 4 . The retention of old skills combined with new technology helped stimulate the nation‟s economy. Despite the increased employment opportunity in the silk industry. and lack of agricultural work (Tsurumi. a lack of opportunity for those not living in industrially active parts of the countryside gave rise to yet more migration. with girls working for the good of the nation and the family name.25). brought about by a silkworm blight affecting production in France and Italy.23) The countryside retained its ideological and economic primacy. 1990. despite being in the hands of a relatively small group. The traditional role played by daughters of farmers who ventured out to work (Dekasegi) (Tsurumi. 1990. so did the installation of mills and an increase in inter-prefectural migration. high taxes. This gap in the market provided merchant farmers the opportunity to fend off the ever-present threat from abroad. due not only to the location of an increased number of cottage industries. As exports of silk-based products grew. p. the daughters of poorer families sought work as a means to escape impoverishment. as well as provide tax revenue to satisfy industrial development (Tsurumi.

The ramifications of industrialisation for Japan‟s rural communities were dramatic. while many others left to join the growing urban mass. led to a drastic change in rural society. By this stage. which saw wealth and land transfer to those already in possession. p. yet this tumultuous change led to increased independence for women workers. mass media and transportation with the potential to enrich the lives of rural dwellers at a time when life was beginning to flourish in the cities. 1987. p. initially funded by tax revenue provided by the rural economy. transport and the mass media (Gluck. and replaced them with a desire for success and competition (Gluck.50. 1987.32). combined with the means to seek it. p. with the group-based economic and social unit of the village being replaced with so-called “natural desires”. due to an increased awareness of the opportunities to be found in the towns and cities. providing the nation with the means to develop.13). yet the role played by the countryside in Japan‟s industrial development was an important one. In addition to such „push‟ factors were the ever-increasing „pull‟ factors. 1987. which formed a desire among those living in the countryside to seek participation in the changing structure of the nation.491 Page 5 . A spirit of self-actualisation.12). rural life in Japan had been exposed to the consequences of industrialisation. The displacement of many self-cultivating farmers through land sale to meet the demands of modernisation and the loss of livelihoods reliant on self-cultivation changed rural life irrevocably. James Prowse (297635) Words: 1.000 between 1888 and 1913 (Gluck. both positively and negatively . brought about by an increase in education. increased social mobility for landowners and an eventual exposure to education. demonstrating the profound extent to which lives in the rural areas of Japan had been changed. which contradicted extant notions of community spirit.

Princeton. Japan’s Modern Myths: Ideology in the Late Meiji Period. 1990. A Modern History of Japan: From Tokugawa Times to the Present. pp. pp.P.Bibliography Gluck. Princeton. 2003. A. 15-148 Tsurumi. Princeton University Press. 12-32 Gordon. pp. 3-46 James Prowse (297635) Words: 1.491 Page 6 . Factory girls: Women in the Thread Mills of Meiji Japan. Oxford University Press. 1987. Oxford. C. E. Princeton University Press.