The Impact of Japan’s Industrial Revolution

Japanese Industrial Revolution

It is an undeniable fact that the Industrial Revolution, which has been started after Restoration of Maiji, has been widely discussed and deliberated. However, only a few actually admitted that this revolution was more than a mere beginning of a new era. This revolution has changed the social, economic and political institutions of the Japanese Empire from the very bottom. The innovations affected not only economic relations but complicated social and political structures that had existed for centuries if not for thousands of years. No other revolution had such an exceptional nature. Its multiple effects, which enabled the introduction and maintenance of the new order of things, had also revitalized and provided the nation with new perspectives. Thus, both political and industrial implications of this revolution are worth being examined and would be briefly highlighted in this paper.

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As compared the industrialization of Japan to other Asian countries, few suggestions might be offered. First of all, China and Japan had much in common. Both the nations were devoted to the traditions and customs. At the initial stages, they both showed resistance to any changes and opposed against Western imperialism (Yoshikawa, 2009). However, whereas China remained committed to its values and traditions, Japan realized the need for changes. Only having lost a large part of its territories, China accepted the necessity for the reforms. On the other hand, Japan at once borrowed and adopted everything western. As a result, it strengthened its military, political and economic power and became an empire builder.

Shortly after the Restoration occurred, Japanese industries remarkably changed in two dimensions. On the one hand, they were irreversibly modified. On the other hand, they experienced the most rapid development ever. Years before the international trade, in which Japan operated as a party, was heavily regulated by various treaties that provided for at least 5% ad. valorem (Yagi, 2005). Thus, the simplest conceptions of free trade and borderless communities were unfamiliar to the Japanese government. However, from 1870s, a Free Trade policy was highly promoted by the Japanese authorities. As a result, the island of Japan became closer to the distant European and Western nations. Some of the researchers consider this newly-established policy to be a forerunner of the Industrial Revolution; however, it is regarded as a very first innovation brought by the latter.

The first to come was the change in traditional educational system. Those citizens who already occupied highest governmental posts, as well as many others, were ordered to move to the West to observe and examine the social, economic, political and educational institutions existing there. These first Japanese Columbuses needed to reconsider the importance and value of these institutions for the industrial development and decide whether they could be implemented within the realities of Japan. Additionally, the majority of young students were sent abroad with educational purposes of studying all modern sciences. The changes were on their way even within the territory of Japan. The government sponsored the establishment of common schools. Moreover, the Imperial University and the Schools of Mechanical Engineering and Agriculture had opened their doors to the students.

Another innovation is related to the establishment of factories and plants. The latter were, however, under the complete control of the governmental officials, which, though, did not prevent their success. For example, a small irony-foundry was created at the School of Mechanical Engineering (Fukurama, 1995). It let the country to manufacture its own machines needed for various practical purposes. In its turn, the Department of Army started to produce gun-powder and other war equipment. The Department of Navy started to build dockyards while the Finance Department established a chemical laboratory. Additionally, the venture ensuring the emission of currencies, bonds and stocks was created and controlled solely by this Department. Similarly, it had established a paper factory.

The Japanese government had also promoted the founding of the machinery needed for the reeling of silk thread and spinning of the cotton yarns. Previously, these operations were implemented only by manual labor. Additionally, with the purpose of capital concentration, the government had introduced a net of national banks and issued bank regulations. To benefit from the international trade, it also contributed to the establishment of the Specie Bank of Yokohama. Finally, the construction of the first railway road was also promoted and sponsored by the Japanese government.

The Industrial Revolution has also significantly impacted heavy industry but only in perspective. At the beginning of the Revolution, shipbuilding, iron and steel as well as chemical industries had just begun to develop. Japanese people just learned how to exploit various technical appliances and electrical machinery. However, it was natural that all heavy machinery was imported from the West as this was a norm. Additionally, heavy industry at the stage of infancy of industrialization was mainly state-governed. It controlled the main munitions plants in the biggest cities as Tokyo, Osaka and Yokosuka. Nevertheless, a few years later the Private shipbuilding, railway carriages, and manufacture of various machinery instruments slowly shifted to the private organizations.

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The use of various technologies also insulted the output of various industries. For example, communication facilities that were introduced by Shozan Satsuma promoted the development of trade relations throughout the territory of Japan (Nikolas, 2011). At first, he manufactured a telegraph-like instrument in accordance with the Dutch books. Further on, he succeeded in introduction of Morse telegraph, as well as in sea mines and electricity fired land. Moreover, due to the abundance of the chemical laboratories and pharmacies in Japan, the glassware industry began to flourish.

As the cotton-spinning machines and cotton looms driven by waterwheels were introduced in Japan, more than one thousand people were employed for the porcelain manufacturing. They were also engaged in production of the oil, paper and leather products.

In 1865, the first Japan’s mechanized mill was created (Shimposha, 2000). Later on, it was redesigned with the added steam power engines. Seven overseas engineers were invited to work on the new mill. Thereafter, they headed six divisions-boilers, subbing, combing, cotton blending, and others. In general, the whole cotton-producing factory was under their control.

It should be noted that state played a significant role in the economic life as it actively introduced market relations, forming the basis for the national industries and infrastructure that was necessary for accelerated industrial development of the country. This allowed Japan in the late nineteenth century to become a capitalist country with dynamic rates of development. In terms of industrial production, it surpassed Italy and closed to France in 1900-1913.

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During the late 19th century Japan experienced a period of rapid industrial development. The economic conditions introduced by state led to a rapid industrialization, the main directions of which were railway construction, shipbuilding, coal, steel and textile industries. During the period from 1880 to 1913, coal production increased 20 times, copper – more than 13 times, the volume of agricultural production increased by 3.5 times, the length of railways – by 20 times (Shimposha, 2000). Thousands of new industrial enterprises were established. As a result, at the beginning of the 20th century, the economic growth not only significantly increased but also surpassed several times the growth rate of the US and developed European countries.

Active economic role of the state in the industrialization of the economy had had an impact on the process of monopolization of the economy, which led to the emergence of monopolies of the specific nature. The process of formation of monopolies in Japan had its own peculiarities. In contrast to other countries, Japanese monopolies, zaibatsu, were not based on the development processes of concentration, centralization of production or increasing competition but emerged as a result of the divestiture of “ideal” companies, e.g. transferring of state enterprises into private organizations (Buntrok, n.d).

Zaibatsu were closed type monopolies as their shares were distributed only among family members and were not distributed on free market. They were created as conglomerates that included enterprises from a wide variety of industries which were crucial for the economy as a whole. Japanese zaibatsu also encompassed various financial institutions including banks. Their own “internal” banks provided the monopolies with the necessary loans. As a result, credit relations became isolated within the same family monopoly. Mitsui and Mitsubishi were the biggest monopolies existing in this period in Japan. Thus, Mitsui specialized not only in running commercial enterprises and banks but also in the development of the extractive industries including gold and silver mining, electrical and textile industry. Mitsubishi controlled coal mines, silver mines, shipyards and shipping companies, railway transport.

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The militarization of the economy was the most important direction of economic development of Japan during this period. Military sectors of the economy started to play an increasingly significant role in the development of heavy industry. 40% of all state-owned enterprises were military factories, which provided employment for 1/2 of the public sector workers, and concentrated 3/4 of production capacity. The increasing militarization of the economy was held within the framework of a 10-year economic development program adopted in 1895 (Buntrok, n.d).

In conclusion, it should be admitted that the Industrial Revolution in Japan differed from the ones that had occurred in Europe. The Japanese authorities did not invent new mechanisms; instead, they adjusted already existing innovations and successful models to the realities of Japan. Additionally, this Revolution had provided a pattern of development for other Asian countries including Singapore, Hong-Kong, Taiwan and China and had a long-run effect on the future of Japan’s economy.

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