Socio-Economic History

Vol. 65, No. 1

The business practices of Japanese supermarkets during the period of high economic growth from the mid-1950s to the early 1970s: a true picture of Japan's 'Distribution Revolution'

The purpose of this article is to show how supermarkets developed their business operations during the period of high economic growth. Particular attention will be paid to the vertical inter-firm relationships between supermarkets and wholesalers in order to create a picture of Japan's 'distribution revolution'. The conclusions can be summarized as follows:

During the period of high economic growth, there was considerable change in the environmental factors. Supermarkets expanded their operations aggressively in order to take advantage of the business opportunities. In the process, however, they followed a pattern of business behavior which contradicted the predictions of theorists of distribution revolution.

The vertical fund supplementation mechanism between the supermarkets and the wholesalers evolved around the axis of the wholesalers' function of financing. Supermarkets at this time were under pressure because they needed to maximize the benefits of chain operations, but they did not have sufficient funds. Of great significance in overcoming this shortage were the 'turnover variance funds' resulting from the differences between the accounts payable turnover and the merchandise turnover. The source of these funds was none other than the wholesalers.

Keiichiro KATO
A village finance market from the late Tokugawa to the early Meiji period (1840s - 60s) : a case study of Magoshi village

There has so far been insufficient research into the financial structure of farming villages in the Tokugawa period. This is mainly because scholars have looked at it through the financial activities of landowners. In other words, their analyses have been limited to the supply side only. This has led to an overestimate of the significance of the landowner as money lender.

In this article, the focus is shifted to the demand side of the circulation of funds. Two kinds of resources have been used: the Shomoncho, which is a file of copies of villagers' loan contracts, and account books about fund raising and loans belonging to a village system similar to a credit union. Both of them are official documents of the village.

We find that villagers procured money from many diverse lenders or institutions for the production of commodities. Consequently, we come to the conclusion that there was a competitive and widespread finance market which had come to link savings to investment after the 1840s.

Yoshiyuki TAKETANI
How the Association of kasaku-tetsudai (construction workers' assistants) was organized in Osaka in the Tokugawa period (1603 - 1867)

Tetsudai performed a variety of odd jobs on construction sites, from simple tasks such as cleaning up or carrying things to fairly skilled ones such as putting on plaster. Their wages and standard of living were lower than those of other construction workers. This study examines the way in which tetsudai organized themselves.

The fact that a relatively low-level group of urban workers like this actually formed an association during the Tokugawa period is not well known. The association was strengthened by confrontations with other groups, such as stonemasons and well-diggers, and by disputes with fellow tetsudai in rural areas. As a result of the activities of the association, tetsudai were able to raise their social status and increase their independence.

Chikayoshi NOMURA
Merchants and labour markets in nineteenth-century India: a case study of the Assam tea plantation labour market

The present paper attempts to show how the Assam tea plantation labour market worked in the nineteenth-century. I selected this topic partly because the Assam plantation, which was established through British capital, is a good illustration of the effect of western capital on Indian labour, and partly because the number of Indian labourers employed by the plantation far surpassed the number employed in the other modern sectors of the Indian economy.

When we discuss markets, we must take account of transaction costs. The fact that information has a price is the key to transaction costs, which consist of the cost of measuring the attributes of what is being exchanged, the cost of protecting rights and the cost of enforcing agreements. Only when the benefits of opening a market are larger than the transaction costs incurred in so doing, can a market be set up.

In the case of the Assam labour market, it seems that the benefits of opening the market exceeded the costs, and the market was indeed set up. However, we should pay particular attention to the fact that two types of merchants, sardars (bosses) and contractors, played important roles in cutting down the transaction costs. The former were able to cut transaction costs more efficiently than the latter. Therefore, the more sardars increased, the more rapidly the market extended.