Socio-Economic History

Vol. 65, No. 6

The role of stone-masons in the early-modern development of stone-dealing in the Inland Sea area of Japan

In the Inland Sea area in the early-modern period there were many craftsmen who spent their time traveling wherever there was a demand for their expertise. This paper examines the role of traveling stone-masons in the overall framework of the stone-dealing business of the period.

In the latter half of the early-modern period, a rapid expansion in the land under rice cultivation in the area created a commercial demand for stone. On the supply side, new-style businesses which combined the processes of excavation and transport took over from traditional traders. On the demand side, newly emerging networks of local stone-dealing bosses, smaller local businessmen, and traveling stone-masons were endangering the traditional stone-masons. In other words, the traveling stone-masons did not travel because they enjoyed freedom on the labor market, but because they played a particular role in the social structure of the stone-dealing business.

This social structure developed because of the rich stone resources of the area and its geographical role as a major naval transportation route. It therefore represents a division of labor particular to this area in the early-modern period

Management practices and the collapse of the early modern salt industry of the Inland Sea of Japan, 1845-1890

The aim of this paper is to examine the collapse of the early modern salt industry of the Inland Sea from the period after the development of the practice of kyuhin (giving beaches rest periods), with special reference to the role of management. Kyuhin was a method of controlling production which was developed in the Inland Sea area in the early-modern period because at that time taxes and farm rents accounted for a relatively small amount of total expenses. However, taxes and farm rents later began to rise and an increased demand for coal and labor led to higher prices for coal and higher wages. This had a bad effect on the salt industry. Finally, while the industry did regain profitability in the late Tokugawa and early Meiji periods, a failure to use this revenue to invest in equipment and increase productivity meant that it did not become sufficiently competitive. These factors made it particularly difficult for the industry to withstand the deflationary policies adopted by Finance Minister Matsukata in the early 1880s.

Worker migration and the labor market in the townships of Tokugawa Japan, 1729-1870: a case study of the town of Koriyama

The purposes of this paper are to investigate the role of middle-sized townships in the Tokugawa labor market, with respect to both supply and demand, and to consider the factors determining the migration of laborers to townships from surrounding villages.

Koriyama, in Northeastern Japan, was the political and economic center of Asaka-gun, and thus it enjoyed a high volume of regional trade and traffic during the Tokugawa era. The township played a significant role in absorbing surplus labor from the 41 outlying villages that together comprised Asaka-gun.

Labor migration to Koriyama fell into two categories: 1) Young women from other regions who worked as prostitutes; 2) Men and women from Asaka-gun who became indentured servants. Both proximity to Koriyama and local economic conditions determined the number of servants moving into Koriyama from its environs. As Koriyama's economic importance grew, its larger merchants became more likely to employ day laborers rather than servants on annual contracts. This encouraged permanent relocation to Koriyama by migrant workers, and was a major factor in the township's increase in population.