Economic Particularities of Japan's Meiji Term Paper

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The number of educational institutions remained the same and child labor has also stagnated. Entrepreneurs were still allowed to employ children, which they did moreover when they paid them lower wages.

Just like with the Meiji Era, the British Industrial Revolution opened new horizons and generated numerous development possibilities for the country and its population. The most important contributions were felt in the technological sector and materialized in a wide series of advancements. "It was not only gadgets, however, but innovations of various kinds -- in agriculture, transport, manufacture, trade, and finance -- that surged up with a suddenness for which it is difficult to find a parallel at any other time or place. The quickened pace of development is attested by the catalogue of new patents, the lengthening list of Acts of enclosure, the expanding figures of output and exports, and the course of prices, which, after remaining roughly steady for two generations, now began an ascent that was to continue for more than half a century." Transports and communications also improved, and were supported by a better infrastructure.

4. Comparison of Economic Highlights

The Industrial Revolution and the Meiji Era represent major times in history and they were both marked by numerous economic as well as social changes. The pivotal economic effect of the two periods is that they managed to raise the initially posed barriers in the path of growth and development. The reign of Emperor Meiji opened Japan to international operations and significantly enlarged the number of strategic international partners. While for Japan the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries represented the opening of the door to global operations, to Great Britain, the period stood for the country's chance to expand their operations even further and consolidate their leading position.

The major economic changes occurred during the Meiji Era and the Industrial Revolution refer to increased activities in the field of international trade, a growing role and importance of both national as well as international capital, modified structures and new regulations in regard to the labor force as well as the roles played by entrepreneurs.

International Trade

The Meiji Era is highly renowned as the period in which Japan began to emerge as an international trader. However trade was not uncommon before the period, it was rather limited. As such, the Japanese rules had divided the world's countries into three major categories: the 'Tsusho-no-kuni', or the countries for trading, in which category were included China and the Netherlands; the 'Tsushin-no-kuni', or the countries which were considered partners and were invited to celebrate special and important events; and finally, the rest of the countries were frowned upon and were to be repelled. Great Britain was initially considered a Tsusho-no-kuni, but their lack of profit from the trade operations had forced them to slow down the activities. However, when they desired to reestablish the connections, the policies had changed and the English were prohibited from trading with Japan.

But with the Meiji, along came an opening of Japan's borders to trade with other countries as well, practices highly neglected during the seclusion installed by the emperor's predecessors. And the new formed government, despite the beliefs that it would once again enforce seclusion, reorganized the country and stated the impending need to engage in international operations in order to reaffirm the power Japan was in the eyes of all countries. And all these operations were to be developed in full conformity with the regulations imposed by the international community.

Trade operations were deepened with the already existent partners and were commenced with new countries, including the United States of America and numerous other western civilizations. By 1911, the Asian country had revised numerous agreements and reduced to even eliminate numerous taxes and tariffs. "Japan had begun to behave like a Great Power and to be accepted by the Western Great Powers as a member of the ruling directorate of international society." The Asian country soon became an international power with a high entrepreneurial spirit, importing commodities and raw materials, to finally export the finished goods.

Just like in Japan, international trade was no stranger to the insular country, but it was significantly increased by the Industrial Revolution. With the new technological advancements integrated in efficient and effective machinery, the country could now produce unlimited quantities of goods. The new items were destined for both internal consumption as well as international trade. The global market soon grew accustomed with the British products and increased the demand for them.

Britain's international commercial operations were mostly due to the country's strong fleet, which allowed the merchandise to reach far destinations. "From the old commercial empire there was a significant English fleet which was utilised in trade with foreign markets from the mid nineteenth century. England shot to the forefront of the new capitalist economy primarily through its navy."

Although inter-continental trade had been growing for centuries, the rate of growth accelerated dramatically during the nineteenth century. Inter-continental trade grew at around 1% per annum between 1500 and 1800, but it has grown at around 3.5% per annum since the end of the Napoleonic Wars. In1820, the ratio of merchandise trade to world GDP was just1%, but it was eight times this in1913."

The developments in international trade in the two countries are only slightly similar in the meaning that, like the two major events, they occurred at the same time periods and had major impacts on the two economies. But they are different in the intensity of the changes generated. While the Industrial Revolution consolidated Britain's position as an international leader, the Meiji Era only helped Japan become an international player.


With the growing international trade due to the Industrial Revolution, the wealthy men of Great Britain - either wealthy due to family fortunes, or due to the operations in commerce with slaves or with the British colonies - saw great opportunities for further expansion. In this sense, they commenced to invest in both local and international factories in the intent to register profits. "Individual investors played a vital part in the growth of the Industrial Revolution from the beginning. These merchants and other English people began seeking investment opportunities after seeing industries make large profits. Gradually, banks were founded to handle the increased flow of money. In 1750, London had 20 banks. By 1800, the city had 70.

Most banks did not directly invest in factories or make loans to factory owners for the purchase of machinery. Some banks, however, made short-term loans to industrialists to cover their operating expenses. Such loans allowed industrialists to use their own money to buy equipment and improve and expand their factories. Banks mainly provided credit to farmers, wholesalers, and retail merchants, who then placed orders with manufacturers. As machinery and factories became more expensive, the individuals who provided capital grew increasingly important. These industrial capitalists soon became one of the most powerful forces in British commercial and political life."

The capital operations in Japan were barely existent in the shogunate's era. And even during the beginnings of Emperor Meiji's reign, the capital did not play a vital role. To better explain, capital was indeed offered to the needy entrepreneurs, but most of it came from the government, rather that banks or other national or international institutions. Capital was also raised through personal loans from family members, personal economies, informal networks and the reinvestments of the previous profits. Less than 25% of capital came from banks or other specialized institutions. International investments became more common only after 1879, when due to massive gold accumulations, the country pegged their currency to gold. This increased the trust and interest of foreign investors as it revealed that the Asian country was identifying itself with the western economies.

Once again, the situation of capital operations within Meiji Japan and industrialized England are similar in occurrence, but are extremely different in intensity and consequences.


The Japanese entrepreneurs became more and more obvious and started to play a major role in the country's economic development mostly during the Meiji Era. A main characteristic of the early Japanese entrepreneurs was their immense desire to contribute to the overall development and also their close collaboration with the state's government. "The Meiji entrepreneurs were community-centered and had a genuine interest in general economic progress and in the things that benefit the nation as a whole." Their beliefs were mostly based on their cultural heritage, applied in the economic sector. To better explain, most of the Meiji entrepreneurs were former samurais, who, through their growing and increased sense of honor and duty, placed the country's well-being ahead of theirs.

Unlike the Japanese entrepreneurs, the early business men in Great Britain made their presence felt even before the commencement of the Industrial Revolution. Furthermore, they were extremely independent from the state and an eloquent example in this sense is that their capital came from private financial institutions, rather that the government, like in the case of Japan.

However early…

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