Hostage to the rice economy

In the second half of the XVI century, the Land of the Rising Sun plunged into the chaos of civil war. The bloody unrest ended in the early 17th century with the coming to power of the Tokugawa Shoguns (the emperor remained a nominal monarch). The economic policy pursued by the Japanese government for two centuries proved to be a unique experiment. The main means of calculation was a fixed volume of rice, called coca (about 180 liters, or 150 kg).


Horse samurai. A complete set of samurai armor was very expensive. And only the richest could afford to buy a horse.

For many centuries, there was a tradition to measure with one koku a stock of rice sufficient to feed one adult person for a year. And in the era of the Shogunate Tokugawa in these values ​​it was supposed to carry out absolutely all calculations on the territory of the state. In fact, money was in use in Japan. And not only from noble metals, but even paper ones. However, the authorities stubbornly forced their subjects to measure everything in coca: taxes, payments, and even the number of soldiers available for maintenance.

Even the displacement of ships was measured in Coca.

There were several reasons for the introduction of such a system. First, it was believed that the real warrior money corrupts. And since the samurai class played a huge role in Japanese society, the payment of their labor in portions of rice was considered quite justified. Indeed, why a warrior who is infinitely devoted to his overlord, cash? Secondly, the Tokugawa Shogunate proclaimed Japan’s total isolation from the outside world. All necessary for the survival of the inhabitants of the island powers had to produce independently. And the payment of any labor, though handicraft, even creative, should also be made in the specified number of portions of rice.

Japanese coin coban. The priority of the rice economy led to the fact that the nominal value of the Japanese gold coin Coban was estimated at three koku of rice. True, the government of Japan preferred to pay with silver and gold coins only as a last resort. For example, with foreign traders who were difficult to get to accept portions of cereal as payment.
The rice economy system has been brought to the absolute. Even the displacement of merchant ships was measured by the number of coca the ship could carry. And on the prestigious title daimyo (prince) could count only those of the aristocrats, whose income exceeded 10 thousand koku. Such a feudal lord could contain his own army of several thousand samurai. At the same time, the income of any province was measured in Coca. To do this, carefully measured and calculated each field. In reality, any person receiving payments due to him in the coca rice immediately tried to sell them. Of course, for the coins. After all, clothes, weapons, jewelry and everything else could only be bought for real money. And soon the center of financial life was the rice exchange. The cost of serving a simple samurai or a lower ranking official cost 30-40 koku per year. This is not less than five tons of rice. But brokers set prices based on their own interests. And over the years, the exchange of rice for money became completely unprofitable. Paradoxically, the authorities made the richest people of the country not landowners, but rice traders. These merchants, despite their low social status, became the main financial intermediaries.


Beauty is paramount. Daimyo spent up to half their income on their military outfits.

Of course, strict regulations on the distribution of national wealth in Coca looked good only on paper. Any lean year was a disaster for the state budget. Nevertheless, for about two centuries a unique experiment functioned steadily. It was only at the beginning of the XIX century that all the shortcomings of the rice economy and isolationism became apparent. No matter how the samurai were proud of their fearlessness, but in the era of the steam fleet and rifled artillery, there was no longer any hope of preserving national independence with the help of wick arckebuses and katans.

250−270 princes daimyo had an income of over 10 thousand koku rice per year in the XVII century. However, the shoguns tightly controlled and regulated the life of these super-rich feudal lords. For example, the daimyo were forced into devastating journeys to the capital, accompanied by a magnificent suite. So, a feudal lord with an income of up to 200 thousand koku was supposed to make a trip accompanied by 80 samurai. And with a lot - already 120.

In 1868, the emperor Meiji announced that he was taking full authority over himself, and the power of the shoguns was abolished. Radical reforms began, which in a short time brought Japan among the leaders of the world economy. Many researchers believe that it was in the previous two centuries that the foundations were laid for future progress. Normalization, strict accounting, and the habit of obediently executing orders that entered the flesh and blood of the Japanese in the era of the Tokugawa shogunate, became one of the engines of a powerful industrial spurt.

Watch the video: 'They Have Taken Us Hostage': How Pizza, Food Importation Affects Nigerian Economy - Audu Ogbeh (February 2020).

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