Rice Riots of 1918

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Suzuki Shoten in Kobe, burned during the Rice Riots of August 11, 1918

The Rice Riots of 1918 (米騒動 kome sōdō?) were a series of popular disturbances that erupted throughout Japan from July to September 1918, which brought about the collapse of the Terauchi Masatake administration.

Causes[edit]

A precipitous rise in the price of rice caused extreme economic hardship, particularly in rural areas where rice was the main staple of life.[1] Farmers, when comparing the low prices they were receiving due to government regulation with the high market prices had tremendous hostility against rice merchants and government officials who had allowed the consumer price to spiral out of control. The rice price increase came at the peak of a post-war (World War I) inflationary spiral that also affected most consumer goods and rents, and thus urban dwellers also had considerable scope for grievances. The Siberian Intervention further inflamed the situation, with the government buying up existing rice stocks to support the troops overseas, which further drove rice prices higher. The government failed to intervene in economic affairs, and rural protests spread to the towns and cities.

The riots[edit]

The Rice Riots were unparalleled in modern Japanese history in terms of scope, size and violence. The initial protest occurred in the small fishing town of Uozu, Toyama Prefecture, on 23 July 1918. Starting with peaceful petitioning, the disturbance quickly escalated to riots, strikes, looting, incendiary bombings of police stations and government offices and armed clashes. In 1918, there were 417 separate disputes involving more than 66,000 workers.[1] Some 25,000 people were arrested, of whom 8200 were convicted of various crimes, with punishments ranging from minor fines to the death penalty.[2]

Taking responsibility for the collapse of public order, Prime Minister Terauchi and his cabinet resigned on 29 September 1918.

A link to Japanese imperialism is debated. Scholars argue that to alleviate the demand for rice, which exceeded the production capabilities of Japan at the time, colonial rice production in Taiwan and Korea was intensified.[3]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Crump, John (1996). "The Anarchist Movement in Japan, 1906–1996". Anarchist Communist Editions ACE Pamphlet (Pirate Press) 8. 
  2. ^ MacPherson, WJ (1995). The Economic Development of Japan 1868–1941. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-55792-5. 
  3. ^ Smitka, Michael (1998). Japanese Prewar Growth (Japanese Economic History 1600–1960). Routledge. p. 192. ISBN 0-8153-2705-6. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Beasley, W.G. (1991). Japanese Imperialism 1894–1945. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-822168-1.