Ec07 Ainu (SCCS 118)

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GCBS AS01 1880

David L. Howell. 1995. Capitalism from Within: Economy, Society, and the State in a Japanese Fishery. UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA PRESS. Berkeley · Los Angeles · Oxford. The Regents of the University of California.

When referring to the Tokugawa period, I will use "Hokkaido" to refer to the islands included in the present Hokkaido prefecture, including Hokkaido, nearby islands, and the so-called Northern Territories of Kunashiri, Etorofu, Shikotan, and the Habomai Islands; "Wajinchi" to refer to that part of southern Hokkaido open to non-Ainu Japanese (Wajin) settlement; and "Ezochi" to refer to the remainder of Hokkaido, which was, in principle, not open to permanent Japanese settlement until 1853. I prefer "Ezochi to "Ezo" ("Yezo"), which is frequently used in Western accounts of Hokkaido before 1869, because "Ezo" was usually used in Matsumae to refer to the Ainu people, not their homeland, and in any case "Ezo" as a geographical term implies all of Hokkaido, whereas "Ezochi" refers to a specific portion of it. A fuller discussion of the Wajinchi/ Ezochi dichotomy will follow. I will use "Matsumae" to designate the domain. The Matsumae domain's castle town, Fukuyama, is now (and was sometimes during the Tokugawa period) called Matsumae, but, for the sake of simplicity, I will use only Fukuyama.

Preface In the chapters that follow I shall illustrate the indigenous origins of capitalism in nineteenth-century Japan with a case study of the fishing and fertilizer-processing industry of the northernmost island, Hokkaido. Let me introduce the study with a brief listing of what I consider to be its five principal objectives.

First, my concern here is to identify the origins and trace the development of capitalism as a mode of production. Rather than frame my discussion in terms of aggregate growth or some other quantitative measure of economic development, I focus on qualitative changes in the basic structure of social and economic relations, particularly the organization of production.
Second, I have employed the concept of proto-industrialization (rural manufacturing for long-distance trade) to clarify the relationship between ― xii ― state institutions and social and economic structural change. The proto-industrialization model helps us to see how a feudal institutional environment can give rise to capitalist production and how, in turn, nascent capitalist production can pressure state institutions to adapt to economic change.
Third, because the Hokkaido fishery was not directly affected by Japan's opening to the West in the 1850s, the nineteenth century can be treated as a single, coherent unit, in which the critical connections between Tokugawa proto-industrialization and Meiji (1868-1912) capitalism are revealed. The continuities of demand, labor, and technology in the fishery make it possible to highlight social and economic structural changes and the role of state institutions with much greater clarity than in analyses of industries, such as textiles, transformed by the impact of Western technology and the world market.
Fourth, in examining the Hokkaido fishery I bring into focus social groups like fishers and the Ainu people that heretofore have been excluded from Western narratives of Japanese history. The physical mobility of fishers and the interregional economic and social integration engendered by their activities further undermine the surprisingly resilient stereotype of a Japanese peasantry tied to the land. The presence of the Ainu in the fishery raises questions concerning the nature of the Tokugawa polity and of Japanese ethnicity.
Finally, this study challenges well-established notions of center and periphery in Japanese history. By discarding the assumption that the geographical center of Japan was similarly the source of all important social and economic developments, I am able to locate critical changes in social and economic relations in ostensibly "backward" areas. In particular, I explicitly reject the prevailing image of Hokkaido as an untamed frontier, neither politically nor economically a part of Japan before 1868.

Chapter 1: Commercialization, Proto-Industrialization, and Capitalism. In the summer of 1861, Thomas Wright Blakiston, a British merchant, naturalist, and spy, visited Hakodate, a port on Japan's northernmost island of Hokkaido. His first and lasting impression of the place was that it stank:

On my arrival at Hakodate, I was at once made aware of the principal occupation of the inhabitants, and the consequent trade of the place, by the all-pervading stench of dried fish and seaweed; in the streets, in the houses, on the mountain side, everywhere the same scent haunted me of fish, shell-fish, and sea-weed, fresh, drying, and dried. Even like the eternal cocoa-nut oil in Ceylon, the food, the water, and everything one touched, seemed to be scented in the same manner.[1]
What Blakiston smelled was the livelihood of the people. Hakodate was one of several important shipping centers for the Hokkaido fishery. Prosperity in Hokkaido had the foul odor of herring that had been boiled, pressed, and dried into a mealy state for use as fertilizer. In 1861 the fishery-centering on herring, but including also salmon, trout, kelp (konbu ), cod, cuttlefish, and many other varieties of marine life—was the mainstay of the island economy, just as it had been for more than a century and would continue to be for decades to come.
Hokkaido's commercial herring fishery originated in the early eighteenth century as merchants, based mostly in central Honshu, responded to a growing demand for herring meal (nishin shimekasu ) for fertilizer and dried herring (migaki nishin ) for food among cultivators in the Kinai ― 2 ― plain and elsewhere. During the Tokugawa period (1603-1868) production took two basic forms: the family fishery, in which a multitude of independent petty fishers worked with household members and perhaps a few hired hands; and the contract fishery, in which merchants specially licensed by the Matsumae domain (or the bakufu) enjoyed a variety of economic and administrative powers, including the right to supervise large-scale fishing operations using native Ainu and some Wajin (non-Ainu Japanese) labor. The family fishery was Matsumae's answer to a peasantry of smallholders, while the contract fishery was an integral part of the domain institutional structure, inasmuch as it evolved out of the official trade between the native people and the daimyo and his leading retainers.

Chapter Two Not Quite Capitalism The Rise and Fall of the Contract-Fishery System. A giant octopus appeared off the Japan Sea coast of Hokkaido at Yoichi in the ninth month of 1828. Its twelve-foot head and sixty-foot tentacles "filled the sky with a shining, blue light." Local fishers adhered to a belief system that could handle the physical and spiritual damage inflicted by bears, foxes, and whales, but through some oversight they had failed to provide for monster octopuses. After consulting at the local shrine, they prudently decided to stay out of the water until the rogue cephalopod left of its own accord, which it did a couple of days later.[1]

Hayashi Chozaemon , who operated the Yoichi fishery, could hardly have been pleased to see two days' salmon catch escape, but, after all, it was his own son, Heikichi, who had first discovered the octopus. At any rate, he and his workers could afford the luxury of their beliefs because it was already well into autumn, long past the spring herring runs that provided up to eighty percent of their annual income. Six months earlier they might have tried to think of some way to accommodate the beast without losing any fish.
Chozaemon was the contractor (ukeoinin ) of the Upper and Lower Yoichi fisheries (basho). He was a merchant, not a fisherman, at heart, though his business included fishing operations as well as the generally more lucrative processing and marketing of marine products. He also lent money to small fishers as a profitable sideline. He secured his rights as contractor by paying an annual fee (unjokin ) to the Matsumae domain in exchange for a monopoly over trade with local Ainu residents. "Trade," by 1828, was broadly interpreted to include supervision of fishing operations ― 25 ― by the native people. In addition, as an increasing number of small fishers from the Wajinchi (southern Hokkaido)[2] and Tohoku came seasonally to fish, Chozaemon and contractors like him assumed broad powers over Wajin as well, including local political authority delegated by the domain and monopsonistic rights to fish landed within their fisheries.
The purpose of this chapter is to examine the relationship between merchant capital and the state in the emergence and growth of the Hokkaido herring fishery between about 1672 and 1868. It will serve as an introduction to Chapter 3, which covers social and economic developments within the fishery during the same period. The two discussions are separated to highlight the dual nature of the basic problem at hand—that is, that the transformation to capitalism manifested itself both at the level of state policy and institutions and at the level of economic and social relations among individuals. The contract-fishery system will figure prominently in both discussions, for it was the nexus between state and economy in Hokkaido.
The contract-fishery system was the cornerstone of the Matsumae economy. It put production of a large proportion of the domain's most important commodity under the control of a handful of merchants. And because that commodity was so important economically, the system shaped the development of Hokkaido society as well. The Matsumae domain, working within the constraints of the bakuhan system, developed institutions like contracting to ensure that trade between Hokkaido and the rest of Japan was conducted on its own terms. Although it was not the only domain to rely heavily on nonagricultural pursuits, Matsumae was unique in that it never even bothered to maintain the fiction that rice cultivation was the mainstay of its economy and society.[3] So while rice, not herring, made the rest of the Tokugawa world go around, the populace of Hokkaido—Wajin and Ainu alike—depended throughout the period on trade with Honshu for their livelihood and on fishing, especially herring fishing, to fuel that trade.
The contract-fishery system as Hayashi Chozaemon knew it was the product of two centuries of institutional evolution. The Matsumae domain began as an intermediary in trade between the Ezochi (Hokkaido beyond the Wajinchi) and the rest of Japan. Fishing emerged in the late seventeenth century as an outgrowth of that trade, and the institutions governing commercial fishing reflected those origins. In lieu of fiefs high-ranking retainers received rights to operate trading posts (akinaiba ) scattered along the coast of Hokkaido north of the Wajinchi. The samurai sent boats laden with ironware, sake, rice, tobacco, clothing, and other ― 26 ― household items to exchange for exotic products like bear gallbladders, falcon feathers, and sea-mammal pelts, as well as fish, which they then sold for cash. Between the late seventeenth and mid-eighteenth centuries merchants gradually took over management of the trading posts in exchange for a set, annual fee. Eventually, instead of simply trading for whatever the Ainu offered, the merchants began to supervise herring, salmon, and other fishing operations themselves, so that by the time Hayashi Chozaemon took over the Yoichi fishery in 1811 there was no question that fishing, not simple trade, was the basis of the contracting institution.

Chapter 3: The Capitalist Transformation. Everyone in the Wajinchi fished. For three or four days at a time, several times each spring, local residents—whether they were fishers, farmers, merchants, or even samurai—abandoned all other work and heeded the call of "Kuki !"—Herring run! They were beckoned by the huge shoals of herring that traveled from the Sea of Okhotsk down the west coast of Hokkaido to spawn. In late March or early April the first shoals approached the shore, their arrival heralded by flocks of sea gulls and gams of whales. During a large run the sea turned white and sticky from milt; the beach was littered with eggs, milt, and the bodies of fish washed up onto shore; and the water was so crowded with herring that a pole could almost stand unsupported. Anyone not too old, too young, or too sick joined in the business of hauling fish with nets, baskets, or bare hands: "Leaving only the aged and infirm at home, everyone—elder and councilor, vassal and lady, manservant and handmaiden—heads for the beach, rolls up his sleeves, and joins in the catch, with no distinction left between lord and townsman."[1]

During the herring season itinerant merchants from Honshu crowded the streets of Fukuyama, Esashi, and Hakodate. In Esashi enterprising townspeople rented their houses to the traveling salesmen and moved into makeshift huts on the beach for several weeks.[2] Some offered more than their houses:

[The women of Fukuyama] are all as beautiful and fair as the courtesans of Kyoto—Edo women could never compare. Whether they have husbands or not, but especially if they do not, they readily sell themselves to anyone. This is quite routine and is not considered at all shameful. . . . ― 51 ― Esashi . . . is as lively a port as Matsumae [Fukuyama] or Hakodate. In the huts on the seashore countless gannoji (prostitutes) play the shamisen and sing Matsuzaka bushi .[3]

This picture of retainers, townspeople, and fishers jostling for herring in the waters of Esashi harbor and for the pleasures of the floating world in the back alleys of Kagenomachi is actually an excellent characterization of social relations in the Matsumae domain. Seasoned fishers may have had the upper hand in the physical struggle to haul the most herring during a run, but that probably did not perturb the merchants and samurai in the fracas because they were fishing mostly for drinking money anyway—they got their cut where it really counted, at the marketplace and customs house.
The preceding chapter recounted the rise and fall of the paradoxical contract-fishery system, an institution that inhibited the development of capitalism even as it laid the foundation for it. Now the discussion turns to the structures built upon that foundation. We shall see how entrepreneurs were able to take advantage of a confluence of developments in labor, technology, and capital allocation—all fed by vibrant demand for fertilizer—to forge new social and economic relations of production in the fishery during the final decades of the Tokugawa period. This description will in turn lead the discussion back to the questions of distribution ("who got how much at whose cost") and growth ("how or whether total output grew") raised in the first chapter.[4] It is clear that total output grew considerably, but that means little unless we know who benefited from increased production and how they contrived to do so. Accordingly, the discussion that follows will focus mostly on distribution.
The distribution of wealth in the fishery was governed by the distribution of labor, technology, and capital. For most of the Tokugawa period the three were allocated in such a way as to ensure the primacy of the contract-fishery operators. During the last thirty years of the period, however, the balance shifted, resulting in a sort of domino effect of social and economic change.
First, the decline of the Ainu labor force at the contract fisheries of the Ezochi and the subsequent emergence of a seasonal proletariat of fishery workers from Tohoku facilitated the emergence of large, entrepreneurial fishery operations, particularly among independent fishers from the Wajinchi who would not have had access to Ainu labor anyway. Changes in the use of labor had significant implications for the class structure of the fishery, particularly in creating a clear distinction between family fishers and Wajin wage laborers.
Second, the development of the pound trap, a large and expensive but very efficient type of net, in the middle of the nineteenth century gave ― 52 ― those fishers with access to sufficient capital and labor a highly productive way to use them. The cost of technological change was the social conflict that accompanied the pound trap's introduction into Ezochi fisheries and its subsequent spread into the Wajinchi in the 1850s and 1860s.
Finally, the development of better technology in turn created a demand for even more labor, some of which came from the ranks of once-independent fishers who had lost their access to credit. The economic power wielded by suppliers of capital was as great in its way as the political power of the state: merchants acting in concert could seriously disrupt the entire domain economy by withholding credit, while individual creditors could and did literally control the lives of their fisher clients. Although merchants exploited small fishers through their ability to provide credit, fishers were sometimes able to transform the dependency relations caused by chronic debt into a kind of insurance against bad years. But this use of dependency became increasingly difficult once a market for the labor of skilled Wajin fishers developed in response to the emergence of the pound-trap fishery, as creditors now had an incentive to foreclose on insolvent clients and thereby reduce them to wage labor.
Because demand for herring by-products was always strong, patterns of distribution ultimately determined the extent of growth in the fishery. Growth—higher catches—came only when fishers made effective use of labor, technology, and capital, the distribution of which were determined by the power relations within the domain. Indeed, there would have been virtually no growth at all—that is, no commercial fishery—were it not for the active efforts of the Matsumae domain to create a surplus available for expropriation, for without the contracting institution there would not have been enough capital and labor to sustain the fishery even with strong demand. Growth in total output was desirable when it fostered higher revenues for the domain and prosperity for the populace, but undesirable when it threatened the domain's political and social foundations. Even when the impetus for growth came from within the fishery, such as in technological improvements like the pound trap, the state tried to intervene to prevent that growth from upsetting existing patterns of distribution. In the case of the pound trap, the Matsumae domain prohibited growth (that is, it banned the trap) because growth would undermine the social order of the Wajinchi, the economic order of the Ezochi, and the ideological order of the domain. Later, as we shall see, the Meiji government encouraged growth in production, with socially devastating consequences for many small fishers. Total output in the fishery is therefore no guide to understanding the social or economic position of small fishers in society; only when we know "who got how ― 53 ― much at whose cost" does the question of growth in each group's absolute share take on any meaning.
The state did not, however, simply dictate patterns of distribution and hence the extent of growth in the fishery. On the contrary, if one purpose of Chapter 2 was to highlight the state's ability to shape social relations in the fishery, this chapter seeks to demonstrate how the evolution of social relations within the fishery brought pressure on the political and institutional structures of the state. The state fostered the growth of a commercial fishery but inhibited the emergence of a capitalist mode of production; the development of capitalist relations of production within the fishery despite the institutional barriers forced the state to reevaluate those institutions and eventually come to an accommodation with the emergent capitalism. Moreover, as we shall see in Chapters 4 and 5, once the state made its accommodation, social relations underwent further adjustment to catch up to the capitalist institutions created by the state.


[1]. Chapter 4: