• Rice broker

Tag: Rice-Broker

This inflated economy came crashing down at the end of Genroku, in the first decade of the 18th century. By this point, many samurai and daimyo were so indebted to the brokers that they could never hope to be able to pay them back; this was a huge problem for the brokers. A new shogun came to power at this time, motivated by Confucian ideals and seeking reform. Thus, the shogunate stepped in, and sought to control the country's economic development, and the growing wealth and power of the merchant class, by organizing and regulating a series of guilds, and by passing strict sumptuary laws forbidding merchants from behaving like higher-class citizens (i.e. samurai, nobles). Sanctioned and encouraged by the shogunate, the Dōjima Rice Exchange was born, incorporating and organizing the rice brokers in the north of Osaka. The system became formally backed by the shogunate, who acted through the Rice Exchange to effect monetary policy.

Over the course of the 17th and 18th centuries, these Osaka-based institutions grew more solidly into what can legitimately be called banks, focusing their efforts largely on loans to the daimyo. However, as the peace and stability caused the feudal system to break down, daimyo became less and less able to pay back the loans, and an incredible volume of debts were simply rolled over or ignored. The money supply the banks had created also grew out of control, becoming an essential aspect of the nation’s economy, causing serious economic consequences whenever it was altered. The shogunate tried to repair and regulate the economy, in particular the monetary supply and monetary value of rice, but to no avail. Seemingly, if anyone understood the economic developments incurred by the rice-brokers, it was the rice-brokers alone. Since the samurai’s income was in fixed amounts of rice, not monetary value, the debasement of the value of rice affected their wealth drastically, and tractor parts the inflation created by governmental attempts to control the supply of metal coinage had similar effects. In all of this turmoil, it is fair to say that the rice-brokers were nearly the only ones to profit.

At the beginning of the 19th century, in response to growing inflation, and to the power of the rice brokers, and the merchant class in general, the shogunate once again imposed a series of heavy regulations and restrictions. Easily one of the most damaging was a proscription against receiving loan payments from daimyo. By the 1860s, which saw the end of the Tokugawa shogunate, the Osaka rice brokers had also disappeared, replaced by other merchant institutions.

Edo

The rice brokers in Edo were called fudasashi (札差, "note/bill exchange"), and were located in the kuramae (蔵前, "before the storehouses") section of Asakusa. A very profitable business, fudasashi acted both as usurers and as middlemen organizing the logistics of daimyo tax payments to the shogunate. The rice brokers, like other elements of the chōnin (townspeople) society in Edo, were frequent patrons of the kabuki theatre, Yoshiwara pleasure district, and other aspects of the urban culture of the time.

References

  • Kaplan, Edward The Cultures of East Asia: Political-Material Aspects. Chap. 16. 09 Nov 2006. <http://www.ac.wwu.edu/~kaplan/>.
  • Sansom, George (1961). "A History of Japan: 1334-1615." Stanford, California: Stanford University Press.
  • Sansom, George Bailey. A History of Japan: 1615-1867. 1963: Stanford University Press.

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