1918 Rice Uprising - History of Japan

When we talk about Japan, the last thing we imagine is violence, revolt, chaos and mutiny. Today's Japan is quite civilized and modern. Unlike Brazil, Japan does not go through any political and / or social crisis.

But it was not always so.

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The 1918 rice revolt was a series of popular unrest that arose in Japan in 1918. The riots resulted in the collapse of the Terauchi Masatake government (Prime Minister of Japan at the time).

From July to September 1918, Japan was swept by a wave of revolts from rural fishing villages to large industrial centers and coal fields. It was the biggest turmoil in Japan to date, since the unrest during the 1868 Meiji Restoration.

The revolt was a response to wartime inflation, low wages and commodity speculation. The price of rice has doubled in a short time, and the prices of other consumer goods have also increased, while wages have remained low. Japan was also subject to a flu pandemic in 1918-1919 like much of the rest of the world.

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Cause of the Rice revolt

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The beginning of the 20th century for Japan was a drastic time. At the same time that Japan colonized Korea and Manchuria and was in the middle of a world war, the nation was going through complicated economic situations. A dizzying increase in the price of rice has caused extreme difficulty in rural areas, where rice was the main consumption.

Farmers began to act hostile against rice traders and government officials who allowed the consumer price to get out of hand.

The increase in the price of rice came at the height of a post-World War I inflation spiral. The inflationary crisis affected most consumer goods and rents. Therefore, urban dwellers also began to act aggressively against traders and government officials.

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The Siberian intervention has further aggravated the situation, with the government buying stocks of rice to feed Japanese soldiers. This further raised rice prices. Eventually, government intervention in economic affairs caused rural protests to spread to cities.

The initial protest took place in the small fishing town of Uozu, Toyama Prefecture, on July 23, 1918.

It started with peaceful petitions. But the disturbance quickly turned into riots, strikes, looting, incendiary explosions from police stations and government offices and armed clashes. In 1918, there were 417 separate disputes involving more than 66,000 workers.

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Results of the Rice revolt

1918 rice revolt - history of japan
Terauchi masatake

About 25,000 people were arrested. 8200 people have been convicted of several crimes, with sentences ranging from minor fines to the death penalty. However, riots did not necessarily occur in the poorest areas. Not even among the poorest workers.

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