Community & State in the
Japanese Farm Village
Farm Tenancy Conciliation (1924-1938)

By Dimitri Vanoverbeke
September 2004
Leuven University Press
ISBN: 9058673073
200 pages, Illustrated, 6 " x 9 "
$79.50 Paper Original

Between 1920 and 1941, approximately 70,000 disputes between tenant farmers and their landowners in Japan were recorded. Sporadic disputes between tenants and landowners had occurred quite regularly before the government started its statistical record of what were called "the farm tenancy disputes" in 1917.

What was new in the recorded farm tenancy was that they were initiated by tenant farmers trying to achieve a more equitable distribution of wealth and improved social status. The farm tenancy disputes were the first systematic expression of displeasure with social organization by an important social group in Japanese society that was not aimed at the superficial relief of a grievance directed against a representative of the State in the village, but against the State itself.

The farm tenancy disputes increased rapidly in intensity from 1917 onwards and forced concessions from the elite, which, if successful, could have undermined its traditional, paternalistic domination over Japanese society. The rulers were caught between conflicting interests. On the one hand, they needed political support from the wealthy landowners with voting rights.

On the other hand, they needed to secure the flow of agricultural products both to the growing urban centers and to the army. In the pre-war social organization characterized by a dualism between wealthy landowners and poor tenant producers, the attempt to balance these priorities was a complex task, and in the end would prove the fatal hurdle for the traditional Japanese political rulers.

Economic History
Facultatis Litterarum Lovaniensis, Series B, Vol. 29

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