Rice Riots

Rice Riots

 

the largest spontaneous popular uprisings in the history of Japan. The Rice Riots took place in August and September 1918 and resulted from a heightening of the internal contradictions of capitalism; the October Revolution in Russia also served as an influence.

The direct cause of the demonstrations was the speculative increase in the price of rice engineered by the authorities in the interests of landowners and merchants. As rice was the staple of the Japanese worker’s diet, the price increase caused a food crisis, inflation, and a rise in the cost of living.

The Rice Riots began on Aug. 3, 1918, with a demonstration by fishermen’s wives from the small settlement of Nishihasama-chi in the northern part of Toyama Prefecture. The women demanded a curtailment of rice exports, maintaining that the rice should instead be sold within the country at lower prices. The movement quickly spread to 33 prefectures. The participants in the Rice Riots—mainly the urban poor—burned and destroyed the warehouses and homes of merchants who had refused to sell rice at reduced prices, police stations, and the homes of major factory workers. There were riots in 37 large and 104 medium-sized and small cities, in 97 villages and fishing settlements, and at 29 mines. In 60 locations, the government called in troops to suppress the riots, dealing out savage reprisals against the participants. It arrested 8,185 people and brought to trial 7,708 of them. At the same time, the government was forced to allocate 10 million yen to ensure lowered rice prices.

Despite their spontaneous character, the Rice Riots played an important role in the revolutionary struggle of the Japanese people. They facilitated the growth of class consciousness of the Japanese proletariat and led to the fall of the military-bureaucratic cabinet of General Terauchi and the formation of the first “party cabinet” (Hara cabinet) in the history of Japan.

REFERENCES

Katayama, Sen. “K 15-letiiu risovykh buntov 1918 g v Iaponii.” In his book Stat’i i memuary. Moscow, 1959.
Georgiev, lu V. “Risovye bunty” i probuzhdenie iaponskogo proletariata.” Voprosy istorii KPSS, 1968, no. 8.
Georgiev, lu. V. “Novye materialy o ‘risovykh buntakh.’” Narody Azii i Afriki, 1970, no. 5.

P. P. TOPEKHA

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