CIRJE-F-277 "Capital Accumulation and the Local Economy: Brewers and Local Notables"
Author Name Tanimoto, Masayuki
Date May 2004
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Remarks Revised version subsequently published in Tanimoto, Masayuki eds., The Role of Tradition in Japan's Industrialization, Oxford University Press.

This essay focuses on the holders of accumulated capital in the brewing industry to examine the characteristics of the capital accumulation process and the connection between accumulated capital and the start of Japan's industrialisation in Meiji period. The characteristic feature of brewing as a so-called "traditional industry" was that individual entrepreneurs accumulated a relatively large amount of capital and labour. The multi-layered structure of the brewing industry, with large-sized brewers selling to urban markets and small and medium-sized producers supplying areas outside the cities, resulted in this feature and formed a necessary condition for the investment activities of brewers.

According to the examination of historical materials on particular brewery businesses [the Hamaguchi family and the Sekiguchi family], the brewers dared to invest their capital locally - in areas where they maintained close relationships. Capital accumulation in "traditional" industries was thus linked to the emergence of modern enterprises, and this linkage was supported by a regional community in which "traditional capitalists"' acted as "local notables" as much as entrepreneurs. The investment activities rooted in the regional community were the hidden driving force in initiating Japan's industrial revolution and full-scale industrialisation.