Japanese Journal of Human Geography
Online ISSN : 1883-4086
Print ISSN : 0018-7216
ISSN-L : 0018-7216
The Organization and Transformation of the Association of Sake Brewers in Saitama Prefecture during the Meiji Era
Takahiro AOKI
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2000 Volume 52 Issue 5 Pages 425-446

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Abstract

The aim of this paper is to examine how the association of sake brewers ("syuzo-kumiai") was organized and expanded in modern Saitama. The trade association was an organization principally involved in the production and sale of sake. Research related to this field in Japan has focused on, first, how trade associations were established, although a cartel was banned by the Government at the beginning of modern era; second, why they increased in number; and, third, what were their main functions?
A new entry into a cartel had been prohibited by the Shogunate until the end of the Edo era. The liberalization of business brought about a sudden increase in the number of sake brewers. Small newly-established sake brewers often attempted to evade liquor tax and to ensure bargain sales which caused confusion in the market. Meanwhile, large and medium-sized sake brewers organized the association of sake brewers ("syuzo-kumiai") in 1875 to stabilize the market and restore order. However, the association of sake brewers did not perform well in Saitama Prefecture.
The association grew into a nationwide organization to oppose a proposed tax increase in the 1880s. Although the campaign was initially supported by the opposition parties "Jiyu-to" and "Kaisin-to", the former agreed to the necessity of a tax increase in 1896. As a result, the liquor tax was increased substantially in 1898, 1900, and 1902, respectively. The association of sake brewers ("syuzo-kumiai") was obliged to halt its campaign since it had lost its raison d'être.
The price rise due to the tax increase reduced the demand for sake and resulted in strong competition within the industry. The sake brewers thus had to improve quality to overcome competition. Some members of the association of sake brewers established a brewing research laboratory, and held annual meetings to evaluate the quality of sake. The sake brewers who assiduously improved quality differed from those who had objected to the tax increase. The aims and achievements of each member of the association of sake brewers thus became quite diverse.

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