When explaining the main causes behind the rapid growth of private sector shipbuilding companies in Japan-especially the Kawasaki Dockyard-during the late Meiji era, the research to date had adopted the two perspectives of rising military demand and civilian demand. However, after examining the performance, management conditions and the approaches to profit-making at the Kawasaki Dockyard from the turn of the century on, it becomes apparent that the circumstances surrounding the building of not only merchant ships and Japanese naval vessels, but also warships ordered by foreign countries needs to be taken into consideration.
This article focuses on both the Kawasaki Dockyard and the foreign governments who ordered warships from the facility to analyze the negotiations involving the export of battleships to foreign countries, for the purpose of identifying the characteristic features of Kawasaki's export activities from the standpoint of 1) the profitability of exporting warships, 2) the reasons why foreign governments would place orders with shipbuilder like Kawasaki with no experience or know-how in building battleships, and 3) the role of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Navy in the export of warships. Considering both the quantity and price of maritime vessel exports during late Meiji era, it is difficult to ignore the profits earned by Kawasaki in its warship export business. Here the author adopts the new perspective of export, rather than civilian and military demand adopted by the research to date, in discussing the growth and the profitability of Kawasaki at that time. He goes on to argue that the main reasons for the success of Kawasaki in attracting so many shipbuilding orders lie in the specific political situations in which their client countries found themselves, the highly aggressive overseas market entry strategy adopted by Kawasaki, and the support provided by the Japanese government (especially the Japanese Navy and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs).
This investigation of Kawasaki Dockyard from the viewpoint of its export activities indicates the creation of a new route for the international transfer of weapons prior to the nationalization of capital ships forming the Japanese Navy's main force. Kawasaki Dockyard began by exporting smaller scale ships at high prices in order to accumulate warship building experience, reaping economic benefits used to expand plant and equipment, thus enabling the construction larger scale capital warships by the last years of the Meiji era.