Japanese Society and Culture


Coal mining, Intra-Asian trade, Pacific Rim Trade, Economic History, Labor History

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This study investigates the relationship between coal and the modern Japanese economy from a historical perspective. Because Japan has utilized coal since the dawn of industrialization, we focus on various aspects, such as a primary energy source, a trade good, and a substance of environmental burden.

(1) Coal was not only an export good but also the most important primary energy source for Japan’s industrialization. However, coal imports grew after WWI. After all, the amount of imported coal surpassed domestic coal production in the late 1960s. (2) In the end of the 19th century, major coal mines abandoned the butty system and employed miners directly. Furthermore, the coal mining industry had introduced and improved foreign technologies to increase and rationalize production. (3) There were social impacts of coal usage. First, the policy for rationalizing the coal mining industry was one of postwar Japan’s most significant industrial policies. Second, coal combustion caused severe environmental problems, which were gradually resolved after the 1960s. Third, the decline of the coal mining industry after the 1950s resulted in the collapse of miners’ communities.

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Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.