Thursday, April 24, 2008

Rice Riots 1918

Suzuki Shoten in Kobe, burned during the Rice Riots of August 11 1918

With Walmart now rationing rice in the US, and food riots and rationing in place in Haiti, Indonesia, the Philippines and other countries, it might make sense to take a look at what happened 90 years ago.

From the Wikipedia: The Rice Riots of 1918 (米騒動 kome sōdō?) were a series of popular disturbances that erupted throughout Japan from July to September 1918, which brought about the collapse of the Terauchi Masatake administration.

A precipitous rise in the price of rice caused extreme economic hardship, particularly in rural areas where rice was the main staple of life. Farmers, when comparing the low prices they were receiving due to government regulation, with the high market prices, had tremendous hostility against rice merchants and government officials who had allowed the consumer price to spiral out of control. The rice price increase came at the peak of a post-war (World War I) inflationary spiral that also affected most consumer goods and rents, and thus urban dwellers also had considerable scope for grievances. However, the Siberian Intervention further inflamed the situation, with the government buying up existing rice stocks to support the troops overseas, which further drove rice prices higher. The government failed to intervene in economic affairs, and rural protests spread to the towns and cities

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