restricted access Shipwreck! Akita’s Local Initiative, Japan’s Foreign Debt, 1869–72

Acting on their own initiative, junior staff members at a branch office for Akita domain bought a steamship on credit from a Dutch merchant in 1869. They then borrowed so much money that they left Akita with the single largest debt owed to foreigners of any domain in Japan. An analysis of how they did this and why exposes economic and political activity at the middle level of the domains, the difficulties faced by the new national government in gaining control over local administration, and the efforts made by descendants and disciples of Hirata Atsutane to develop Akita’s foreign trade.