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  • Japan's Industrial ArtsPresent and Future (1917)
  • Yasuda Rokuzō (bio)
    Translated by Penny Bailey (bio)

An Urgent Call1

In the short time frame since Japan opened its doors to the outside world 50 years ago, we have strived to import, imitate, and assimilate Western culture in the bid to attain parity with the great powers. In some parts of the world we are now considered quiet achievers, and we ourselves cannot help but be surprised by our remarkable progress. Even so, if we think about the issue carefully, Japan's irregular course of progress, achieved over the span of what barely constitutes several decades, is not in the same league as that of the West's systematic progress obtained through two to three hundred years' of experience. Accordingly, our progress is marred by disorder, disconnection, and inconsistency. We face many urgent ongoing issues, including some that should have been resolved long ago and others that require our immediate attention. No doubt, there are still others yet to materialize. Japan's accumulated problems are so vast, in fact, that it is difficult to know where to start. For example, there are many unresolved and serious problems in such areas as religious morality, education, national defense, postwar management, the promotion of industry, and overseas development. But without doubt, at the present time, the most urgent of these pertains to the problem of industry.

Japan's Inadequate Manufacturing Industry

As everyone knows, the present global conflict has quite unexpectedly exposed the inadequacies of Japan's manufacturing sector.2 The general public is well aware of the various problems in our dyeing, chemical, tin, iron, and wood manufacturing industries. Lesser known, however, is the grave and serious blow sustained by Japanese industrialists due to importation suspensions on many raw materials. Furthermore, in addition to these material shortages, because of the comparatively small scale of Japan's industrial sector and considerable insufficiencies in our manufacturing capacities, we [End Page 51] have not been able to take advantage of the vast numbers of orders that would have otherwise come our way.

Japan is experiencing unprecedented prosperity; the year before last, our exports reached 200 million yen, growing last year to well in excess of 300 million yen. However, while we were swanning about like nouveaux riches, on the other side of the Pacific, the value of exported products from the United States reached a staggering four and five billion yen in the same periods respectively. In observing such circumstances, even a dim-witted person can perceive the necessity of a robust industry. This is why we hear an increasing number of voices promoting industry and calling for the rapid proliferation of industrial companies, like bamboo shoots following a good rain.

Background Developments in the Manufacturing Industry

If we think comprehensively about the state of Japan's industrial development, the mechanical industry has enjoyed the greatest amount of support until roughly ten years ago. In the past, although the tendency was to associate the industrial sector with the mechanical industry, interest was gradually transferred to the electrical industry, which at one time was hailed as Japan's most profitable sector. At the present time, however, it is the chemical industry that is experiencing the greatest demand.

Although each of these industries has at one time or another experienced growth and decline, in times of prosperity they have been able to take advantage of the growth momentum such that when the market slows they are still able to progress. At the present time, the mechanical and electrical industries are not as prosperous as they once were, but this is in no way indicative of a decline. Rather, because these industries are already developed, or are continuing to develop, they do not need the support of strong demand.

Future Problems

In my opinion, demands in the chemical industry will persist for several years. And so what will be the next issue facing industry? Without doubt, this is what we must figure out. Some people believe that the next foreseeable problem will concern the manufacture of large-scale machinery. Other people think that the industry to next face serious problems after the chemical industry will be the electro...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2329-9770
Print ISSN
0913-4700
Pages
pp. 51-54
Launched on MUSE
2017-08-24
Open Access
No
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