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Climate Changes and the Market Economy: The Case of Early Modern Japan

Masahiko Shibamoto and Yasuo Takatsuki

No DP2022-11, Discussion Paper Series from Research Institute for Economics & Business Administration, Kobe University

Abstract: Recent progress in paleoclimate reconstruction has enabled us to understand past changes in air temperature and precipitation in annual or finer time resolutions for the last several thousand years. In Japan, we can utilize various kinds of socio-economic data across the country in the early modern and modern periods, so the combined analysis of climate and socio-economic data could offer regional variations and their relationships with other regions. This paper seeks to provide a useful foundation for as many researchers of economic history as possible based on analysis of the early modern Japanese experience. In combination with the archaeological and documentary evidence, we have distinctive, if not unique, conditions for exploration of climate-economy interactions. We show that the case of Tokugawa Japan firmly demonstrates that the market mechanism could be a good tool for mitigating an idiosyncratic small or moderate weather shock. The market economy during the Tokugawa period seemed to be “resilient.” This resilience, however, might not have extended to big crises. It took quite a long time, for example, for the rice certificate price to return to a normal range (60 to 80 momme) after a major famine (Tempo famine).

Pages: 53 pages
Date: 2022-03
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