Foreign commerce and shipping of the Empire of Japan

Last updated

During the Empire of Japan and up to 1945, Japan was dependent on imported foods and raw materials for industry. At the time, Japan had one of the largest merchant fleets in the world with a total of approximately 6 million tonnes of displacement before December 1941. [1] Despite heavy naval losses during the Pacific War, Japan was still left with 4,700,000 tonnes.



Despite popular perception, during the 1930s Japan was exporting low-cost items successfully. [2] However, between the years of 1929 and 1938 foreign commerce dropped from 3.7% to 3.5%. Japan ran a trade deficit, selling a total of US$12.85 and buying US$15.25 per capita. This was in part brought on by the purchase of wartime materials.

Japan's primary trading partners in order were:

Japan exported 32% of its total output to the United States, and purchased 21% of its foreign trade.

Japan's imports were as follows:

Japan's exports were as follows:

Japan's primary exports were raw silk, controlling 80% of the world's production, and tea, controlling 10%.

Japan's total foreign trade was equivalent to Belgium, a country with less than 10% of Japan's population.

In 1897, the local monetary unit, the yen, was valued on the gold standard at a base level of 24.5 British Pence, which permits the use in the figures of the pound sterling or gold-backed US dollars.

(1 Yen = 24.5 British Penny or 10.8 Yen = 1 British Guinea = 1.05 Pounds Sterling)

Values in millions of British Pounds
1891 to 189511.5112.61
1901 to 190535.9230.23
1906 to 191046.4043.70
1911 to 191364.6355.51
1925 to 1929213.48187.55
Values in Millions of Gold U.S. Dollars

During the worldwide depression (1931 to 1934), Japanese exterior commerce grew. [2] The expansion of this trade was in part due to European difficulties in supplying their colonies, allowing Japan to expand into new markets. Before the war, crude silk represented one-third of exports and 10% of processed silk. Other products for export were rayon, cotton, processed silk and others. In 1937 exports were crude silk, cotton fabrics, and rayon. Japan was importing raw cotton, wool, and oil imported products.

Other exterior commerce statistics

Japan was the first Asiatic independent state to export manufactured objects (e.g., silks, fabrics) and the first to import machinery and raw materials.

The metal-based manufacturing industry was not very active in 1918 exports, but porcelain, paper and matches were sold, and sugar and tea were exported from Formosa.

In imports raw materials represented around 60%, as raw cotton, unfinished metals and machinery, and foodstuffs at 14%.

For more numbers, see the following statistics from 1890 to 1927:

DateAsiaEuropeUnited States
DateAsiaEuropeUnited States

In 1925, external trade was equivalent of 404 French francs per inhabitant (the nominal monetary value of the Yen at the time was 12.72 Frs., with exchange variations between 13.60 in 1918 to 10.46 during 1925.) In 1926, the general value of exports was 2,045 million Yen, the imports 2,377 million Yen. During 1927, numbers were slightly down at 1,992 million of Yen in sellings and 2,179 in buyings.

Other Japanese statistics (1900 to 1925) in thousands of Yen (one Yen equalled 5 Spanish pesetas in 1925)

Foreign Sales
DateAsiaEuropeUnited States

The total of these exports in the same years:

Chosen's exports

More than 90% of Chosen's exterior commerce was with Japan and Manchukuo. In 1939, Chosen was importing $300,000,000 worth of goods and exporting $250,000,000 worth of goods, a deficit which continued for years.

The principal articles for export were:

The principal imports were:

More than 16,000,000 tonnes of merchant vessels entered the province in 1936 via Fusan, the fourth largest port in the Japanese Empire.

Japanese industry and commerce became focused on export and foreign sales, and the local markets unsatisfied because of low demand.

Formosa's exports: (1929 to 1933)

Other foreign investments

Japanese companies had invested 18,560,000 Yen in the Dutch East Indies (Sumatra and Borneo) and some 51,195,000 Yen in rubber plantations in the British Straits Settlements (British Malaya) (260 km² in major production from 1927).

Japanese capital investment in China to 1927 was 1900 million Yen. Apart from Manchuria, the Japanese interests were concentrated in the Yangtze Basin areas (Shanghai, Hankow-Wuhan, Kiangsi). Japanese banking interests financed 50% of the Chinese cotton industry sector.

In 1893 naval construction was in the range 177,000 to 1,528,000 tons. In 1913 this increased to 3,565,000 tons. In 1924 there were 237 new vessels of 500 tons and another 11 of 10,000 tonnes, continuing the growth to 4,140,000 tonnes in 1928. The Imperial Japanese Navy was the third largest in the world behind the British and American navies, and dominated the West Pacific area before the war. The first modern shipyard was founded in 1891. From this time naval construction rapidly advanced. Japanese vessels of more 100 tonnes represented a registered tonnage total of 5,007,000 tonnes of which 1,198,000 corresponded to the naval construction period of 1936 to 1938. Old vessels were decommissioned or disarmed, while the regular fleet was efficient and modern.

In peacetime Japan constructed a lower annual figure of 500,000 tonnes of shipping. Japan still rivalled Norway for third place in the world merchant fleet. Its vessels were of lower quality. Almost 1,000,000 tonnes were of the modern type, but the larger part of the current fleet was antiquated, with only half-a-dozen vessels of tonnage over 10,000 tonnes.

See also

Related Research Articles

Navigation Acts United Kingdom legislation

The Navigation Acts, or more broadly the Acts of Trade and Navigation, was a long series of English laws that developed, promoted, and regulated English ships, shipping, trade, and commerce between other countries and with its own colonies. The laws also regulated England's fisheries and restricted foreigners' participation in its colonial trade. While based on earlier precedents, they were first enacted in 1651 under the Commonwealth. The system was reenacted and broadened with the restoration by the Act of 1660, and further developed and tightened by the Navigation Acts of 1663, 1673, and 1696. Upon this basis during the 18th century, the Acts were modified by subsequent amendments, changes, and the addition of enforcement mechanisms and staff. Additionally, a major change in the very purpose of the Acts in the 1760s — that of generating a colonial revenue, rather than only regulating the Empire's trade — would help lead to major rebellions, and significant changes in the implementation of the Acts themselves. The Acts generally prohibited the use of foreign ships, required the employment of English and colonial mariners for 75% of the crews, including East India Company ships. The Acts prohibited colonies from exporting specific, enumerated, products to countries and colonies other than those British, and mandated that imports be sourced only through Britain. Overall, the Acts formed the basis for English British overseas trade for nearly 200 years, but with the development and gradual acceptance of free trade, the Acts were eventually repealed in 1849. The laws reflected the European economic theory of mercantilism which sought to keep all the benefits of trade inside their respective Empires, and to minimize the loss of gold and silver, or profits, to foreigners through purchases and trade. The system would develop with the colonies supplying raw materials for British industry, and in exchange for this guaranteed market, the colonies would purchase manufactured goods from or through Britain.

Sojitz Corporation is a sogo shosha based in Tokyo, Japan. It is engaged in a wide range of businesses globally, including buying, selling, importing, and exporting goods, manufacturing and selling products, providing services, and planning and coordinating projects, in Japan and overseas. Sojitz also invests in various sectors and conducts financing activities. The broad range of sectors in which Sojitz operates includes automobiles, energy, mineral resources, chemicals, foodstuff resources, agricultural and forestry resources, consumer goods, and industrial parks.

Economy of the Empire of Japan

The Economy of the Empire of Japan refers to the period in Japanese economic history in Imperial Japan that began with the Meiji Restoration in 1868 and ended with the Surrender of Japan in 1945 at the end of World War II. It was characterized by a period of rapid industrialization in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and the dominance of a wartime economy from 1938–1945.

Economy of Manchukuo

This article looks at the economies of Manchukuo and Mengjiang, in the period 1931-1945. The effective Japanese annexation of 1931 led to a colonial system. Japan invested in heavy industry, and to a lesser extent, agriculture.

Textile industry Industry related to design, production and distribution of textiles.

The textile industry is primarily concerned with the design, production and distribution of yarn, cloth and clothing. The raw material may be natural, or synthetic using products of the chemical industry.

This article covers the development of the industry in the Empire of Japan, during the rise of statism in the first part of the Shōwa era.

Crêpe (textile)

Crêpe, also spelt crepe or crape, is a silk, wool, or synthetic fiber fabric with a distinctively crisp and crimped appearance. The term crape typically refers to a form of the fabric associated specifically with mourning. Crêpe was also historically called crespe or crisp.

Trade policy of Japan

The trade policy of Japan relates to Japan's approach to import and export with other countries.

Economic history of the Ottoman Empire

The Economic history of the Ottoman Empire covers the period 1299–1923. Trade, agriculture, transportation, and religion make up the Ottoman Empire's economy.

Merchant navy Fleet of merchant vessels that are registered in a specific country

A merchant navy or merchant marine or mercantile marine is the fleet of merchant vessels that are registered in a specific country. On merchant vessels, seafarers of various ranks and sometimes members of maritime trade unions are required by the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW) to carry Merchant Mariner's Documents.

History of silk History of silk production

The production of silk originated in China in the Neolithic period. Silk production remained confined to China until the Silk Road opened at some point during the latter part of the 1st millennium BC, though China maintained its virtual monopoly over silk production for another thousand years.

Trade is a key factor of the economy of China. In the three decades following the Communist takeover in 1949, China's trade institutions developed into a partially modern but somewhat inefficient system. The drive to modernize the economy that began in 1978 required a sharp acceleration in commodity flows and greatly improved efficiency in economic transactions. In the ensuing years economic reforms was adopted by the government to develop a socialist market economy. This type of economy combined central planning with market mechanisms. The changes resulted in the decentralization and expansion of domestic and foreign trade institutions, as well as a greatly enlarged role for free market, s in the distribution of goods, and a prominent role for foreign trade and investment in economic development.

Port of Eden

The Port of Eden is a small seaport situated in Twofold Bay, adjacent to the town of Eden, located in the South Coast region of New South Wales, Australia.

The textile industry in India traditionally, after agriculture, is the only industry that has generated huge employment for both skilled and unskilled labour in textiles. The textile industry continues to be the second-largest employment generating sector in India. It offers direct employment to over 35 million in the country. According to the Ministry of Textiles, the share of textiles in total exports during April–July 2010 was 11.04%. During 2009–2010, the Indian textile industry was pegged at US$55 billion, 64% of which services domestic demand. In 2010, there were 2,500 textile weaving factories and 4,135 textile finishing factories in all of India. According to AT Kearney’s ‘Retail Apparel Index’, India was ranked as the fourth most promising market for apparel retailers in 2009.

The textile industry is the largest manufacturing industry in Pakistan. Pakistan is the 8th largest exporter of textile commodities in Asia. Textile sector contributes 8.5% to the GDP of Pakistan. In addition, the sector employs about 45% of the total labor force in the country. Pakistan is the 4th largest producer of cotton with the third largest spinning capacity in Asia after China and India and contributes 5% to the global spinning capacity. At present, there are 1,221 ginning units, 442 spinning units, 124 large spinning units and 425 small units which produce textile.

J. P. Bemberg

J. P. Bemberg was a German rayon manufacturer that produced an unusually fine artificial fiber which became known as Bemberg®. J. P. Bemberg came under the control of Vereinigte Glanzstoff-Fabriken and eventually disappeared after a series of mergers and divestitures, but Bemberg™ rayon was still being produced in 2015 by Asahi in Japan,

The textile industry in China is the largest in the world in both overall production and exports. China exported $274 billion in textiles in 2013, a volume that was nearly seven times that of Bangladesh, the second largest exporter with $40 billion in exports. This accounted for 43.1% of global clothing exports.

Trading in the Safavid era was carried out in the form of exchanging goods with goods and exchanging goods with cash.

The process of de-industrialisation is an economic change in which employment in the manufacturing decline due to various economic or political reasons. The decline in employment in manufacturing is also followed by the fall in the share of manufacturing value added in GDP. The process of de-industrialisation can be due to development and growth in the economy and it can also occur due to political factors. In other words, the term de-industrialisation means a general reduction in the industrial capacity and came into prevalence in India with the destruction of the handicrafts industry by external competition from British manufactured products during the 19th century.

Piece goods Textile piece goods

Piece goods were the textile materials sold in cut pieces as per the buyer's specification. The piece goods were either cut from a fabric roll or produced with a certain length, also called yard goods. Various textiles such as cotton, wool, silk, etc., were traded in terms of piece goods. The prices were determined as per the fabric quality.


  1. Murray, Williamson; Allan Reed Millett (2000). A War to Be Won: Fighting the Second World War. Harvard University Press. p. 39. ISBN   0-674-00680-1.
  2. 1 2 Hunter, Janet (2000). Japanese economic history 1930–1960. Routledge. pp. 2–15. ISBN   0-415-21815-2.