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Itowappu

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  • Japanese: 糸割符 (ito wappu)

The itowappu system was a system in which a guild of Kyoto, Sakai, and Osaka-based textile merchants was granted a monopoly on the domestic sale of Chinese silk imported by Dutch and Chinese merchants in Nagasaki. The system was implemented by the Tokugawa shogunate in the 17th century in efforts to better manage the silk market.

The system was put into place in 1604, and initially applied only to Iberian traders, providing them with a set number of Japanese trading partners who would be able to effect some control over the prices, while Dutch and shuinsen merchants were still free to trade with whomever they liked. The system was later expanded to cover the Chinese in 1631 and the Dutch in 1641 as well, while the shuinsen system was abolished. However, the fall of the Ming Dynasty in 1644 led to a severe disruption of normal economic patterns, and prices began to rise considerably.

The itowappu system was then abolished in 1655, after which trade in silk returned to being free. The competition of a free market, however, drove prices up, aggravating the problem the shogunate was seeking to solve: namely, that the shogunate desired to see more silk come into the country, and less silver flow out, and also to claim for official coffers a greater portion of the proceeds of trade. Attempts to curtail speculation by having Nagasaki prices posted in Osaka had little effect.

The system was revived in 1685... and was overseen by merchants from five cities (Nagasaki, Sakai, Osaka, Kyoto, and Edo), known collectively as the gokasho wappu no mono or gokasho shônin.[1]

References

  • Robert Hellyer, Defining Engagement, Harvard University Press (2009), 52.
  • Marius Jansen, China in the Tokugawa World, Harvard University Press (1992), 30.
  1. "Gokasho shônin," Digital Daijisen, Shogakukan.; Yamamoto Hirofumi, Edo jidai - shogun bushi tachi no jitsuzô, Tokyo shoseki (2008), 69.
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