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Okinawa Agricultural Bank

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The Okinawa Agricultural Bank was one of forty-seven agricultural banks established in each prefecture by the Meiji government, to help support farmers, maintain agricultural production, and promote agriculture otherwise, through the urbanization and industrialization pressures of the Meiji period.

The Okinawan one of these prefectural agricultural banks, having particular sway among the farmers of the prefecture, became the site of political struggles circa 1900. Very shortly after its founding, as of December 1898, Jahana Noboru], de facto head of the Okinawan Freedom and People's Rights Movement (Jiyû minken undô), was the bank's largest shareholder. He also sat on the bank's executive board along with two representatives of the Ryukyuan former aristocracy, who were either members or supporters of the Kôdôkai, Jahana's political opponents. In January 1900, Jahana proposed expanding the board from three members to five, so as to better represent constituencies across the island; his proposal involved having two representatives for Shuri-Naha, but also one each for the other regions of the island - Kunigami, Nakagami, and Shimajiri - with himself serving in the latter post. The two Shuri-Naha aristocratic representatives, along with Governor Narahara Shigeru, recognized that this would serve to dilute the power of Jahana's opponents, and to strengthen the political influence of Jahana's rural/agricultural supporters over the bank, and in general. The Shuri-Naha representatives, with the backing of the governor's office and the police, then set out to forge alliances with their own supporters in the rural areas, bought many stocks in the bank, and had policemen harass Jahana's supporters. The election of new representatives to the board ended in a defeat for Jahana and all of his supporters, at which point Jahana appealed the election, calling on the courts to judge the election void due to improper practices. A four-month court case ensued, ending in Jahana's definitive defeat.

References

  • Gregory Smits, "Jahana Noboru: Okinawan Activist and Scholar," in Anne Walthall (ed.), The Human Tradition in Modern Japan, Scholarly Resources Inc. (2002), 107-108.
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