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Rice broker

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  • Japanese: 札差 (fudasashi)

A network of rice brokers centered at the Dôjima Rice Exchange in Osaka represents an Edo period precursor to the modern banking system, and the first instance of a futures market (延べ米, nobemai) in Japan. Emerging in the Genroku period (1688-1704) and developing and expanding over the course of the 18th century, rice brokers operated a network of storehouses where customers - mainly samurai, whose stipends were paid in koku of rice and not directly in gold or silver - could store and access their wealth. A system of credit was also introduced allowing customers to pay for goods and services not in gold or silver currency, but with bills of exchange - these were pieces of paper that functioned, perhaps, not entirely unlike a personal check, which the merchant could then take to a rice broker and exchange for the actual value in gold, silver, or rice.

Rice brokerages operated in Kyoto three centuries prior, albeit in a different manner. Yet, rice brokerages evidently continued in one form or another since then, and existed prior to the 1697 establishment of the Dôjima Rice Exchange, since Ihara Saikaku, in his 1688 publication Nihon eitaigura lists off the brokerage firms of Osaka's Nakanoshima district as follows: Yodoya, Tsukaguchiya, Uwajimaya, Bizenya, Kamiya, Kônoikeya, Kuwanaya, Otsukaya, Shioya, Higoya, Fukaeya, Kiya, Hizenya, and Oka.[1]

Those based in the Kuramae neighborhood of Edo served an official function, in collecting up rice paid in taxes, selling it to wholesalers, and in so doing, converting the rice to cash. Some served as wholesalers themselves, loaning rice out against collateral, or bargaining against futures. Many became quite wealthy in this line of work. When a publication described the eighteen great connoisseurs of the city (daihachi tsû), most of those listed were rice brokers.[2]

The rice brokers acquired incredible wealth in this manner; however, this also led a great many of their customers to go into considerable debt, and so when the Tokugawa shogunate declared everyone's debts absolved in the Kansei Reforms (1787-1793), not only the rice brokers' business, but indeed much of the commercial economy of the city, and of the realm, was thrown into disorder.[2]

References

  1. Berry, Mary Elizabeth. Japan in Print. University of California Press, 2006. p216.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Gallery labels, Edo-Tokyo Museum.[1]
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