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The Japanese archipelago is generally scarce in natural resources, but Japan has a large deposit of precious metals in the Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine, and a few other mines, to a smaller extent. Japan produced a large share of the world's silver throughout the early modern period. (In fact, 1/3 of the world silver production, at its peak. Yes, I was surprised to learn that it was not Mexico!)

In the Tokugawa era, silver mined from Iwami Ginzan provided an abundant source of precious metals good for international trade. Therefore, Japan was able to purchase large amounts of goods (such as firearms) from the European maritime powers.

Later in the 19th century, Japan was able to industrialize quickly in the early Meiji period. Although the Iwami Ginzan mine has declined by then, I guess that Japan's rich deposit of precious metals might still have been instrumental in the country's industrialization, as precious metal deposits provided abundant funds for e.g. the furnishing of industrial equipment.

Is there any economic history account of the role of Japan's precious metal deposits in the roles of the country's early industrialization? To be specific, what are the numbers? How much did the precious metal deposits contribute to the furnishing of equipment, for example? I am looking for a quantitative answer here.

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    Could you clarify the question? You seem to be asking for a reference request on the roles of precious metal deposits, but the answers are addressig the first three paragraphs that don't actually contain a question. (Not my intent to be accusatory - I'm just trying to figure out whether the answers are responsive to the question). – Mark C. Wallace Feb 7 at 15:35
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    If I remember correctly, Japan was focusing more on export eg silk than pay in cash, and European / US trade partners were also more interested in buying Japanese goods in exchange for what they had then just receiving cash. Comparing the value of exported goods would give you a qualitative answer. – Greg Feb 7 at 15:46
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    @Greg Yes I do have. Meiji Government took Gold standard model as their monetary policy even though they lacked the gold-reserve due to my answer. But since it's midnight here, kindly wait for 2 days, sorry. – Kentaro Tomono Feb 7 at 16:03
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    @xuq01 Then is there any country in which money did not play a "role" at all in the history? – Kentaro Tomono Feb 7 at 16:08
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    @xuq01 You asked if silver was used for international trade. I said the trade were mostly balanced and you should check those numbers. From a google search: jstage.jst.go.jp/article/ker1926/24/1/24_1_16/_pdf – Greg Feb 8 at 2:38
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New Answer

Since the OP found the answer at the comment line by Greg, I would like to submit mine as a supplement.

A. Regarding your below statement,

In the Tokugawa era, silver mined from Iwami Ginzan provided an abundant source of precious metals good for international trade. Therefore, Japan was able to purchase large amounts of goods (such as firearms) from the European maritime powers

Could you provide us with the evidence of the below statement?

Therefore, Japan was able to purchase large amounts of goods (such as firearms) from the European maritime powers

Because 1. Under the Sakoku (鎖国)system, the closed country system,(English), it was ( from the link )

Japan was not completely isolated under the sakoku policy. It was a system in which strict regulations were applied to commerce and foreign relations by the shogunate and by certain feudal domains (han). There was extensive trade with China through the port of Nagasaki, in the far west of Japan, with a residential area for the Chinese. The policy stated that the only European influence permitted was the Dutch factory at Dejima in Nagasaki. Western scientific, technical and medical innovations did flow into Japan through Rangaku ("Dutch learning").

And because 2, the trade volume with Dutch was ( from the Japanese Wiki )

実際には幕府が認めていたオランダとの貿易額は中国の半分であった。

The actual volume of the trade Tokugawa Shogunate permitted with Dutch was only half of that of China.

Thirdly from Japanese Wiki

戦国時代から江戸初期にかけて、国内各地で大量に金と銀(特に銀)を産出していたため、交易においてもその潤沢な金銀を用いた。他方、江戸初期においては特に輸出するものもなく圧倒的に輸入超過であり、徐々に金銀が流出していった。このため、幕府は1604年に糸割符制度を設けて絹の価格コントロールを試みた。17世紀も後半になると金銀の産出量が減り、このため1685年には貿易量を制限するための定高貿易法が定められ管理貿易に移行した

From the Sengoku period to the early Edo period, enormous amount of gold and silver ( especially silver ) were produced throughout Japan, so that they were used for trading with non Japanese. In early Edo period, since there is little to export, the trading deficit is extensively red, so that gold and silver flowed out of Japan gradually. In 1604, Tokugawa Shogunate established Ito-Kappu-Seido, which is intended to control the price of import of the silk ( from China ). At the end of 17th century, the volume of the production of the gold and silver declined, Tokugawa Shogunate set the Sa-Da-Me-Da-Ka Trading Law, which fixed the amount of the trading volume with China and Netherland.

So that it seems your claim, second paragraph, is completely wrong, since as I emphasized at the bold part, at the end of the 17th century, the volume of the production of the gold and silver decreased, so that there is no evidence Tokugawa Shogunate was so rich enough that they imported firearms under the Sakuku system. And as I explained at the reason 1, 2, during Edo period, only the country except China and Korea was Netherland, so that it is very hard to think like your second paragraph. Please clarify your statement please.


B. Regarding your next statement, ( 3rd paragraph )

Later in the 19th century, Japan was able to industrialize quickly in the early Meiji period. Although the Iwami Ginzan mine has declined by then, I guess that Japan's rich deposit of precious metals might still have been instrumental in the country's industrialization, as precious metal deposits provided abundant funds for e.g. the furnishing of industrial equipment.

It is true that the volume of the production of Iwami Ginzan sharply dropped. This analysis ( thesis ), which focused on the production volume and price and control by the Meiji Government around 1867 - 1900 does not even list the Iwami Ginzan as the source of the silver. This thesis also provide us with how much silver were produced from 1874-1890. ( The below image ).

enter image description here

The black line indicates volume of the production of the silver. Up and down line indicates its price. Due to the import of the new method to increase the amount of the silver, the volume of the production of the silver increased. But Yet the number of the volume of the production was far fetched, compared with the early 17th century, the largest amount of the production still remained at 50,000 tons compared with earlier compared with the earlier amount of the production. This contradicts with how much Japan produced back in Early 17th Century. According to this site ( Japanese Chi-E-Bu-Ku-Ro ( like Japanese stack exchange ( Q&A site )))

It says,

豊臣秀吉政権が終わる17世紀初頭の日本の銀産高はおよそ20万㎏で、世界の銀産量の3分の1 を占めていたと言われていますが、

At the end of Toyotomi Era, at early 17th century, the volume of the production of the silver was 200,000 tons, occupying the third of the volume of the production of the world.

So that it was only Early 17th Century Japanese volume of the production of the silver flourished. The state of the Japanese sliver in terms of the volume of the production started to decline since then. To enhance my claim, I would like to present the below.

According to this site,

1700年代になると1200年代の生産量の10倍に達するようになり、さらに銀の生産量の大部分が南米で生産されるようになります。 ボリビア、ペルーおよびメキシコは、1500年から1800年の間で世界の銀のほぼ85パーセントを産出するようになりました。

In 1700's, the volume of the production of the silver in South America increased by 10 times compared with that of 1200's and the place where most of the production of the silver was conducted in the world was shifted to South America. From 1500's to 1800's, Bolivia, Peru, and Mexico produced 85% of the total volume of the production of the silver in the world.

Therefore, as I mentioned earlier, the rank of the Japanese silver in terms of the volume of the production hugely decreased, and it shifted to South America. From that statement above, I think in 19th century, I guess at least 70% of the total volume of the production of the silver was conducted in South America and Japanese volume was around 15% ( we must consider the American gold ( as is in Gold Rush at early 19th century. )). So that your statment

I guess that Japan's rich deposit of precious metals might still have been instrumental in the country's industrialization, as precious metal deposits provided abundant funds for e.g. the furnishing of industrial equipment.

seems to be dubious due to the above reason.


Now onto your last paragraph.

Is there any economic history account of the role of Japan's precious metal deposits in the roles of the country's early industrialization? To be specific, what are the numbers? How much did the precious metal deposits contribute to the furnishing of equipment, for example? I am looking for a quantitative answer here.

As I answered at A and B, your assumption that Japan was rich or resources such as precious metals as gold and sliver was rather a myth, but if you yet persist on your claim that we ( Japanese ) were rich of the precious metals, then I would like to encounter showing the evidence below.

Okay, let's assume we ( Japanese ) were rich and full of precious metals in terms of modern history.

After the defeat of Tokugawa Shogunate in 1868. Meiji Government tried very hard to join the Imperial Japanese into "Establishment Club" ( such as the UK. the U.S, Germany, France, etc. ), the earliest Finance Ministry Of the Meiji Government issued the 新貨条例 ( New Monetary Law ) ( only the Japanese Wiki is available ) in 1871.

Relative Abundance Of Silver In Non Japanese Countries Back Then ( In Comparison With Japan ).

So your main focal point in your argument is that back then there were abundant of silver so that it became the booster of Japan's industrialization. Is it true?

From the link

造幣寮で新貨幣鋳造が始まったことにより、新たな貨幣制度の制定の準備が整ったが、金・銀どちらを本位貨幣にするかは、結論は出ていなかった。上記のように幕末期以来大量の金が国外に流出していたため、金準備が不足しており、また横浜では、他の多くのアジア諸国と同様に「洋銀(メキシコドル)」での取引が常態化していたため、大隈としては金銀複本位制を考えていた。

Since ministers of the new Meiji government decided the new coins ( money ) started to be produced at the new Mint Bureau, the Meiji government started to join the industrialized countries, but they were not able to decide which money, either gold or silver should be the standard. Due to the difference of the exchange ratio ( my previous answer ) between gold and the silver, outflow of the gold was enormous, so that there is no enough reserve-gold. However, at Yokohama, like in most Asian countries, the dealing with Mexican dollars were every day business practice, so that Okuma, the Minister Of Finance Of Meiji Government, was considering to take dual-standard system, gold and silver standard.

Now, let's take a look at my previous answer. If silver is so abundant as you claim, Japanese exchange ratio then, 1:5 should've been near that of the European one, 1:15, since the more silver means the drop of the price of the silver ( to the gold. ) This link also says,

ヨーロッパへの新大陸産の銀の大量流入は、物価を急騰させることとなり、いわゆる価格革命が起こり、ヨーロッパ社会の構造転換の一つの背景となった。銀は世界的にも基本通貨としての訳をもっていたが、その大量流通によって銀価格が下落したため、次第に本位貨幣としての位置づけはなくなり、1816年のイギリスに始まる金本位制に世界の大勢は移行していく。

The influx of the silver produced at South America made the price of commodities surged and it became one of reasons of the social transformation in Europe. Previously, Silver has the role of the standard in monetary system, since the explosive increase of the amount of the production ( from South America ) made the price of the silver dropped sharply, therefore the silver became unable to hold the status as the monetary standard. World economic system has begun to shift to the gold standard monetary system which began in the U.K in 1816.

and

16世紀末から17世紀にかけては日本は世界有数の銀生産国となり、中国では新大陸産のスペイン銀貨に代わって輸入量が増加した。しかし、17世紀末ごろから銀鉱脈が枯渇しはじめ、18世紀には日本銀は急速に減少する。

From the end of 16th century to the 17 century, Japan has become one of the outstanding countries that produced silvers, and that made Chinese import Japanese silver ( China used Japanese silver as one of the monetary system at that time. ). However, the production of the silver from the end of the 17th century depleted, in 18th century the use of Japanese silver in China reduced dramatically

Conclusion

The decline of the production of the silver in Japan as early as 18th century was so sharp that the Japan as Zipang, rich and full of precious metal is a myth. The fact that Japan produced enormous amount of the silver occurred merely for a few period, which is from the 16th century to at least the middle of the 17th century, and as I cited many sources, in 18th century, the standing as a country that produce the silver at great amount was shifted to South America. So unfortunately, your premise was broken, though the gold and the silver played a role to certain amount in the industrialization of Japan, it was only minimal, instead as you also know like other countries light industries were the booster of the industrialization.


Previous Answer

Is there any economic history account of the role of Japan's precious metal deposits in the roles of the country's early industrialization?

I think you are somewhat misguided by something.

Let's take a look at into this site.

では,説明していきます。 外国では金と銀の交換比率は金1:銀15でしたね。 それに比べて日本は金1:銀5と銀高でした。

Translated : Let me explain. ( about the former question ). In other countries besides Japan. the swap ratio between Gold and Silver is 1:15. On the other hand, in Japan, the ratio is 1:5.

So your misconception that Japan produced abundant of Silver actually had nothing to do with the "industrialization" of Japan. As you can see, since the ratio of Silver is higher in Japan than other countries, Edo Shogunate tried hard Gold not to be exported to other countries. In Japan, on the contrary to your thoughts, the Silver is more used than other countries. ( See Gold has the advantage if you think of the exchange ratio 1:5 ( in Japan ) to 1:15 ( other countries ( especially in Europe )). What helped industrialization of Japan at its early stage is more on the light industry such as cotton production rather than the relative abundance of the production of silver in Japan.

  • It seems that this is from a high school history tutoring website, without formal references. Are you aware of any academic papers/books about this subject (the economic history of precious metal in early modern Japan)? – xuq01 Feb 7 at 5:08
  • I can read Japanese, so a book/paper in Japanese is fine. – xuq01 Feb 7 at 5:08
  • Because it is a high school level question, indeed here. – Kentaro Tomono Feb 7 at 11:38
  • As I answered, non Japanese, especially Europeans, wanted rather Golf than silver. Because if you can get 1 gold in Japan, you can exchange that gold to 15 sillvers in Europe, and you can get 3 golds. There is nothing to do with the industrialization of Japan. – Kentaro Tomono Feb 7 at 11:42
  • I mean, if you get 15 silvers, then you can exchange that amount to 3 golds in Japan. That's what Tokugawa Shogunate tried hard to prevent. – Kentaro Tomono Feb 7 at 11:49

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