Rice Riots of 1918
The were a series of popular disturbances that erupted throughout Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

 from July to September 1918, which brought about the collapse of the Terauchi Masatake
Terauchi Masatake
, GCB was a Japanese military officer and politician. He was a Field Marshal in the Imperial Japanese Army and the 18th Prime Minister of Japan from 9 October 1916 to 29 September 1918.-Early period:...



A precipitous rise in the price of rice
Rice is the seed of the monocot plants Oryza sativa or Oryza glaberrima . As a cereal grain, it is the most important staple food for a large part of the world's human population, especially in East Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia, the Middle East, and the West Indies...

 caused extreme economic hardship, particularly in rural areas where rice was the main staple of life. Farmers, when comparing the low prices they were receiving due to government regulation with the high market prices had tremendous hostility against rice merchants and government officials who had allowed the consumer price to spiral out of control. The rice price increase came at the peak of a post-war (World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

) inflationary spiral
In economics, inflation is a rise in the general level of prices of goods and services in an economy over a period of time.When the general price level rises, each unit of currency buys fewer goods and services. Consequently, inflation also reflects an erosion in the purchasing power of money – a...

 that also affected most consumer goods and rents, and thus urban dwellers also had considerable scope for grievances. The Siberian Intervention
Siberian Intervention
The ', or the Siberian Expedition, of 1918–1922 was the dispatch of troops of the Entente powers to the Russian Maritime Provinces as part of a larger effort by the western powers and Japan to support White Russian forces against the Bolshevik Red Army during the Russian Civil War...

 further inflamed the situation, with the government buying up existing rice stocks to support the troops overseas, which further drove rice prices higher. The government failed to intervene in economic affairs, and rural protests spread to the towns and cities.

The riots

The Rice Riots were unparalleled in modern Japanese history in terms of scope, size and violence. The initial protest occurred in the small fishing town of Uozu
Uozu, Toyama
is a city located in the eastern part of Toyama, Japan between Namerikawa and Kurobe, stretching from Toyama Bay and the Japan Sea in the northwest to tall mountain ranges in the southeast. The highest mountains in Uozu are Sougadake and Kekachiyama, and the highest elevation in Uozu is 2,414 m...

, Toyama Prefecture
Toyama Prefecture
is a prefecture of Japan located in the Hokuriku region on Honshū island. The capital is the city of Toyama.Toyama is the leading industrial prefecture on the Japan Sea coast, and has the industrial advantage of cheap electricity due to abundant water resources....

, on 23 July 1918. Starting with peaceful petitioning, the disturbance quickly escalated to riots, strikes, looting, incendiary bombings of police stations and government offices and armed clashes. By mid-September 1918, over 623 disturbances had occurred in 38 cities, 153 towns and 177 villages, with over 2 million participants. Some 25,000 people were arrested, of whom 8200 were convicted of various crimes, with punishments ranging from minor fines to the death penalty.

Taking responsibility for the collapse of public order, Prime Minister
Prime Minister of Japan
The is the head of government of Japan. He is appointed by the Emperor of Japan after being designated by the Diet from among its members, and must enjoy the confidence of the House of Representatives to remain in office...

 Terauchi and his cabinet resigned on 29 September 1918.

A link to Japanese imperialism is debated. Scholars argue that to alleviate the demand for rice, which exceeded the production capabilities of Japan at the time, colonial rice production in Taiwan
Taiwan under Japanese rule
Between 1895 and 1945, Taiwan was a dependency of the Empire of Japan. The expansion into Taiwan was a part of Imperial Japan's general policy of southward expansion during the late 19th century....

 and Korea
Korea under Japanese rule
Korea was under Japanese rule as part of Japan's 35-year imperialist expansion . Japanese rule ended in 1945 shortly after the Japanese defeat in World War II....

was intensified.
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