Economic Change and Intellectual Innovation in Tokugawa Japan

  • John H. Sagers
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Economic History book series (PEHS)


To understand the origins of Shibusawa Eiichi’s vision of Confucian capitalism, this chapter focuses on intellectual responses to economic change in the late Tokugawa period. Changing economic realities created new avenues of social mobility, as intellectuals adjusted ideologies to address the ambitions of the upwardly mobile among the peasant and merchant classes. Shibusawa’s experience in his family’s farming and commercial enterprises combined with his samurai-style Confucian education prepared him extraordinarily well to act as a mediator between samurai bureaucrats and commoners. Traveling to Europe in 1867, Shibusawa attributed advancements in European technology to the commercial classes’ high social status. Returning to Japan, he became committed to establishing capitalist joint-stock companies guided by a Confucian ethic of public service.


  1. Appleby, Joyce. 2010. The Relentless Revolution: A History of Capitalism. 1st ed. New York: W.W. Norton & Co.Google Scholar
  2. Bellah, Robert Neelly. 1985. Tokugawa Religion: The Cultural Roots of Modern Japan. New York/London: Free Press/Collier Macmillan Publishers.Google Scholar
  3. Crawcour, E. Sydney. 1997. Economic Change in the Nineteenth Century. In Economic Emergence of Modern Japan, ed. Kozo Yamamura, 1–49. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  4. De Bary, William Theodore, and Irene Bloom, eds. 1999. Sources of Chinese Tradition. 2nd ed. Vol. 2., 2 vols. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  5. De Bary, William Theodore, Carol Gluck, and Arthur E. Tiedemann. 2005. Sources of Japanese Tradition, Introduction to Asian Civilizations. Vol. 2. New York/Chichester: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Fridenson, Patrick. 2017. Public-Private Connections and Boundaries: From Shibusawa Eiichi’s Experience to a Global Historical Perspective. In Ethical Capitalism: Shibusawa Eiichi and Business Leadership in Global Perspective, ed. Patrick Fridenson and Kikkawa Takeo, 59–74. Toronto: Toronto.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Hartman, Charles. 1986. Han Yü and the T’ang Search for Unity. Princeton: Princeton University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Inoue, Jun. 2012. Shibusawa Eiichi: Kindai Nihon Shakai No Sozosha. Nihonshi Riburetto Hito. Tokyo: Yamakawa Shuppansha.Google Scholar
  9. Jansen, Marius. 1989. The Meiji Restoration. In Cambridge History of Japan, ed. Marius Jansen, vol. 5, 308–366. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Keene, Donald. 1995. Modern Japanese Diaries: The Japanese at Home and Abroad as Revealed Through Their Diaries. New York: Henry Holt.Google Scholar
  11. Kimura, Masato. 2017. Shibusawa Eiichi’s View of Business Morality. In Ethical Capitalism: Shibusawa Eiichi and Business Leadership in Global Perspective, ed. Patrick Fridenson and Kikkawa Takeo. Toronto: Toronto University of Toronto Press.Google Scholar
  12. Lo, Felicia. 2017. Deep, Rich Japan Blue. Kyoto Visitor’s Guide.
  13. Morris-Suzuki, Tessa. 1989. A History of Japanese Economic Thought. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  14. Najita, Tetsuo. 1987. Visions of Virtue in Tokugawa Japan. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  15. ———. 2009. Ordinary Economies in Japan: A Historical Perspective, 1750–1950. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  16. Nishikawa, Junsaku, and Masatosi Amano. 1989. Shohan No Sangyo to Keizai Seisaku. In Kindai Seicho No Taido. Vol. 2. Nihon Keizai Shi. Tokyo: Iwanami shoten.Google Scholar
  17. Otani, Makoto. 2011. Shibusawa Eiichi No Fukushi Shiso: Eikoku to No Taihi Kara Sono Tokushitsu o Saguru. Shohan. Minerva Jinbun Shakai Kagaku Sosho 165. Kyoto-shi: Mineruva Shobo.Google Scholar
  18. Pratt, Edward E. 1999. Japan’s Protoindustrial Elite: The Economic Foundations of the Gono, Harvard East Asian Monographs. Vol. 179. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center: Distributed by Harvard University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Ryumonsha, ed. 1955. Shibusawa Eiichi Denki Shiryo. 58 vols. 10 supplementary vols. Tokyo: Shibusawa Eiichi Denki Shiryo Kankokai.Google Scholar
  20. Sakamoto, Rumi. 2008. Confucianising Science: Sakuma Shōzan and Wakon Yōsai Ideology. Japanese Studies 28 (2): 213–226.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Sakamoto, Shinichi. 2002. Shibusawa Eiichi No Keisei Saimin Shiso. Tokyo: Nihon Keizai Hyoronsha.Google Scholar
  22. Shibusawa, Eiichi. 1994. Autobiography of Shibusawa Eiichi: From Peasant to Entrepreneur. Trans. Teruko Craig. Tokyo: Tokyo University Press.Google Scholar
  23. Shibusawa Eiichi Kinen Zaidan, ed. 2012. Shibusawa Eiichi Wo Shiru Jiten. Shohan. Tokyo: Tokyodo Shuppan.Google Scholar
  24. Shibusawa, Eiichi, and Atsushi Moriya. 2010a. Gendai Yaku Rongo to Soroban [Contemporary Translation of the Analects and the Abacus]. Chikuma Shobo.Google Scholar
  25. ———. 2010b. Shibusawa Eiichi No Rongo Kogi [Shibusawa Eiichi’s Lectures on the Analects]. Tokyo: Heibonsha.Google Scholar
  26. Shimada, Masakazu. 2011. Shibusawa Eiichi: Shakai Kigyoka No Senkusha. Tokyo: Iwanami Shinsho.Google Scholar
  27. ———. 2017. The Entrepreneur Who Built Modern Japan: Shibusawa Eiichi. Tokyo: Japan Publishing Industry Foundation for Culture.Google Scholar
  28. Shimbo, Hiroshi, and Akira Hasegawa. 2003. The Dynamics of Market Economy and Production. In The Economic History of Japan, 1600–1990, ed. Akira Hayami, Osamu Saito, and Ronald P. Toby, vol. 1, 159–191. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  29. Shimbo, Hiroshi, and Osamu Saito. 2003. The Economy on the Eve of Industrialization. In The Economic History of Japan, 1600–1990, ed. Akira Hayami, Osamu Saito, and Ronald P. Toby, vol. 1, 337–368. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  30. Smith, Thomas C. 1988. Native Sources of Japanese Industrialization. Berkeley: University of California.Google Scholar
  31. Tsuchiya, Takao. 1989. Shibusawa Eiichi. Tokyo: Yoshikawa Kobunkan.Google Scholar
  32. Yamamoto, Shichihei. 1992. The Spirit of Japanese Capitalism and Selected Essays. New York: Madison Books.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • John H. Sagers
    • 1
  1. 1.Linfield CollegeMcMinnvilleUSA

Personalised recommendations