International Symposium on Japanese Studies in Global Contexts

Open Japan Closed Japan: Towards Interdisciplinary Studies in Human Mobility

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Silk, Cotton, and Female Factory Workers: Tuberculosis Risks in Modern Japan

Makoto Hanashima, NIED & Ken’ichi Tomobe, Osaka University

During the interwar period of Japan, the recorded mortality rate by tuberculosis (TB) was the highest among developed countries. At that time, the young generation accounted for a large part of the victims of the disease. Hence, the epidemic of TB among young people was a serious social problem in modern Japan. It is widely known that the number of deaths from TB among “joko”, or young female factory workers, was especially high and related deeply to the terrible working conditions in the textile industries. Also the mortality rate was high not only in such industrialized areas as Tokyo and Osaka, but also in many rural areas as well. Thus, the issue of TB should be discussed not only from the viewpoint of individual health but from the context of industrialization and urbanization. While many episodes have been recounted regarding the tragic situation of TB infection among joko, there are few studies that examine the situation using quantitative evidence. Therefore, viewpoints from both the quantitative and the geospatial situations are needed to understand the implications of TB mortality in modern Japan. In this presentation, first, the regional differences of TB mortality rate among young female workers are discussed. Then, second, the hypothetical model, which tries to explain the mortality risk of TB as the composite risk formed by a set of regional hazards, will be proposed. The hypothesis is examined by a quantitative analysis that uses socio-economic variables that represent industrialization, urbanization, and labor migration. Based on the result of this analysis, we can then claim that the mortality rate is the proxy variable of human cost that was paid by the people for economic growth in modern Japan. The model will also contribute to discussions regarding the relationship between regional epidemiological conditions and socio-economic factors.

Short Biography

Makoto Hanashima, Ph.D. Economics, Osaka University, is a principal research fellow at National Research Institute for Earth Science and Disaster Prevention (NIED). His main research areas are economic history of Japan, disease history, and economic geography.

Ken’ichi Tomobe, Ph.D. Economics, Osaka University, is a professor of economic history in the Graduate School of Economics, Osaka University. His main research areas are economic history of Japan and historical demography. His publications include Research Frontier of Historical Demography (2001), Peasant Household Economies of Pre-industrial Japan (2007), and Risk of Life (2008).