Abe Iso and New Zealand as a model for a new Japan

Masako Gavin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


With the rise of capitalism, the ‘labour problem’ became a serious issue for intellectuals in Japan. Although the national economy expanded rapidly at the turn of the nineteenth century, Japan's workforce was still heavily dependent on‘farmers’whose condition was only worsened by the land tax revision of 1873. The government policy offukoku kyōhei(‘enrich the country, strengthen the armed forces’) benefited capitalists in the form of zaibatsu(business and industrial magnates collaborating with the government), but impoverished the majority. This had the effect of widening the gap between the affluent and the poor. As redundant farmers flowed into the cities and worked in a wretched environment for low wages, many intellectuals were concerned about their well-being. They were motivated by various considerations, including humanitarian and Christian beliefs. Some embraced socialist ideas and recognized the need for reform. Abe Isō(1865–1949), known as the father of early socialism in Japan, was one of those who became concerned about the prevailing poverty and its impact on society. A professor at the TōkyōSenmon Gakkō(the present Waseda University), he was one of the important intellectuals of the second generation of the Meiji era (1868–1912). At the formative stage of embracing socialist ideas, he came to see New Zealand as a paragon, a country whose policies on the relief of social hardship provided an ideal model for Japan. This study examines his belief that New Zealand had much to offer the ‘new’ Japan.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)385
Number of pages400
JournalJapan Forum: the international journal of Japanese studies
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2004


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