The Ashio Riot of 1907

A Social History of Mining in Japan

The Ashio Riot of 1907

Comparative and International Working-Class History

More about this series

Book Pages: 296 Illustrations: 11 illustrations, 4 figures, 2 Published: January 1998

Author: Kazuo Nimura

Editor: Andrew Gordon

Translator: Terry Boardman

Asian Studies > East Asia, History > Asian History

In The Ashio Riot of 1907, Nimura Kazuo explains why the workers at the Ashio copper mine—Japan’s largest mining concern and one of the largest such operations in the world—joined together for three days of rioting against the Furukawa Company in February 1907. Exploring an event in labor history unprecedented in the Japan of that time, Nimura uses this riot as a launching point to analyze the social, economic, and political structure of early industrial Japan. As such, The Ashio Riot of 1907 functions as a powerful critique of Japanese scholarly approaches to labor economics and social history.
Arguing against the spontaneous resistance theory that has long dominated Japanese social history accounts, Nimura traces the laborers’ unrest prior to the riots as well as the development of the event itself. Drawing from such varied sources as governmental records, media reports, and secret legal documents relating to the riot, Nimura discusses the active role of the metal mining workers’ trade organization and the stance taken by mine labor bosses. He examines how technological development transformed labor-management relations and details the common characteristics of the laborers who were involved in the riot movement. In the course of this historical analysis, Nimura takes on some of the most influential critical perspectives on Japanese social and labor history. This translation of Nimura’s prize-winning study—originally published in Japan—contains a preface by Andrew Gordon and an introduction and prologue written especially for this edition.


“[A] masterwork. . . . The Ashio Riot, the first major history of Japanese mining labour published in English, distills decades of research into a deftly crafted study of the interactions among technological change, the labour process, corporate and state strategy, and labour organisation and activism. Nimura is remarkably successful in recreating the lived experiences of miners and in challenging the dominant paradigms in Japanese labour scholarship.” — W. Donald Smith, Labour History Review

“[T]his is a meticulous piece of empirical research, which is also of major significance to the historiographical context in which it was conceived and produced. . . . We should welcome the appearance of this excellent translation, and the greater accessibility of the work of Japanese historians that it signifies, and hope that it will be appreciated by at least some of the wider audience to which it is now made available.” — Janet Hunter, Royal Asiatic Society

“[T]his social history of mining is simultaneously an intellectual history of disputes among Japanese labor historians. . . . [The Ashio Riot of 1907] makes a major contribution to our understanding of Japanese labor history. Thanks to this translation, Anglophone readers can understand not only how Japanese companies and their workers produced ore, but also how Japanese historians have produced social history.” — , Monumenta Nipponica

“For students of comparative labor history as well as for those interested in the industrialization of Japan this book is a useful new addition that provides many important insights into the way in which premodern forms of labor organization shaped and limited the emergence of a modern labor force in Japan’s leading mining complex. The translation of Nimura’s award winning study has been ably carried out by Terry Boardman and Andrew Gordon. The latter deserves further thanks for editing the work in an effective manner, allowing the essence of Nimura’s arguments to be retained in this abridged version of the original.” — F. G. Notehelfer , Journal of Social History

“The introduction, prologue, conclusions, and epilogue together offer a valuable overview of the Ashio incident and its place in both the narrower context of Japanese labor history and the broader framework of labor studies worldwide, and these components are general enough to be of value even to undergraduates. . . . [A] valuable contribution to labor studies.” — , Choice

“The translators are to be congratulated for rendering Nimura’s vivid description and lucid analysis into highly readable English. . . . [P]ersuasive. . . . This is a fine work of social history.” — , Journal of Asian History

“Using an impressive array of primary sources, maps, prints, and photographs, [Nimura] superbly recreates the scene of the riot, which he himself visited. . . . Nimura’s work is also intriguing because he uses this case study of the Ashio riot to test paradigms and methodologies that long held sway in Japanese studies of labor history. . . . [He] offers fresh perspectives, including international comparisons. . . .” — Stephen S. Large, Journal of Japanese Studies

"Nimura Kazuo’s book is an impressive example of the historian’s craft: rich empirically, inventive methodologically, engaged and provocative interpretively. . . . By any measure, this book stands as a major work of labor history, a model of painstaking research and keen historical analysis that deserves a wide audience." — William M. Tsutsui , American Historical Review

"Nimura is by all measures a leading figure in the field of Japanese labor history. And he has much to tell us about how labor in Japan was transformed in the Meiji period from traditional structures to a newer and more ‘modern’ system." — Fred G. Notehelfer, UCLA Center for Japanese Studies


Availability: In stock
Price: $26.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Kazuo Nimura is Professor of History at the Ohara Institute for Social Research at Hosei University, Japan. Andrew Gordon is Professor of History at the Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies at Harvard University.

Kazuo Nimura is Professor of History at the Ohara Institute for Social Research at Hosei University, Japan. Andrew Gordon is Professor of History at the Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies at Harvard University.

Table of Contents Back to Top
List of Figures and Tables ix

Editor's Preface / Andrew Gordon xi

Acknowledgments xvii

Author's Introduction to the English Edition 1

Prologue: The Ashio Copper Mine and the Japanese Mining Industry 12

1. The Subjective Conditions of the Ashio Riot: A Critique of the Theory of "Atomized Laborers" 41

2. A Historical Analysis of the Lodge System: A Critique of the Migrant Labor Theory 154

Conclusions: The Significance of Ashio 186

Epilogue: Japanese Miners in Comparative Perspective 217

Notes 233

Index 267
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

Rights and licensing
Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-2018-0 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-2008-1
Publicity material