Specific developments as Japan’s “agricultural appendage”

While Goto was known for investing in railways, harbours and other urban infrastructural systems that modernized Taiwan’s economy and agricultural industry, Goto’s “most ambitious task”, as stated by Tsai (2005), is the land survey of Taiwan.

The Land survey essentially established “modern land ownership rights” and obligations in Taiwan. As stated by Tsai, the amount of land ultimately claimed and yielded amounts to “257,810” chia (“1 chia = 0.97 hectares or 2.4 acres”) which wasn’t previously on government tax roll. The plan eventually tripled Taiwan’s land revenues from “920,000 in 1903 to 2,980,000 yen in 1905”, with many Taiwanese people benefited from the survey becoming big landholders. The move made lots of “wood and arable land” fall to the government, with land sold “cheaply to Japanese companies and immigrants”. As seen here land has become essential for “Japanese capitalism” and a “commercial commodity” (Tsai 2005).

Most notable is Japan’s investment in certain commodities of Taiwan, which were large and expansive once realizing the amount of usable land, a good example being Taiwan’s sugar industry. Prior to the discovery of Taiwan, Japan has relied highly on importing “80%” of its sugar supply as little was produced in Japan itself. With the discovery of Taiwan however, lots of farmlands in “central and southern coastal plains” of Taiwan was bought and invested and converted into “sugarcane plantations” (Tsai 2005). In 1902, “8 sugar refineries on the island surfaced from “2.7 million yen invested into them”. As sugar suited the Japanese needs well, the colonial government thus “promoted scientific farming” and provided “generous subsidies”. From then again, the sugar industry expanded rapidly with investments rising from “9.2 million in 1908 to 15million in 1912” (Tsai 2005). Taiwan became the world’s “seventh larger sugar producer” in 1939 (Tsai 2005). From the above, sugar has clearly been one of the major catalysts in Taiwan’s agricultural commodity market, and has resulted in the building of many new plants and railway systems to and from sugar plantations.

Beyond sugar, Taiwan also produced lots of “high grade lumbar” in its mountains which along with other “agricultural products” were exported to Japan, in exchange for imported “industrial products” for greater development (Tsai 2005). As mentioned in other posts, sale of commodities such as “tobacco, liquor and wine, camphor, opium and salt” were also sources of revenue (Tsai 2005). All of these primary industry developments were importantly paired with rising of secondary industrial developments in companies which controlled “commercial shipping, railroads and telegraphy” (Tsai 2005). Some of these many different new companies can be seen in the previous post on Owen Rutter’s observations with plans and photographs of new commercial shops and services .  This overall increase in railroads, shipping and telegraphy meant that rising demand for such resources were leading to greater investment and thus spread of Taiwan’s transportation links, most notably in railroads.


Figure 1: Plan of Japan’s sources for sugar as a raw material (文化部國家文化資料庫)

1. 文化部國家文化資料庫. Photo of Plan of Japan’s sugar resource. 文化部國家文化資料庫. (n.d.)
2. B Tsai. Lee Teng-hui and Taiwan’s Quest for Identity. Palgrave Macmillan US. (2005)

1 Comment on “Specific developments as Japan’s “agricultural appendage”

  1. This is an interesting observation of the sugar industry of Taiwan. How does this (and the observations made on your other posts) have any impact on urbanization of Taipei specifically? There is a brief mention on the impact of railway station and industrial trade in another post of your group. Is it possible to find more details about it?

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