Food and Clothing

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After the opening of the three ports of Yokohama, Nagasaki, and Hakodate in 1859 and the start of foreign trade, a huge amount of foreign goods began to be imported into Japan. Moreover, along with the import of goods, foreign ways of life affecting things such as food and clothing were brought into Japan, mostly by foreigners residing in the foreign settlements at the ports, and this Westernization gradually exerted influences on the life style of the ordinary Japanese people, particularly those dwelling in cities.

After the Meiji Restoration, feudal restrictions that dictated types of clothing according to status were abolished and people acquired the freedom to choose their own clothes. This stimulated the demand for Western-style men’s clothes. The government’s decision to provide Western-style uniforms for police, state-run enterprises, and the military led to the emergence of a number of factories producing such uniforms. These were the forerunners of the ready-made clothing industry.

The Japanese diet, with rice as the staple, remained stable even after the Second World War. In contrast, the consumption of sugar, edible oil, and flour, which had been on the increase since the Meiji era, showed a remarkable growth after the Second World War. Edible oil and flour for mass consumption are made in Japan and supplied by domestic companies.

Flour milling and oil production began as small-scale indigenous industries in the Edo period, but both industries underwent large-scale mechanization in the early 20th century. The flour milling industry developed under the protection of the government, which was anxious to curb the increasing amount of imported flour. By contrast, the mass production of edible oil grew only slowly because the oil producing factories were relatively small in size. Moreover, they produced a good many kinds of edible oils and for each type of oil the market was often limited. It was during the 1920s that the mass production system for rapeseed oil and soy bean oil was finally established in the form of a small number of advanced factories.