By Phillip Towle, Nobuko Margaret Kosuge
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Additional info for Britain and Japan in the Twentieth Century: One Hundred Years of Trade and Prejudice
18 While Japanese shippers had the potential of higher freight earnings, it looked unlikely that there would be sufficient trade or capacity to capitalize on them. Late in 1914 the Osaka Chamber of Commerce commented on the fact that the blow given by the war to commerce was aggravated by the nervousness of the banking system, and that the all important cotton industry was among those industries hit by the recession. 19 All in all, the initial outlook seemed very grim, and it took several months for the situation to stabilize into one in which the prospects for Japan looked more positive.
The country was highly vulnerable to the dislocation in international trading and exchange networks that ensued after the autumn of 1914. Restrictions on financial operations in London spelt disaster for Japan, which had tended to hold free money in London, and to borrow there. A high proportion of foreign bills was payable in London, and export bills were almost all sent 22 Britain and the Japanese Economy during the First World War to London for discounting. In August 1914 there were bills due for payment in London, Japan needed to make remittances to meet those payments, but there were no export bills there on which money could be raised.
However, for many purchasers cheapness could not compensate for lack of quality. Complaints regarding the low quality of Japanese products are familiar from the interwar period, and from the early decades after 1945. It is apparent, however, that many of the commodities exported by Japan during the First World War also appeared distinctly shoddy to many customers. 27 Not just in Britain itself, but in other key export markets such as India, Australia and South Africa as well, there was vocal criticism of poor quality Japanese goods and inappropriate practices by Japanese merchants.
Britain and Japan in the Twentieth Century: One Hundred Years of Trade and Prejudice by Phillip Towle, Nobuko Margaret Kosuge