Kiseijinushisei (The parasitic landlord system) (寄生地主制)

The parasitic landlord system was the system that allowed a parasitic landlord, who owned farmlands such as rice fields, vegetable fields, etc., to lend a farmland to a farmer called kosakunin (a tenant farmer) (also known as kosakuno or kosaku), to have him cultivate the land, and to take away some farm products, such as rice, barley, etc., as the land rent called kosakuryo (farm rent). Kosaku is also a name for farming which was practiced by renting a farmland and paying farm rent to a landlord.

Since most parasitic landlords relied on their farm rents, they gave the impression that they were parasitic on their tenant farmers. For this reason, they came to be ironically called parasitic landlords. Of course, in any lease business, an owner relies on the rent. However, the farm rent was often very expensive, which created the gap between rich parasitic landlords and poor tenant farmers in a farm village. Some landlords lived within a farm village and other landlords lived outside a farm village, for example, in a city.

The term 'parasitic landlord system' used without the frills refers to the system in Japan. A different name, such as Colonatus (in the Roman Empire), is sometimes used to indicate a similar system which existed in a foreign country.

The history of the parasitic landlord system in Japan

Before the Meiji Period
The nationwide land survey conducted by Taiko (the honorific title for a regent) Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI in the Azuchi-Momoyama period decided that the owner of a farmland was the farmer who cultivated the land. Furthermore, in 1643, the Edo bakufu issued the Denpata-eitai-baibai-kinshirei (the permanent prohibition on the sale of arable lands) to prohibit the sale of cultivated fields among farmers. The prohibition was issued because the government was afraid that rich farmers might buy lands from poor farmers and cause a collapse of the social system of a farm village.

After that, as the monetary economy developed, the number of farmers who lived in poverty gradually increased. Because the prohibition on the sale of the arable lands did not restrict pawnage of cultivated fields, farmlands were bought and sold under foreclosure. The prohibition on the sale of arable lands was rendered ineffectual.

(Reference) The Sakatahonma family.

From the Meiji period to a period before the World War Ⅱ
Owing to Chiso-kaisei (the Land Tax Reform) implemented in the Meiji period and the abolition of the prohibition on the sale of arable lands, the parasitic landlord system was developed. As a result of the Land Tax Reform, the duty to pay the tax in cash was imposed upon landowners. However, since the tax was a heavy burden for poor farmers, they became tenant farmers, selling their lands to rich people.

Some parasitic landlords had a side business as a moneylender such as a pawnshop. Not a few landlords lent money mainly to tenant farmers. This helped to increase the gap between rich and poor further in a farm village. Some invested the earned money in trading and manufacturing and turned to a modern capitalist.

After the World War Ⅱ
Douglas MACARTHUR, the Supreme Commander of the General Headquarters (GHQ) of the Allied Powers, who governed Japan while Japan was under the Allied occupation after Japan had lost the Pacific War (the World War Ⅱ), implemented a land reform because he thought that the parasitic landlords had supported Japanese militarism. Owing to the land reform, farmlands owned by parasitic landlords were bought at a very cheap price and then sold to tenant farmers at a cheap price.

Some think that the landlord system wasn't abolished completely because mountains and forests were exempted from the land reform. However, in forestry, profits are realized only by making heavy investment in planting of man-made forests, such as thinning, for a long time of fifty to one hundred years. Owing to the nature of the business, in most of the cases landlords with the financial power directly run forestry business, bringing in business-like management. Furthermore, most of the mountains and forests which could be profitable have disappeared because of the sharp decline in the wood price due to an increase of imported woods which abounded in foreign countries after the 1970s. For above reasons, it can be said that currently most mountains and forests have lost the fundamental nature.

The land reform wasn't carried out in Okinawa Prefecture or in Amami islands, Kagoshima Prefecture, etc., because after the Pacific War the United States governed Okinawa.

[Original Japanese]