Peasant revolts against the land-tax reform (地租改正反対一揆)

Peasant revolts against the land-tax reform refer to the uprisings by peasants to oppose to the land-tax reform that had been promoted by the Meiji Government since 1873 (we should note that many of the revolts were legal conflicts, as recent studies show).

Basically, the revolts were collisions between the Meiji Government that hoped to impose a uniform ratio of integrated land-tax on peasants at a level as high as, or even higher than, the conventional one, and peasants that hoped to preserve the surplus products in order to maintain and improve their standards of living. Recent studies show that some revolts had aspects of social reform; motives, purposes and requirements of the revolts varied; and some of them did not take a form of revolt but a form of legal conflict, such as submitting signatures and written opinions in cooperation with Jiyu Minken Undo (Movement for Liberty and People's Right).

They can be roughly divided into these types.
Revolts to claim a reduction or exemption of kokudaino (tax payment in cash for tribute) whose rate had been kept high since Haihan-chiken (abolition of feudal domains and establishment of prefectures), in the process of the land-tax reform

Troubles concerning concrete land-tax reform procedures such as: chioshi-joryo (measurement of land) for the land-tax reform; following procedure of issuing certificates of land title; abolition of kokudaino and transition to money payment; decisions on the classes of rice fields, estimated yield, and land prices based upon those indexes

Peasants' resistance during the process of dividing public and private lands accompanying the land-tax reform, against changing mountains and forests that had been treated as iriaichi (common land) into national land or Imperial property for the reason that iriaichi had no owners; and against bans on free access to iriaichi by neighbor residents

A movement to request a review on tax rates after the decision of land prices, and a tenancy dispute on the revised farm rent based on the new land prices

There are famous revolts such as Wappa revolt in Yamagata Prefecture in 1874, seeking for the reduction or exemption of kokudaino; and a civil disorder concerning iriaichi in Gunma Prefecture in 1881, where thirty thousand people chose the employment of force to resist the designation of iriaichi as national land. However, large-scale revolts took place one after another during the period from 1875 to 1877, when concrete procedures such as deciding land prices were carried out. Especially during some months from November 1876, revolts occurred in succession in Ibaraki Prefecture, Mie Prefecture, Aichi Prefecture, Gifu Prefecture, Sakai Prefecture (at present divided into the southern part of Osaka Prefecture and Nara Prefecture) and Kumamoto Prefecture. However, even in this period, some conflicts that took place in Kasugai County, Aichi Prefecture and Reihoku region, Ishikawa Prefecture (at present Fukui Prefecture), did have aspects of revolt but basically took a form of legal conflicts that lasted for several years in cooperation with those who were involved in Jiyu Minken Undo. Recently, studies on such conflicts have been undertaken.

In response to the movement, the Meiji Government decided to reduce the land-tax rate from 3% to 2.5% but rejected the requests for the cancellation of land-tax reform project. When the land-tax reform office was closed on June 30, 1881, the Government declared the completion of the land-tax reform project. The project of dividing public and private lands, especially mountains, took more time but was completed in the next July. After this, the conflicts were taken over to 'the movement for land-tax reduction' following Jiyu Minken Undo and the theory for 'the reduction of people's tax burden' seen at an early stage of the Imperial Diet.

[Original Japanese]