Sakaya Kaigi (Council of Sake Brewers) (酒屋会議)

Sakaya Kaigi is the brewers' opposition movement against the sake-brewing tax hike, which took place throughout Japan in the early Meiji period. The movement was closely associated with the Freedom and People's Rights Movement.

The Meiji Government, suffering from economic difficulties that had lingered since the Seinan War as well as peasants' resistance against the land-tax reform, raised tax on sake repeatedly because the sake brewing industry generated higher production value than any other industries in Japan at that time and sake is almost free from problems concerning customs duty as most of it was consumed within the country. In May 1881, 300 brewers from Kochi Prefecture presented the government with a petition for the reduction of sake brewing tax and at the same time sought cooperation from Emori UEKI who was the leader of the Freedom and People's Rights Movement and was also from Kochi. When joining the Liberal Party, Ueki happened to find out that breweries across the country faced the same problem. Therefore, on November 1 of the same year, he prepared a manifesto to convene the nationwide Sakaya Kaigi in Osaka on May 1 of the following year, 1882, in order to call for tax cuts and free business. In an attempt to avoid stimulating the Liberal Party, the government sentenced only Tetsuomi KOHARA and four other brewers from Shimane Prefecture who signed the manifesto to imprisonment for fuoizai (a minor offense), without charging Ueki with anything.

Although Ueki continued to make preparations for the council, the governor of Osaka Prefecture and Osaka prefectural police issued a notification banning the council. A series of banning orders were imposed on gatherings of brewers and many council delegations were arrested on their way to Osaka in many other places around the country too. Ueki, however, held a meeting with delegates who managed to arrive in Osaka on board on the Yodo-gawa River on May 4, saying 'the council is prohibited, but it is not prohibited to meet the delegates,' held the council with 44 delegates from 17 prefectures in Gion, Kyoto at another time on May 10, and made Tetsuomi KOHARA who had been imprisoned before represent participants to draft and submit 'The Petition for Liquor Tax Reduction' to the government. This is called "Osaka Sakaya Kaigi Incident." In response to this incident, the government dramatically increased the tax in part as retribution. This tax hike met strong backlash from breweries, leading many of them to be involved in the Freedom and People's Rights Movement, but as the decline in rice prices due to the Matsukata Finance resulted in lower sake prices, the movement lost momentum. Breweries' financial difficulties, however, eventually brought declining tax revenues back to the government and thus the government turned in another direction to seek compromise with the breweries by developing breweries protection measures such as the ban on home-brewing of doburoku (unrefined sake).

[Original Japanese]