Recent wild swings in Japan’s financial markets — stocks, bonds and the yen — make Japan look almost like an emerging country.
Back in the 19th century, Japan was an emerging country, with its feudal society based largely on farming.
According to a paper by U.S. based researchers Chiaki Moriguchi and Emmanuel Saez, Japan’s GDP per capita in 1890 was at the level of U.S. GDP per capita in 1790, or about $1,200 in 2004 dollars. According to them, this is roughly comparable to the GDP per capita of the less developed countries today.
John Dower, author of Pulitzer-prize winning ”Embracing Defeat” which covered the occupation of Japan by the American forces, describes the late 19th century Japan as “a small country with few obvious resources”.
For over two centuries, intercourse with foreigners had been largely prohibited by its feudal shoguns. Although the economy had become commercialised in those years of seclusion, no industrial revolution had taken place, nor had there been any striking advances in science.