Bodies and Structures 2.0: Deep-Mapping Modern East Asian History

Defeat by Disasters

Nakagawa brought hundreds of Japanese Main Islanders including a medical doctor, office workers, farmers, technicians, and carpenters to do the new project on Ishigaki Island. He also employed local people for unskilled labors, but brought skilled workers from the Japanese Main Islands. According to the first annual report of the corporation, submitted in 1896, Nakagawa brought Japanese Main Islanders because “it would be more efficient to bring labourers from the Japanese Main Islands, Naha or Ôshima for convenience than to employ the natives, who are unskilled yet, and who are unable to fully communicate with us” (Shibusawa Sei’en Kinen Zaidan 1956, 219).

But many of the workers and their families from the Main Islands, who were not used to the environment of the island, were unable to cope with the working conditions. Many contracted malaria. In some cases this ended in death, while others returned home. Ichiki’s investigation reports that seventy to eighty percent of the Main Islanders working for Nakagawa’s project suffered malaria and some of them lost their lives. Thus although a number of Japanese Main Islanders arrived in the office, only some of them settled down in the island (Ichiki 1965, 599).

In November 1897, the Nagura office was seriously damaged by a typhoon. As soon as the project recovered from the destruction, the office was hit by another typhoon in June 1898. After the two successive natural disasters, the general meeting of stockholders decided to close Yaeyama Sugar Industry Corporation in August 1898 (Shibusawa Sei’en Kinen Zaidan 1956, 239-241).

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