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Horai Rice in the Making of Japanese Colonial Taiwan

Abstract

In 1912, Eikichi Iso arrived to serve as a plant breeder in the Japanese colony of Taiwan. Iso and his researchers developed crossbred Horai rice that produced the round grains desired by Japanese consumers. This article explains how Horai rice made Taiwan into an economically viable possession of the Japanese Empire. Iso matched the terrain and conditions of Taiwan to the regions of the Japanese home islands closest in character, and the varieties from each region were selected for experimentation at field stations located in the matching Taiwanese region. The experiments yielded new varieties of rice that fostered trade relations between Taiwan and the home islands. This change brought about higher incomes but also increased costs for the farmers. The addition of a new cash crop unsettled Japanese attempts to manage the sugar industry, instigating greater state intervention in rice markets, even as war demand meant that Taiwanese rice became indispensable. The success of Horai gave Taiwan an identity as a rice colony, which its leaders sought to leverage as expertise to colonize newly conquered Hainan. The movement of people, ideas, and the genetic materials of rice plants created a “Japanized” Taiwan that in turn expanded beyond the shores of the island colony. Keywords: Taiwan, Japanese Empire, history of agriculture, history of science, rice, Horai, genetics

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