The main purpose of this paper is to investigate the development of railway policies during the Meiji period (1868-1912), with particular focus on the relationship between the government and private companies. Through this research, I would like to reconsider the role of government in formation of railway industry in modern Japan.
Because the relationship between railway and government is a significant viewpoint related to developing economies, there are many literatures on Japanese railway policy. Katsumasa Harada, for example, has emphasized that the Japanese government played an important role in the development of railways, particularly with military meaning (Harada 1989, Harada 1993). However, the roles of government in railway industry are complicated and changed with the times. The traditional studies have not examined these complex relations in detail.
This paper investigates the relationship between the government and private companies in Japanese railway industry from two perspectives: (1) the transfer of railway systems (construction and operation), (2) the government-private mutual relationship (regulation and promotion). The paper covers the period from 1869 (beginning the railway construction) to 1907 (completed railway nationalization). This period also includes the introduction and the completion of railways in Japan.