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Competitive Exhibitions and the Branding of Regional Agricultural Products : the Case of "Aomori" and "Tsugaru" Apples in Modern Japan


  • Izumi Shirai

    () (Japan Business History Institute)


The Japanese government, after making inspection tours of western countries, designed policies for industrial promotion. One of them was staging nationwide competitive exhibitions, and this project started in 1877. The purpose of this study is to clarify how these exhibitions became a springboard for the branding of regional agricultural products, especially apples, during the 1870s to the 1900s. We obtained the following results. Naikoku-kangyo-hakurankai, the largest national exhibition and a model for other exhibitions in modern Japan, served as a contested arena, not only for individual exhibitors, but also for group exhibitors representing a prefecture. Therefore, if one group representing a prefecture was recognized as the leading and trustworthy grower of an agricultural product in the exhibition, that prefecture fs sales of the product were superior to those of other prefectures in the market. This could lead to a situation wherein all farmers engaged in the cultivation of the agricultural product in the prefecture gain economic benefits. Therefore, in some prefectures, both public and private sectors worked together to organize a delegation under the leadership of local magnates, aiming to win many awards in the exhibition. The case of Aomori prefecture, especially which of Tsugaru area, is a representative one. In the 1870s, when the government started to organize exhibitions, many new varieties of fruit, including over a hundred kinds of apples, were introduced from western countries under the government fs initiative. Among these, the Japanese of the time preferred the sweet, red, and shiny ones. In fact, such consumer tastes were reflected as the criteria for grading apples in exhibitions. In response to this trend, the leading growers of apples in Aomori prefecture promptly undertook of the investigation not only of a cultivation method reflecting consumer tastes and the evaluation criterion, but also of an effective and extensive distribution system for their apples. They shared their knowledge with other farmers in the same region. In addition, they organized their own local exhibitions as a practice run for Naikoku-kangyo-hakurankai. These proactive steps evolved into the formation of a system that enabled apple farmers in the Aomori prefecture to increase the quality of their apples supportively and competitively. Through this process, they surpassed the leading producers at the time, such as Hokkaido and Iwate, grew into major production area of apples, and succeeded in the branding of gAomori h and gTsugaru h apples. This could not have been achieved without the existence of competitive exhibitions.

Suggested Citation

  • Izumi Shirai, 2016. "Competitive Exhibitions and the Branding of Regional Agricultural Products : the Case of "Aomori" and "Tsugaru" Apples in Modern Japan," Discussion Papers in Economics and Business 16-19, Osaka University, Graduate School of Economics and Osaka School of International Public Policy (OSIPP).
  • Handle: RePEc:osk:wpaper:1619

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    Branding; Exhibition; Market; Regional Economy; Agricultural Product (Apple);

    JEL classification:

    • N55 - Economic History - - Agriculture, Natural Resources, Environment and Extractive Industries - - - Asia including Middle East
    • N95 - Economic History - - Regional and Urban History - - - Asia including Middle East
    • O25 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Development Planning and Policy - - - Industrial Policy
    • Q13 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Agriculture - - - Agricultural Markets and Marketing; Cooperatives; Agribusiness

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