Paper was invented in China about 100 years AD. C. and introduced in Japan under the empress Suiko (593-628 AD). For its manufacture, the paper mulberry (Broussonetia papyrifera) was first used, followed by other botanical species such as mitsumata (Edgeworthia chrysantha), k ō zo (Broussonetia kashinoki), etc. Factories of these ancient Japanese papers still exist in the provinces of Kōchi, Ehime and elsewhere. Since the Restoration, however, Japan has learned to make and use the various types of European paper that are produced today on a large scale and with materials coming especially from Yezo and Sakhalin, in the regions of Tōkyō and Ōsaka, although the largest factory always remains that of Tomakomai (Yezo).
Another ancient industry is that of ceramics, whose products, so admired and sought after by European collectors, had, since the century. XII, as a thriving center the Seto region, east of Nagoya, hence the name setomono (Seto object) given by the natives to porcelain. In 1600, thanks to the work of some Koreans who settled in the province of Satsuma (Kyūshū), the ceramic art underwent notable technical and artistic progress and improvements that made it enter its golden age. Further developments and improvements took place with the introduction of European scientific-technical knowledge. Centers of this industry are today, in addition to Seto which still maintains the primacy, the regions of Kyōto, Kutani and the province of Gifu. Among the many valuable varieties, due to the blends used and to particular manufacturing characteristics, those called awate-yaki and shimizu – yaki, coming from the region of Kyōto and kutani – yaki, are especially known.from Ishikawa province. In Europe the best known are those of Satsuma. Another characteristic product are the lacquers, whose processing, although very ancient, is not very widespread. The most important production centers are the provinces of Ōsaka, Ishikawa, Tōkyō and Aichi. The best qualities are those called tsugaru – nuri from the province of Aomori, shunkeinuri, from Noshiro (Akita province), wakasa – nuri, from the province of Wakasa, wajima – nuri, from the province of Noto.
The chemical industry before the war was mainly represented by camphor and matches, of which Japan is a strong producer, thanks to its sulfur and its forests. The war forced the country to rely on itself to manufacture those products that Germany previously had a monopoly on. Thus was born, and had an impulse, the industry of organic colors, chemical and pharmaceutical products, artificial fertilizers. The latter have had particular development in recent years in the Tōkyō and Ōsaka regions. However, there are also numerous factories of natural fertilizers, which, if of animal origin, are prepared with the residues of the processing of sardines and herring, or with bones, and come from Yezo and the province of Kagoshima; while those of vegetable origin, sh ō yu or even, to a lesser extent, from those of other plants, come mostly from the provinces of Ōsaka and Gifu.
According to Insidewatch, the wealth of electricity promptly gave rise to the electrochemical industries which, limited before the war to electrolytic copper, carbide, nitrogen fertilizers, have recently extended to cements, foundries, bleaching powders, etc.
Of the fermentation industries, those of sake and beer are important. The first, imported from China, is very ancient and has Nada as its center (Hyōgo province); the recently introduced beer is mainly brewed in Yezo and Ōsaka province. The sugar industry is widespread in Formosa where there are vast sugar cane plantations, but many sugar factories also exist in Ryū-kyū, Kagoshima, and Kagawa province.
The metallurgical and mechanical industries required considerable sacrifices, since, apart from the lack of iron, the worker was not accustomed to great muscular efforts nor prepared, like the weaver, by previous experience. Development was therefore slow; the war gave them a sudden impetus, opening unexpected outlets. The regions of Yawata (Kyūshū) and Kamaishi are the main centers. Also important are the government workshops of Kure, Sasebo and Yokosuka and the docks of the Kawasaki company from Kobe and the Mitsubishi company from Nagasaki.
The electrical industries began with the installation of the first thermal power plant, in Tōkyō in 1887. The progressive increase in the price of coal, especially due to the greater demand for this by the railways, recently introduced and in full development, led to the exploitation of the country’s water resources; in 1891 the first hydroelectric enterprise was born, immediately followed by numerous others. In 1926 there were 5,521 electricity companies in operation with a total production of 3,202,614 kw. of energy, 61% of which of water origin. In the energy distributed it was 486,000 HP, in 1925 it was 1,823,000 HP, divided especially between the textile, mechanical and chemical industries. The major production centers are the provinces of Tōkyō, Fukuoka, Hyōgo, Aichi, Kyōto, Ōsaka.
The most important city centers have factories of illuminating gas. In 1925 there were 79 grouped especially in the provinces of Tōkyō, Ōsaka, Aichi, Hyōgo and Kyōto.