Kojiro Nishikawa GRADUATE SCHOOL, NIHON UNIVERSITY
THE INTRODUCTION OF WESTERN BOOKKEEPING
Double-entry bookkeeping is believed to have originated in medi-eval Italy and, as it developed, writers on the subject such as Luca Pacioli helped spread the system to the rest of Europe in the paths of Italian trade. In those countries there were practically no in-digenous bookkeeping methods to impede the adoption of the new system. In Japan, however, a quite adequate method had long been firmly established and was continued in use by most merchants long after double-entry bookkeeping was introduced.
Francois Caron, director of the factory of the Dutch East India Company in Hirado from 1639 to 1641 was the first Westerner to comment on Japanese bookkeeping. In his report to the Governor General of Batavia he stated:
"They have not the Italian manner of keeping Books, and yet fail not in their calculations; they reckon with little pellets, stuck upon little sticks upon a board, for the same purpose, after the manner of the Chineses, wherewith they will add, multiply, and divide, with more facility and certainty than we with Counters."1
Indigenous Japanese Bookkeeping in Feudal Days The Economic Background
In the year 1881, the Japanese government investigated book-keeping methods of the average tradesman throughout the country and published Shojikanrei Ruishu (Compilation of Commerical Usage). The study disclosed that the traditional usage from the Tokugawa era (1603-1867) was still prevalent. The system was characterized by a variation in the number of account books and the lack of uniformity as a whole.
*Based upon a paper delivered at the Second World Congress of Accounting Historians.