DESPITE her recent remarkable progress in industry and commerce, Japan is still predominantly an agricultural country. The major part of her national net production is drawn from agriculture, and more than one-half of her population is sustained by tillage of the land. Hence any change which takes place in the villages is felt keenly in all spheres of social and political activity. Those who are interested in Japan's destiny should study not only the big cities, but also the country districts. For to know village life is to know the foundation of the nation.

The exhaustion of the supply of new land available for cultivation, coupled with the higher standard of living prevailing among Japanese farmers since the World War, has opened a new chapter in the history of Japan's population problem. The burden of maintaining the increasing population from now on must fall chiefly upon the manufacturing industry. Employment in the villages is already limited, and as a result unemployed urban workers who migrated to the open land have become a burden to their village relatives. Furthermore, the tenant peasants, who make up nearly one-third of the total farming population, are not satisfied with the present conditions of renting land, and some of them are organized into unions to safeguard their interests against the landowners. The alert labor leaders are not blind to the situation, and they are now launching several nation-wide campaigns with the aim of forming a united front among the peasants and the urban proletariat. The bourgeois politicians, the Social Democrats and the left-wing Socialists have all put forward separate programs for relieving the farmer's misery and winning his allegiance. The way in which the farmer uses his power will largely decide the fate of the capitalistic régime in Japan, for nobody can dream of accomplishing any far-reaching social reconstruction without the hearty participation of the rural population.

The total population of Japan in 1925, according to the Census and other official statistics, is shown in Table I.

I. POPULATION OF JAPAN

 

Territory Number of Households Population
Japan proper 11,252,000 59,737,000
Korea 3,609,000 19,523,000
Formosa 727,000 3,993,000
Saghalien 37,000 204,000
--------- --------- ---------
Total 15,625,000 83,457,000

The farming population consists of more than one-half the total number of households, as is shown in Table II.

II. FARMING POPULATION OF JAPAN

 

Territory Number of Farming Households Percentage of Farming Households to the Total Households Population Belonging to Farming Households
Japan proper 5,549,000 49.3 26,940,000
Korea 2,742,000 75.9 14,650,000
Formosa 394,000 54.2 2,340,000
Saghalien 9,000 23.4 44,000
---------- ---------- ----- ----------
Total 8,694,000 55.6 43,974,000

It will be noted that the percentage of farming households is highest in Korea, where industrialization has not yet been introduced so fully as in Japan proper, and lowest in newly settled Saghalien, where the climate is too rough for prosperous agriculture.

Now let us see how many people are actually engaged in agriculture and what amount of labor they put into it. In Japan proper, about 52.5 percent of the population belonging to farming households is actually engaged in agriculture, and since this percentage will not be very different in other parts of the Empire, we shall assume that it holds good in them also. As to the actual amount of labor expended on agriculture, my estimate is about 4 billion working days annually, as is shown in Table III. This estimate was made in two ways: first, by adding together the labor requirements of different crops; and second, by adding together the average annual working days of the different classes of agricultural population. Fortunately, the results of these two calculations were almost identical. In Japan proper, according to research conducted by the National Agricultural Association, active members of farming households work on the farm on an average of 185 days annually, while agricultural wage earners average about 250 days. Nearly 92 percent of the total agricultural working days is supplied by members of farming households.

III. LABOR EMPLOYED IN AGRICULTURE

 

Territory Number of People Actually Engaged in Agriculture Working Days Per Year
Japan proper 14,140,000 2,700,000,000
Korea 7,620,000 1,000,000,000
Formosa 1,220,000 300,000,000
Saghalien 23,000 [i]
---------- ---------- ----------
Total 23,003,000 4,000,000,000

Now let us compare the amount of labor employed in agriculture with that employed in other occupations. The average annual number of working days for each occupation was estimated and the estimates were then added together. Table IV shows the result.

IV. LABOR EMPLOYED IN AGRICULTURE AND ALL OTHER OCCUPATIONS

 

Territory Total Agricultural Working Days Percent Total Working Days of Other Occupations Percent Total of Agricultural and Other Working Days Percent
Japan proper 2,700 million 41.5 3,800 million 58.5 6,500 million 100
Korea 1,000 " 71.3 400 " 28.7 1,400 " 100
Formosa 300 " 68.2 140 " 31.8 440 " 100
Saghalien -- -- -- -- -- --
---------- ---------- ----- ---------- ----- ---------- -----
Total 4,000 million 48.0 4,340 million 52.0 8,340 million 100

The figure representing the total working days of other occupations does not include those of domestic work done by housewives and other unpaid family members, but it includes those of people engaged in free professions. As can be seen, agriculture accounts for 48 percent of the total working days. If we count only working days of so-called productive labor in the narrower sense and omit those of free professions (which amount to 550 million days), the total will be 7,790 million working days, 51 percent of which is accounted for by agriculture.

Table V shows, for Japan proper, how those productive working days are distributed among the various occupations.

V. WORKING DAYS OF JAPAN PROPER ACCORDING TO OCCUPATIONS

 

Occupations Total Working Days Percent
Agriculture 2,700 million 44.3
Manufacturing industries 1,670 " 27.3
Commerce 1,120 " 18.4
Communication and transportation 350 " 5.7
Fisheries 120 " 2.0
Mining 90 " 1.5
Forestry 40 " 0.7
Miscellaneous 10 " 0.1
---------- ---------- -----
Total 6,100 million 100.0

For the sake of reference, the classification of population by occupations is given in Table VI.

Let us now examine the amount of capital employed in agriculture. Agricultural capital may be divided into two categories, land capital and other capital. The land capital is represented by the land value, which includes land amelioration. Other capital includes farm buildings, agricultural implements, live stocks, fertilizers and cash. Table VII gives my estimate of agricultural capital.

We see that nearly 40 billion yen is invested in agriculture, and 88 percent of it is in Japan proper. But how does this compare with capital invested in other businesses? My estimate is shown in Table VIII.

VI. POPULATION OF JAPAN PROPER (1920) ACCORDING TO OCCUPATIONS

 

Number of People Actually Engaged
Occupations Male Female Total Percent
Agriculture 7,750,000 6,378,000 14,128,000 53.06
Manufacturing industries 3,716,000 1,584,000 5,300,000 19.90
Commerce 2,158,000 1,030,000 3,188,000 11.97
Free professions 1,134,000 308,000 1,442,000 5.42
Communication and transportation 975,000 62,000 1,037,000 3.89
Fisheries 517,000 41,000 558,000 2.10
Mining 328,000 97,000 425,000 1.60
Other occupations 346,000 202,000 548,000 2.06
--------------- ---------- ---------- ---------- -----
Total 16,924,000 9,702,000 26,626,000 100.00

VII. AGRICULTURAL CAPITAL IN JAPAN (IN YEN)

 

Territory Land Capital Other Capital Total Agricultural Capital Percent of Total Agricultural Capital
Japan proper 27,700 million 7,000 million 34,700 million 88.0
Korea 3,200 " 480 " 3,680 " 9.3
Formosa 790 " 280 " 1,070 " 2.7
---------- ---------- ---------- ---------- -----
Total 31,690 million 7,760 million 39,450 million 100.0

VIII. CAPITAL INVESTED IN JAPAN PROPER

 

Business Invested Capital Percent
Agriculture 34,700 million yen 47.1
Commerce 13,000 " " 17.6
Manufacturing industry 10,000 " " 13.6
Forestry 6,000 " " 8.1
Mining 5,000 " " 6.8
Communication and transportation 4,500 " " 6.1
Fisheries 500 " " 0.7
--------------- ---------- -----
Total 73,700 million yen 100.0

This table shows that commercial capital, which is next in volume to agricultural, is slightly more than one-third of the latter, and capital invested in manufacturing industry is about 80 percent of commercial capital. The Government Statistical Bureau estimated the total national wealth of Japan proper as 102 billion yen, and the agricultural capital alone amounts to one-third of this figure. The fact that the main part of this agricultural capital consists of land value accounts for the enormous land rents. No wonder landowners have been very influential in politics in the past, although their influence is now waning rapidly before the rising financial magnates. For Korea and Formosa I did not make the same kind of comparison, but I am reasonably sure that agricultural capital occupies an even more prominent position there.

We have seen that in Japan proper about 44 percent of the total productive labor and about 47 percent of the total capital are employed in agriculture. Now what is the contribution of agriculture to the annual production of material wealth of the nation?

The estimated value of the annual agricultural production in Japan proper is 4,439 million yen. But to effect this production, farmers consume materials (fertilizer, green manure, seeds and live stock, depreciation of agricultural implements, depreciation of buildings, and fodder) totaling 1,193 million yen in value. The balance of 3,246 million yen is the net wealth produced by agriculture -- the real material income which may be distributed into wages, interest, rent and taxes. The amount of this net wealth, as well as its ratio to the gross production, is of great importance, for by it the social and economic significance of an industry may be very largely judged. In Japan proper the net wealth annually produced by agriculture is 73 percent of the gross agricultural production.

In the manufacturing industry the total annual production in Japan proper is estimated at about 7,300 million yen, but to produce this amount the industry must spend nearly 5,000 million yen for raw materials, 300 million yen as depreciation of machines and buildings, 120 million yen for fuels. The balance, almost 1,900 million yen, is the net wealth produced by the manufacturing industry, which is only 26 percent of the gross production. There is no comparison between this ratio and that of agricultural production. Agriculture is so superior in this respect simply because it makes use of the inexhaustible productive power of nature which is embodied in the soil.

Table IX shows the proportion of this net wealth production to the amount of labor or capital employed in producing it. I should like to call those proportions "net wealth productivity of labor or capital."

IX. THE NET WEALTH PRODUCTIVITY OF AGRICULTURE AND MANUFACTURING INDUSTRY IN JAPAN PROPER

 

  Net Wealth Produced Labor Employed Net Wealth Productivity of Labor Per One Working Day Capital Invested Net Wealth Productivity of Capital
  Million Yen Million Days Yen Million Yen Percent
Agriculture 3,246 2,700 1.20 34,700 9.4
Manufacturing 1,895 1,670 1.13 10,000 18.9

The manufacturing industry includes many small-scale domestic industries: in Japan proper there are nearly 52,000 workshops, about one-half of which employ only from five to ten workers. This may be one of the causes of the rather low net wealth productivity of its labor. But the net wealth productivity of capital in the manufacturing industry is twice that of agriculture, the chief reason perhaps being the quicker circulation of industrial capital. Capital does not flow from agriculture to industry because of the high land value due to the pressure of population, and also because of social obstacles which prevent the free movement of capital.

These arguments may be applied to Korea and Formosa as well. The total agricultural production of these territories is 1,340 and 307 million yen respectively, and, applying the same ratio as that of Japan proper, we may estimate the net wealth production roughly as 978 and 224 million yen. Owing to the less advanced, capitalistically less intensive state of agriculture of those territories, this ratio is probably even higher. Therefore we can safely take the above figures and say that the gross agricultural production of the Japanese Empire is about 6,090 million yen, of which 4,448 millions can be put down as the net wealth production.

There are some people who insist that Japan is already predominantly an industrial country and agriculture now occupies only a second-rate position in her national economy. Their argument is usually based on a comparison of the gross production of agriculture and industry, which is rather misleading. Our study shows clearly that Japanese agriculture still commands the largest amount of capital and labor of all productive enterprises, and raises the bigger share in the total net wealth production of the nation. The most recent estimate of the national income of Japan proper published by the Government Statistical Bureau is about 13,400 million yen, and my estimate of the agricultural net wealth production is more than 24 percent of this national income. This fact alone is convincing proof of the supreme importance of agriculture in Japanese economic life.

But it is entirely another question whether agriculture can hold its present position indefinitely. That depends very much upon the possibility of further industrial development and also upon the trend of future population growth in Japan. For the past twenty years the agricultural population has practically stopped its growth, while the total population has continued to increase. The result is that the agricultural population has dwindled from 60 percent to 50 percent of the total in Japan proper. In all probability this tendency will continue, and with the development of industrialization more capital as well as more labor will be absorbed by industry and commerce. Yet it will be a fatal mistake if Japan tries to accomplish this industrialization at the expense of her agriculture, for then the stability of her national economy as well as the healthy development of her social psychology will be damaged. It will also be impossible to absorb into other occupations the millions of unemployed peasants. The only safe -- and it seems to me inevitable -- course for Japan is to follow the example of Germany in trying to develop manufacturing industries side by side with agriculture. At least for the next fifty years agriculture will not lose much of its importance, and the farmers will hold a powerful position in shaping the destiny of the nation.

In conclusion, let us briefly survey the relation between Japanese agriculture and foreign trade.

Japanese agricultural products are intended for home consumption, and the amount of their export is quite negligible. The annual average export of agricultural produce from Japan proper is less than 30 million yen out of the total production of 4,439 millions, while the import of foreign agricultural products reaches the enormous sum of 1,100 million yen. The export includes 10 millions of peas and beans, 7 millions of vegetables, 4 millions of fruits and seeds, 2½ millions of lilies, 1½ millions of rice; while the import includes 630 millions of cotton, 100 millions of wool, from 50 to 120 millions of rice, 70 millions of wheat, 47 millions of soy bean. A portion of the imported cotton and wool is again exported as manufactured goods to the value of 500 million yen. The grand total of exports from Japan proper is 2,000 million yen, 60 percent of which consists of goods made from home-produced agricultural raw materials. Foreign agricultural products amount to almost one-half of the total value of imported goods.

Therefore if Japanese agriculture can raise its productive power by only 5 percent, its effect upon the balance of foreign trade will be immense. And this is not at all impossible. Self-sufficiency in food production will be difficult to accomplish, and for that reason we hear a great deal of talk about the food and population problems of Japan. Yet we can expect greater achievement from Japanese agriculture, and the thorough study of its changing conditions will be full of interest to students of political economy.

[i] The agricultural working days in Saghalien are omitted, the figure being negligible.

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