Courtesy Reuters

Agrarian Unrest in Japan

THOUGH Japan's industrial revolution began only towards the end of the nineteenth century, her progress since then has been remarkable. Within a relatively short time she has succeeded not only in assimilating but in some respects in improving upon the industrial and commercial technique of the West. In the eyes of the outside world this has tended to minimize the importance of agriculture in Japan's national economy. In reality, the cultivation of the soil still remains her leading industry. As one writer has put it, "Japanese agriculture employs nearly half of our population, occupies a substantial part of the land area of the country, has invested in it nearly half of the nation's industrial capital, an amount more than half as much again as that invested in manufacturing industry and commerce together, is an important factor in foreign trade, and is an almost exclusive provider of the nation's staple food." [i]

If Japanese agriculture were as prosperous as it is vital to the nation, it would be a thriving industry indeed. Actually, rural Japan cannot lay claim either to prosperity or progress. Long before the industrial slump of recent years the farmers found themselves in the throes of depression. In the early thirties, when Japan's industry and foreign trade scored some of their most notable advances, the countryside presented a picture of impoverishment, distress and social unrest. All this is to be attributed to the fact that agriculture in Japan "does not pay."

The outstanding natural factor that has given rise to Japan's agricultural crisis is the scarcity of land fit for cultivation. Less than 15,000,000 acres, or not quite 16 percent of her total area, are under crops. Despite the efforts of the last fifty years, the area under cultivation has increased by only about 25 percent while the population practically doubled. At present there is only a small amount of undeveloped land suitable for agricultural production: however hard the farmers may try they cannot appreciably increase the cultivated acreage.

The industrialization of Japan

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