Courtesy Reuters

The Promise of Agrarian Reform in Japan

Would that my daughter were married to a middle farmer

With five acres of farm land

And a fourth of an acre in wood;

No borrowing, no lending,

Both ends meeting;

Visiting the temple by turns --

Someone must stay at home --

Going to heaven sooner or later.

What a happy life!

What a happy life!

SO sings the farmer in an old Japanese folksong. Give him five acres of arable and a quarter of an acre of woodland, and the good life, both in this and in the next world, is his! To the westerner, this ideal is modest enough, but though modest it is within the reach of few Japanese, for the country is small and its people are many. There are all too few bridegrooms in Japan with five and one-quarter acres of land -- not in a country where large numbers of farmers own no land at all, and where the average holding is only 2.5 acres.

It takes but a glance at the Japanese countryside and the extraordinary extent to which the farmers of Japan have pushed their neat patterns of cultivation against the rugged natural terrain to understand the hunger of the Japanese peasantry for land. Americans, conditioned to a bountiful endowment, can hardly appreciate the intensity of this appetite of 35,000,000 agrarian Japanese crowded upon a total of 15,000,000 acres of cultivated land, an acreage about equal to the farmland of the state of Washington.

Nature in Japan is stingy enough to the farmers who own their holdings. But these operate only half the farmlands of Japan. The remainder is cultivated by tenants and part-tenants who constitute about 70 percent of the 5,700,000 Japanese farm families. Traditionally, they have been compelled to deliver half or more of the yields from their rented plots to a landlord.

The typical tenant farms so little land that these yields which he must share are meager indeed. Fifty percent of the tenants rent less than 1.2 acres each, or an average of half

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