SINCE the end of the Second World War, "agrarian reform," or "land to the landless," has been a trenchant slogan in Asia. Variously understood and interpreted, it has come to epitomize much of the problem and promise of Asia. The Communists have made their successful bid for power by claiming that they--and only they--were the reformers. But postwar free Asia did not neglect the land issue. Not all of the Asian countries placed the peasant, as Nehru put it, "in the center of the piece," but a movement to improve the peasant's lot is under way in many Asian countries.

That movement had its inception neither in Communist Russia nor in Communist China. The general pattern was set and the stimulus was given by arch-conservative Japan before the Chinese Communists promoted their brand of agrarianism. In late 1946, Japan promulgated, and within three years implemented, a program which indeed gave the land to the landless. A decade later it stands as a great landmark in the history of Japan. The unprecedented renaissance of present-day rural Japan demonstrates that only free people and widely distributed private ownership of land can make the best use of the productive forces of the village. By the same token, it demonstrates that the land problem can be dealt with resolutely, without the Communist gospel and free of the tragic upheavals unleashed by the Soviet and Chinese agrarian revolutions.

II

Japanese society before the reform was not nearly so monolithic as painted by the legend-makers of Japan. The village with its over-exploited, insecure, rack-rented tenantry was the chink in its armor. The landlords had the money, the leisure, the culture and the power which they did not share with others. The Japanese farmers, on the other hand, were allegedly the bearers of the nation's traditional verities, serving the interests of a feudal and industrial Japan with equal self-denial. The realities were much grimmer than the sentimentalization of the farmer deep in the muck of the rice fields. The majority of the tenants and part-tenants, comprising 70 percent of the farm families and cultivating more than half of the land, had little stake in that society. They met the exactions of their many masters with the produce from fragments of overworked land not large enough or rich enough to support their families.

This state of affairs did not go unnoticed in Japan. Before the Second World War there was a body of public opinion, including the military, which recognized that the foundation of Japan, rural Japan, needed shoring up for the sake of the farmers and the nation as a whole. And much of this was recognized also by the American Occupation. There was another motive: the danger of agrarian unrest as a source of Communist power, and the belief that postwar rural Japan--as Japan in general--presented a fertile field for Communist penetration. The idea of taking the political wind out of the Communist sails was as tempting as it was imperative.

It was out of recognition of these factors that General MacArthur, in his now famous land-reform directive of December 15, 1945, ordered the Japanese Government "to take measures to insure that those who till the soil of Japan shall have a more equal opportunity to enjoy the fruits of their labor." The legal provisions into which this directive was embodied in October 1946 called for (a) the compulsory sale at fixed government prices of all the land of the absentee landlords; (b) the compulsory sale of all the land of the resident landlords save for the permissible retention of 2.5 acres--the average size of a Japanese farm; (3) cash rentals and security tenure for those remaining on the land as tenants. These were the principal measures,[i] conceived with an eye for the widespread ownership of land among the tenants.

The MacArthur directive went beyond the redistribution of land. It was not an end in itself but rather a means "to remove economic obstacles to the revival and strengthening of democratic tendencies, establish respect for the dignity of man, and destroy the economic bondage which has enslaved the Japanese farmer to centuries of feudal oppression." The very sweep of the pronouncement against the background of a seemingly changeless agrarian society caused many to doubt its ultimate effectiveness. Nevertheless, when in 1947 the farmers of 11,000 villages of Japan went to the polls to elect representatives to administer the land reform program, the first step was taken toward a fundamental change in rural Japan.

Similar revolutions in Russia and in China have caused heads to roll and darkened the sky with the smoke of burning noblemen's nests. The traveler passing through Japan's countryside in the years 1947-1949 would never have known that a basic economic and social change was being attempted. It is in those years that the Government succeeded in buying and reselling 5,800,000 acres of land. Whereas before the reform 54 percent of the cultivated land was owner-operated, after the reform 92 percent of the land was owned by the farmers of Japan. To a Japanese farmer "a farmer without land is like a man without a soul;" three years after the beginning of the implementation approximately 3,000,000 farmers acquired "souls." Individual ownership of land rather than tenancy became the hallmark of rural Japan.

A decade has gone by since Japan became a typical country of individual small-holders. Judging by the solid core of landowning farmers, the reform has been a success. But one may rightly ask: What lies behind the bare statistical bones of so many landlord acres sold to so many farmers? Has widespread, individual ownership of land been conducive to a rise in agricultural production and peasant welfare? Have the new owners held on to their windfall, or have they bartered it away as so many had predicted? Has it loosened the domination of the old village oligarchy and has it brought to the fore a leadership more in tune with the new conditions? Has the role of the village in local and national politics undergone any change, or has the "boss" system of delivering the farm vote en bloc and at will remained unchanged? Has the undisguised favoritism of industry versus agriculture given place to a more equitable treatment of the country's basic economy? In short, has the shift in ownership stopped short of breaking the notoriously hard cake of custom of rural Japan, or has it come close to giving meaning to the lofty aspirations of the MacArthur directive? The answers to these crucial questions shed much light on what the land transfer was really about, and on the character of the agrarian revolution it set in motion.

III

An interested observer cannot but be struck with the fever for improvement that has swept rural Japan with the implementation of the reform. It would appear that all of the land was in need of face lifting. The unavoidable impression is that the farmers have declared war on the severe limitations imposed by the one to two-acre holdings, trying to eliminate widespread fear among them that "if we stand still we shall be swept away." This aspect of the agrarian revolution is well expressed in post-reform village posters: "May our agricultural production multiply the size of our holdings."

Economic and psychological factors have combined to bring this about. It is difficult to measure the pride of ownership and the heightened sense of social position as a source of greater initiative to improve and accumulate, but their effectiveness cannot be gainsaid. Even the new folksongs reflect it:

The same paddy fields, but now my own;

Heavy is the crop and light is my heart;

Bright shines the sun on my own piece of land!

The immediate result of the transfer of ownership was the sharp increase in the accumulation of rural capital. Just as the postwar inflation relieved the farmers of the burden of heavy indebtedness, in the same manner they were relieved of land purchase obligations to a considerable degree by paying for them in inflated currency. This, followed by the elimination of the former high rentals (which formerly constituted nearly half of his farming costs), together with good crops and good farm prices, enabled the farmers to invest in the improvement of their land and modernization of their equipment. In 1957 such investments were roughly four times those before the war.

The zeal to modernize and to improve, favored by good weather conditions, has resulted in higher production. By 1958 it was 20 percent above prewar. Considering that rice output per unit of land was very high even before the war, the national increase of 10 percent attained in recent years from almost the same acreage is particularly significant. The desire to "expand" the size of the holdings has led, for the first time, to a fuller appreciation of animal husbandry as a source of income.

Encouraged by recent land improvement experience and determined to reclaim approximately 1,500,000 acres of marginal undeveloped land, the Japanese Government in 1957 launched a very ambitious five-year plan. If successful, farm income will increase by 25 percent. Wheat and rice production will be augmented by 12 and 8 percent, respectively; output of dairy products more than doubled; roughly the same for sugar; and raw silk production, with an eye to increased silk exports, will be augmented by 50 percent. Whatever the actual attainments, the chain reaction commencing with the land redistribution is still on, and its ultimate aim is higher production and a higher standard of living.

But the outstanding feature of the village after the reform is the upsurge of farm mechanization, and the emphasis on labor productivity as well as land productivity. For the first time in the modern history of Japanese agriculture, mechanization has extended into practices which an inexhaustible labor supply could do as well. A tractor in a Japanese rice field was unheard of until after the Second World War. But immediately after the reform, in 1949, there were 10,000 small, garden-type tractors in use; a decade later there were nearly 150,000 of them. While the problem of using machines for transplanting young rice shoots and for harvesting has not been resolved yet, the Japanese label recent attainments as "epoch-making" and "revolutionary." A comparison of the number of machines purchased by farmers between 1947 and 1957 is dramatically illustrated by a few figures. During this decade electric motors increased almost 5-fold; gasoline motors, 7-fold; tractors, 15-fold; power-sprayers nearly 20-fold; power-threshing machines, 5-fold; and rice-hulling machines nearly 4-fold.

It might seem paradoxical that the villages with surplus labor should be concerned with labor-saving devices. Part of the explanation lies in the availability of the means to buy the equipment and in the evidence that the release of the farmer from manual-labor drudgery in no way inhibits higher yields. Given these two factors, the troublesome problem of a rising surplus of farm labor is mitigated somewhat in the face of improved economic conditions, and particularly against the background of the changes in the peasant's outlook. The reform has stimulated the discontent with the narrow boundaries of the old way of working and living. Farmers also wish to share in the progress and comforts caused by the tremendous expansion of Japan's industry in the past decade. For this reason, the rapid mechanization of agriculture is a phenomenon far greater than its technical aspects imply.

IV

Friend and foe of the land reform are agreed that the farmers are better off now than ever before. Although the per capita farm income is lower than for the rest of gainfully employed Japanese, in 1956 average farm disposable income was 50 percent larger than before the war. Between 1950 and 1957 farm and non-farm income per household jumped from an equivalent of $587 to $1,005. Farmers have been spending twice as much as they did before the war on productive and consumer goods, but the balance has been in their favor.

The Japanese village became an important market for Japan's industrial output. And not only of the new and expanding farm-equipment industry. The village elders with memories of strain and stress may shrug their shoulders at the "indecent extravagance," but many a farmer doesn't deny himself a motorcycle, tiled kitchen and running water, a refrigerator and washing machine, sometimes a television set, and, not least, putting aside some money for a son's or daughter's college education. It is part of the new mental outlook, which may well represent a more fundamental change in Japanese society than the more readily discernible surface changes in conventions of everyday life.

One of the significant landmarks of the post-reform Japan is the recognition by the Government that the long-established practice of discriminating against agriculture in favor of industry is no longer tenable. The farmers can no longer be taken for granted with impunity; the politicians know that the farmers can be bearers of political gifts. This awareness of their ability to influence government actions was pithily expressed by a farmer: "We support those who support us."

The post-reform policies of the Government to assist the farmers are motivated by still other considerations. The national interest has something to do with it, and so has the changing temper of public opinion as a whole. This temper has been mainly emotional and "touchy," idealistic, and with a strong tinge of welfare-state notions. Cautious, practical and calculating Japanese régimes have had to take notice of it. The idea that only industry and commerce are entitled to official nursing has gone out of fashion. Hence the spectacle of borrowing money from the World Bank to be used, at least in part, for agricultural development; huge government investments for land reclamation, which in recent years averaged more than three times those of prewar years; the creation of the Agricultural, Forestry and Fisheries Finance Corporation for long-term improvement loans; a revision of the tax structure more in consonance with farm interests; and the official rice price policy which guarantees the farmer a profit for his crop.

This is, indeed, a departure from all previous official attitudes toward the farmers; from the Tokugawa age, when, in the felicitous phrase of Sir George Sansom, "statesmen thought highly of agriculture, but not of the agriculturist;" from the agricultural settlement during the early Meiji era, which while abolishing some features of feudalism gave rise to wholesale peasant expropriation; and from the less blatant but none the less "beast of burden" treatment of more recent times.

V

The change in the attitude of both Government and farmers and the successful attempts to put the land in the service of greater expectations are telling commentaries on the dire predictions of a decade ago. The anti-reform spokesmen argued that land ownership would be a poor exchange for the economic security offered by the landlord. Worse, they foresaw a serious economic and cultural deterioration throughout rural Japan if landlords were removed and tenants became small owners, all allegedly equally poor and with no interest in the general welfare of the community. In Japan, a decade without landlord domination has not borne them out either in the economic or in the cultural field.

The most vivid impression of a trip in any part of rural Japan is the quest for education. The first thing that strikes the traveler is the extensiveness of the school facilities, the enlargement of the old schools and the building of new ones that would do honor to any metropolitan area of Japan. Village appropriations for education range from 35 to 40 percent of the total budget. In this respect "feudal" Kagoshima Prefecture does not differ from the highly literate and sophisticated Nagano Prefecture: the same passionate devotion to education, the same demonstrated effort for improvement, and the same evidence of mental horizons which are not limited by the village vistas of Kagoshima.

The yearnings assume a variety of manifestations. A half-dozen miles from Kagoshima City one comes across an anthropologist's treat: a village of Samurai descendants. There are none outside of the prefecture, and this is one of the very few in Kagoshima. The general appearance of the settlement with its straight lanes upon which the two-sworded men once practiced archery from fast-moving horses; the age-tinted stone walls which give the impression of surrounding the village and yet dividing it into neat compounds; the design of the gates, and the layout of the living quarters so as to give time to prepare for an unwelcome intruder--all these take one back a century or centuries. Even the accompanying Japanese friend cannot help but remark on this surviving vestige of a feudal society. But in reality it is only a museum piece. Far down the end of the same lane in a large, new school auditorium, young Japanese carry on as if they were ages removed from the Samurai ancestors and what they represented. More than a thousand of them watch goggle-eyed as the Sugar Plum Fairy and the supporting cast of dancers, aged 10 to 12, perform "The Nutcracker" in classical ballet costume. Not every village has its "corps de ballet," but the one reared in the so-called citadel of feudalism provides its own commentary on the "changeless" Japan on the one hand and the people's hopes on the other.

Mass primary education is in the Meiji tradition but the urge to expand it has never been greater than in post-reform Japan. No one is interested in "economizing" on it, and the question of "affording" does not enter into the building of a multi-million yen school. The rise of the standard of living, the consciousness of the new position of the farmer, and the generous governmental subsidies to education have all had much to do with the education rush. But there is another explanation which reveals the darker side of the Japanese village, whether before or after reform. This relates to the second and third sons, who do not in effect inherit the land, despite the inheritance provisions of the new Constitution, and must shift for themselves, looking for opportunities in urban Japan.

A village mayor made this problem clear to the writer:

My prefecture has neither raw materials nor finished products to export. All we can export is human beings. In the past we exported them to China, Korea, the United States, and above all, to the industrial and commercial centers of Japan. Myself, I was an exportee to Manchuria. The time has passed when we can continue this process with the new generations. We can only try to export them to other parts of Japan and there they are bound to meet severe competition. The very least we can do for our surplus men is to provide them with the best education obtainable. Once educated, they will not remain in the village; they will have to go to the cities and let the cities take care of them. We will have discharged our obligations towards them, and we will have done our duty to the cities by giving them the best export goods the village can furnish. If they remain with us, uneducated and with no future, there will be no end to our misery.

This is a national and a rural problem and the farmers try to meet it in their own way. However, the schools are not only for the second and third sons. As in everything else, the landlords have been the intellectual leaders of the village, but the cultural tradition to which the landlords lay special claims shows no signs of drying up in the post-reform village.

VI

Everything about the reform pointed to an alteration in the social structure of the Japanese village. Begun with the Meiji Restoration upon the elimination from the village of the feudal lord and the warrior-retainer, it was virtually completed with the reform when the village became mostly owner-farmer. One need not be an economic determinist to note that with the transfer of the land to the tenants at nominal prices the landlords lost their affluence and with it a good deal of their influence. Now, new and old owner-cultivators are found in positions of responsibility as members of agricultural commissions, farmcoöperative boards, village offices and school boards. The former landlords have much to say about the absence of the customary homage the tenants used to bear them, feeling somewhat bewildered by the emergence of a new leadership and the need to deal with it on equal footing.

It would be a mistake, however, to assume that the new leadership has completely displaced the old one, or that it will soon do so. Tradition still counts for much, and resident landlords with two or three acres leased to the remaining tenants, and the relatively small number of ex-landlords with timber holdings, continue to exercise influence. What is taking place is the sharing of power between the two. This is a new and welcome development. Japan's agriculture after the reform still is a marginal economy with acre and half-acre farmers. It needs all the available skills and social peace and stability to deal with the ever-present problem of six million farmers on 15-16 million acres of land.

In his classic work, "Japan's Emergence as a Modern State,"[ii] Herbert Norman speaks of "The Janus head of the Japanese peasant"--he can be alternately conservative or radical. There is ample evidence to justify this view, and yet, ever since modern Japan put the ballot to use, the peasant vote has been invariably conservative. The vote brokers, the gentry, the local political bosses, the tweedledum-tweedledee type of political parties, and the conservative side of Janus' head--all these contrived to that end. Nevertheless, the old pattern has undergone a change, part of it being the rise of the powerful Socialist Party. Elections in the past decade demonstrate that the peasants still vote the conservative tickets, but they also vote for Socialists and independents. Local politicians are still in business, but they are in a quandary; the vote can be, and often is, divided in too many ways to suit their customary want.

A Japanese writer refers to the reform as the event that "injected the breath of democracy among the farmers." If this is the case, one of its effects is that political labels have lost a good deal of their pull, and that the farmers vote their individual preference. They pick and choose, and the economic interest is the motivation. Aside from the candidate's own proven concern with farm conditions, the record of his party's agricultural policies is equally decisive. Whatever action a government in power may choose to take with respect to fertilizer prices, the price of rice, scope of land-improvement work and short or long-term credit funds will vitally affect the distribution of the vote. Clearly, "we support those who support us" has a modern democratic ring.

There is only one group for which the Japanese farmers do not vote--the Communists. They are among the authentic losers of the agrarian revolution. Whether the tenantry of Japan would have flocked to the Communists' colors if the country's fundamental farm issue had not been met cannot be answered with certainty. The radicalism of the peasant might have asserted itself, but, having blindly opposed the reform because the Soviets pronounced the "MacArthur reform" as nothing more than a plot "to sell the farmers down the river," Communist political strength in an ocean of small proprietors came to an inevitable end.

VII

In the final analysis, the basis of all the changes is the stake in the land shared by virtually all the farmers. Whether these changes are sustained depends upon the retention of the land by the owners. One of the most widespread predictions by the critics of the reform was that most of the peasants who received the land so easily would just as easily dispose of it, setting in motion the old familiar process of accumulation of land in relatively few hands and the pauperization of many others. Official land prices were decontrolled in 1950 and they have increased fifty to a hundred-fold since then, but, so far, the predictions fall far short of fulfillment.

Land is being bought and sold under the supervision of local agricultural commissions, but the rate of such sales at any given year has been less than 1 percent of the total, or one-third to one-fourth of the prewar sales. There has been a considerable change in the content of the transactions. No land can be bought for lease to others, which would create new tenancies. The sales are made chiefly by part-time, often postwar, farmers, whose major source of income does not come from agriculture and who became possessors of a minute holding following the reform. The elimination of such holdings, which are undersized even in Japanese terms, is a healthy development, ending as it does in somewhat larger, more efficient farms. In general, whatever the reasons leading to the purchase and sale, and whoever the participants in the transactions may be, there have been hardly any cases of land accumulation reaching the permissible ceiling of 7.5 acres, let alone exceeding it.

It is not surprising that they hold on to the land; everything in the long agrarian history of Japan underlines the quest for it. The monuments erected to enshrine the agrarian reform that made it possible, and the multi-volume histories published in every prefecture of Japan to preserve the memory of the quiet and yet stirring days when "land to the landless" was being put into effect, are the more dramatic expressions of the peasant's deep-rooted attachment to the land. This is an important answer to the most crucial of questions: Will the reform last?

Important, too, is the fact that landlords do not claim the return of the land, although their demands upon the Government for "reasonable" compensation persist. They cannot regain the land; the political climate favors the preservation of the reform. While many a reform measure enacted under the Occupation has since been revised or legislated out of existence, the agrarian reform is a conspicuous exception. When former Prime Minister Yoshida, no land reformer, points with pride to the fact that the enabling legislation was passed during his first postwar Cabinet, he speaks for all politically conservative governments of Japan who appreciate the political capital they enjoy in the countryside. The credit claimed by conservatives is painfully annoying to the Socialists, one of whose leaders, a former Minister of Agriculture, Mr. Hiroo Wada, is the real architect of the revolution. From the point of view of how lasting it will be, this is a happy augury. So long as diametrically opposed political creeds vie with each other for the honor of having fathered the land transfer program, it is politically safe.

VIII

This record of the single most important change in postwar Japan would not be complete without some consideration of the role of the United States. The Japanese and foreign literature are replete with references to the "Occupation land reform." The less learned farmers are more discerning. Fearful lest a visitor's remark carried the implication that Mr. Yoshida had fathered the reform, a farmer took it upon himself to set the record straight as he saw it: "No," said he, "not Mr. Yoshida, but Mr. Hiroo Wada and General MacArthur." To the present writer, a participant in and close observer of the reform, this seemingly strange partnership of a left-wing Socialist and an American five-star General, and in the order cited, comes closest to defining the role of the Occupation in helping bring about Japan's agrarian revolution.

Contrary to a widespread view, the land reform program was not American-made, packaged and delivered in Japan. The idea was as indigenous as the conditions which impelled it, as the numerous prewar (albeit unsuccessful) efforts bear testimony. And yet, the Occupation played a crucial role in overcoming the reluctance of the Japanese Government, in speeding up the process, in the active concern with certain phases of the legislation and in the steadfast support of all reform-minded Japanese.

The entire character of the Occupation was a singular demonstration of a conqueror binding the wounds of the conquered. What was true of the whole was particularly true of the attempt to help set rural Japan free. The Occupation would not have incurred the displeasure of American or Japanese public opinion if it had elected to stand aloof from this issue. Instead, it had chosen to champion the proposition that those who work the land should own it, harking back, even if unconsciously, to Senator Thomas Hart Benton, of Andrew Jackson's day, who had this to say:

The freeholder . . . is a natural supporter of a free government; and it should be the policy of republics to multiply their freeholders, as it is the policy of monarchies to multiply tenants. We are a republic, and we wish to continue so; then multiply the class of freeholders; sell for a reasonable price, and give to those who are able to pay; and give, without price, to those who are not. . . .

With variations, and in a different setting, this is roughly what has taken place in Japan, and this is where the American Occupation has left its mark on the face of Japan. The mere daring to come to grips with the fundamentals of rural Japan carried conviction to the farmers of the American concern for their welfare. In its effects upon Japan, and against the background of the general malaise which still finds large parts of the agrarian world restless and discontented, the United States acted with farsighted statesmanship. The Nestors of Japan have taken note of it.

IX

A decade after the farmers became land proprietors, the agrarian revolution in Japan stands out in sharp contrast to those of Communist Russia and China--in one, productive forces reaching out for new horizons; in the other, never-ending struggle to subdue the peasant into an acceptance of an arrangement which denies him his lifelong ambition. In Russia as in China, the old régimes were buried under the peasants' longing for the landlords' acres. Both Communist régimes have ridden to power by "cornering," as Marx put it, "the peasant chorus without which the proletarian battle cry will degenerate into just another swan song." But having cornered them, and firmly in the saddle, the Communists took away the land, herded the peasants into collectives and communes, and wrote "finis" to the short-lived but exhilarating experience of freeholding.

The forced collectivization begun in 1929-30 was Soviet Russia's second revolution and ushered in a social upheaval which nearly disemboweled the Soviet Union in the process. The opposition was drowned in blood or starved to death, but even the "victor" was nearly overcome by its fearfulness. Collectivization and communization of agriculture in China had no such immediate disruptive results, but it is undeniably true that this is also China's excruciatingly difficult, and uncompleted, second revolution, upon the outcome of which the future of the régime depends.

In the light of this, Japan's experience shows that, given the will, a conservative government can become an authentic "agrarian reformer," and with no recourse to blood and thunder. A peasant can attain his goal as a free and independent producer. When a government in power has the resolution to meet the land hunger of the landless, it has the political support of the peasantry. If in seizing power the Communists have performed any service at all, it is in proving that in the predominantly agrarian countries a government must have peasant support; failing that, it has no support at all.

It is the irony and bedevilment of Communism in the countryside that it threw away that support and substituted in its place a reign which only brute force can maintain. The Japanese agrarian revolution, on the other hand, has not perverted the idea of land to the landless, and has pointed the way for agrarian, non-Communist Asia as to how to satisfy the aspirations of the peasants without destroying in the process much else a nation lives by. That Korea, Taiwan, free Viet Nam, Burma, India--to a degree--and more recently Pakistan have already acted upon the lessons taught by the two types of revolution is a welcome promise of the shape of things to come. But if in the process of Communist imperialism some of them are overwhelmed, the driving force will no longer stem from the once welcome and enticing Communist bait of "Land and Liberty in Asia."

X

Such, in the main, are the consequences of Japan's land program. Even allowing for the relatively short period since the transformation, the village "after" the reform is not the same as "before." But whether from now on the attainments will be further advanced and deepened lies not with the reform. Directly and indirectly it will have added some new acreage, but this will not change the holding pattern to any significant degree. The rising farm population is bound to reduce the holdings still further and increase the number of farms as the sons and grandsons take over.

The somber fact is that while in the United States between 1920 and 1957 the number of farm units was reduced by 22 percent and the working farm population by nearly 40 percent, in Japan, during the same period, the comparable categories have both increased by 10 percent, despite the country's striking industrial upsurge. The current prosperity of Japanese agriculture cannot hide these harsh realities. Japan's non-agricultural economy has served as a safety valve by providing the farmers with approximately 40 percent of their income. If there is, therefore, any lasting answer for Japan's 37,000,000 agrarians, it must be sought outside of agriculture in expanding industrialization and its capacity to absorb rural unemployed and underemployed.

To note this is not to minimize the great ameliorative effects of the reform on the farmers of Japan and on the country as a whole. The countryside is at peace. The farmers own the land; they are unencumbered by debts, and they are a political and social force to be reckoned with. Many a bent back has been straightened, and the dignity of individual life and work has grown side by side with greater productive resourcefulness. In this lies a partial escape from the severe handicaps of small-scale agriculture pressed upon by a huge farm population.

The Japanese village is in a state of "uplift," which has enormously stimulated the desires for betterment. By the same token, the gap between anticipations and fulfillment will probably grow. The task of post-reform rural Japan is not complete fulfillment, but rather to prevent the gap from getting out of hand. But whatever the future holds in store for Japan's farmers, to date the widespread influence of the reform has been sufficiently profound to make it an epoch-making event in the agrarian history of Japan and an important guidepost for postwar agrarian institutional changes in other countries where they are long overdue.

[i] "The Promise of Agrarian Reform in Japan," by William M. Gilmartin and W. I. Ladejinsky, Foreign Affairs, January 1948.

[ii] New York: International Secretariat, Institute of Pacific Relations, 1940.

You are reading a free article.

Subscribe to Foreign Affairs to get unlimited access.

  • Paywall-free reading of new articles and a century of archives
  • Unlock access to iOS/Android apps to save editions for offline reading
  • Six issues a year in print, online, and audio editions
Subscribe Now
  • WOLF LADEJINSKY, Adviser to the Government of South Viet Nam; formerly with the Office of Foreign Agricultural Relations, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and former scientific consultant on the staff of SCAP, Tokyo
  • More By Wolf Ladejinsky