It may be that much less will be needed if we are prepared to live in cells like hens in a hen bank and be fed protein gruel piped in from the roof.—HENRY H. VILLARD1
THE POPULATION of Japan reached 90,700,000 in March 1957, making Japan third among nations in population density. Only the Netherlands and Belgium are more thickly populated.
Figures compiled in 1780 and 1846 indicate that the Japanese population remained comparatively stable at about 26 million for more than a century preceding the Meiji Restoration in 1868. The natural increase which multiplied the Japanese population by more than three times and brought it to the 90 million mark is therefore a development of the past century. In Japan, as in Europe, the increase in population accompanied the growth of modern industry.2
Japan’s population in 1872, when the first national census was taken, totaled 34,800,000. By 1912 it had reached 50 million; by 1937, 70 million. Since the end of World War II the population of Japan has increased by 18 million. The magnitude of this postwar increase can be appreciated if one realizes that this figure exceeds the population of Canada and is twice that of Australia. Population experts predict that the country will pass the 100-million mark some time before 1970, after which the population will level off at about this figure.
It is not the rate of increase in the population, which is now lower than in the United States, but the gain in absolute numbers—about a million a year—added to the present 90 million, which, in relation to a very small arable land area, makes the long-run Japanese problem serious and difficult.3
The Japanese birth rate has declined considerably in the postwar period, and is now less than two-thirds the prewar rate. Yet the death rate has dropped even more drastically and is now less than half the prewar level. The decline in the birth rate was due in part to the enactment of the Eugenics Protection Law (July 13, 1948)4 under which (a) the sale of contraceptives, banned by law up to that time, became legal, and (b) induced abortion was permitted if deemed necessary in the judgment of a designated physician and if the agreement of the expectant mother and her spouse was obtained. The latter provision was probably more effective than the former in contributing to the decline in the birth rate. The number of induced abortions rose from 246,104 in 1949 to 1,170,000 in 1955. Thus the rate of legal abortions jumped from 9 percent in 1949 to a startling 68 percent in 1955.5 However, according to a Ministry of Welfare survey, “the proportion of Japanese families surveyed that practiced contraception reached 33.2 percent for the whole country, 37.2 percent for the urban areas, and 30.4 percent for rural districts.”6
Japan’s death rate is now down to that of Western countries. Although part of the decline may be attributable to the fact that a large number of invalids and persons of weak health died during and immediately following the war, the importation, and subsequent manufacture in Japan, of large supplies of new wonder drugs, and particularly the remarkable improvement in Japan’s postwar public health facilities, are the main factors responsible for the sharp drop in the death rate.
Japan’s birth rate is now lower than, and its death rate comparable with, those of such relatively unoccupied and sparsely populated countries as New Zealand and South Africa. In view of the marked decline which has already occurred, the birth rate cannot be expected to go much lower, and Japan will do well to hold to the present level over the next decade. Thus relief from the pressure of population on the land, through a further considerable decline in the rate of population growth, is not likely.
Japan’s growth has made the problem of overpopulation even more acute than in the past. In 1935 each hectare,7 or two and one-half acres, of arable land had to feed 14 persons. Today the same land area must feed 20 persons. Only one acre in each six is cultivable. For each square mile of farm land, Japan has more than twelve times as many people to feed as the United States has.
In the century from 1860 to 1960, Japan’s population will have tripled, but its area under cultivation will have increased only one-third. The area of cultivated land during the 1881-90 decade averaged 4.6 million hectares, or 12 percent of the total land area. The cultivated area was enlarged steadily until 1921, when it reached 6.04 million hectares. This figure remained relatively constant until World War II, when some farm land was taken over for military purposes. Land available for crops in 1955 was estimated at 5.1 million hectares, or 14 percent of the total land area. If meadows and pastures are added to cultivated land the total rises to 17.4 percent of total land area. In striking contrast, 68.5 percent of the land area of the Netherlands falls in these two categories, 79 percent in Great Britain, 68 percent in Italy, and 58 percent in the United States. The mountainous nature of Japan’s terrain renders most of it unfit for cultivation.
|a Latest official estimate.|
|b Arable land and land under tree crops; excludes permanent pastures and meadows and forested land|
|c Cultivable area equals b plus unused but potentially productive areas|
|Sources: Demographic Yearbook, 1955, United Nations; Yearbook of Food and Agricultural Statistics, 1955, U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization, Part I, Production.|
As a result, Japan has but 0.06 cultivated hectares per capita, the lowest figure for any Asian, African, or Latin American country. India has 0.40, China 0.16, Indonesia 0.14—six and a half, almost three, and two times as much, respectively, as Japan. The Asian comparisons are shown in Table III-1. Or, in slightly different terms, Japan had a population density of 4,519 persons per cultivated square mile to 1,657 for China, 953 for the Philippines, 1,826 for the United Kingdom, 527 for France, and 221 for the United States (see Table III-2).
The paucity of arable land and the high density of population per cultivated acre make for very small-scale farming. The average acreage under one farm household in Japan is only a little more than two acres, compared with 155 acres for the United States. About 72 percent of the six million farm households in Japan have farms of only one hectare or less.8 These holdings are divided on an average into 15 to 20 scattered parcels, often including both paddy and upland. Fragmentation seems to have increased over the postwar decade. Although there has been an increase in the number of farm households since the war, the area under cultivation declined. Ultra-small farms with half a hectare or less increased in both actual number and percentage; farms with from one-half to one hectare rose slightly in percentage but showed a considerable increase in actual number, while farms of one hectare or more diminished both in actual number and in percentage.
The increase in the number of farm households has resulted in a reduction in unit size. The average size of the Japanese farm has fallen from 1.1 hectares before the war to 0.9 at present. While the growth of population in relation to the limited supply of arable land was undoubtedly a factor in reducing the average size of the Japanese farm, the main force was in all probability the land reform program begun in late 1946. The major features of this program were: (a) transfer of land ownership to farmers actually cultivating the land; and (b) improvement of farm tenancy practices for those who would continue to cultivate as tenants.
|a Data for 1953|
|Sources: Monthly Bulletin of Statistics, United Nations, May, 1956; Yearbook of Food and Agricultural Statistics, 1955, U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization.|
Prior to the land reform about 46 percent of the total cultivated land area was tenant-operated and about 67 percent of Japanese farmers rented all or part of the land they cultivated. Rents were high, ranging from 50 to 70 percent of the harvest. Debt was also high and interest rates were so exorbitant that total interest payments were as much as 25 to 30 percent of farm income. Under the land reform program nearly 65 percent of the cultivated land of Japan was purchased by the government for resale to tenant farmers. Since the terms were so favorable, the program met with an enormous response from tenants. As a result of the land reform, tenant farmed land was reduced from 6.3 million to 1.6 million acres. According to the 1955 agricultural census, predominantly owner operators constituted about 91 percent of all farmers, while tenant operators accounted for about 9 percent of farm families (see Table III-3). For the land remaining in tenancy there were provisions for written leases, rental ceilings, cash rentals, restrictions on land transfers, and other similar safeguards. More than half of the remaining tenant farmers now own a small piece of land. Landless tenants dropped to less than 5 percent of all farm operators.9 A comparison of the 1950 and 1955 farm censuses shows that the trend toward ownership of farm land by the actual operator continued unabated after the completion of the land reform measures in 1950.10
|a By “owner-farmer” is meant a farmer whose acreage worked is more than 90 percent his own.|
|b By “owner-tenant” is meant a farmer whose acreage worked is from 50 to 90 percent his own.|
|c By “tenant-owner” is meant a farmer whose acreage worked is from 10 to 50 percent his own.|
|d By “tenant” is meant a farmer whose acreage worked is less than 10 percent his own.|
|Source: Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Tokyo.|
In part as a result of the reform, the number of very small farms (less than one hectare) rose from 4,018,748 in 1946 to 4,293,100 in 1955. As compared with the 3.4 million farms of less than one hectare existing in 1941, there are now almost one million more of this tiny size.11
Despite the small size of the average farm, the average farm household consists of 6 persons, of whom 3 to 4 work directly on the land. Thus farm labor is supplied largely by members of the family, and only about 2 percent of the total farm households employ hired farm laborers. Small farms and large families mean that some members of the farm household must get their income from work other than farming, or at least supplement their farm income by other activities. Over 65 percent of Japan’s farm households supplement their agricultural income by sidelines.12 Only slightly more than a third are now able to earn enough income from agriculture to defray expenses without resort to outside activities. As one would expect, the smaller the farm the greater the resort to sidelines. For instance, farm households owning 0.5 hectare or less of farm land obtain only 30 to 40 percent of their income from agriculture.
Almost half (49 percent) of the Japanese population is engaged in agriculture, forestry, fishing, etc., and yet it obtains only about a fifth of the national product (see Table III-4). In contrast, the number employed in the primary industries in Great Britain is only 5 percent, in the United States 12 percent, and in West Germany 23 percent, and their share of national product is larger proportionately than in Japan.
This maldistribution of the national product is accompanied by serious underemployment in Japanese agriculture. In relation to output and income there are too many people on farms. The estimates of experts on the surplus farm population of Japan range from 3 to 6 million persons. Okasaki declares:
|Sources: Economic Institute, Hitotsubashi University, for 1878-1912; Economic Planning Agency, Tokyo, for 1934-36, 1955, and 1956.|
Because of the increase in the post-war agricultural population without an accompanying increase in the area of cultivated land, it was difficult to avoid a breakdown of the agricultural economy into smaller units and the consequent impoverishment of the farmers. On the basis of the existing area of land under cultivation, there is an overpopulation of some 5,000,000 in the present agricultural population.13
The Japanese countryside has traditionally been a refuge for city industrial workers in time of depression. A large proportion of the Japanese who work and live in industrial centers have family ties in the villages. When adversity strikes they return to the farm, where they can obtain at least shelter and a minimum of food at the cost of occasional labor. In the depressed days of the early thirties the jobless population of the urban areas poured into the farm districts, and farm households swelled despite the plight of the farmers. When preparations for war stimulated industrial employment in the middle and late thirties, the tide flowed back into the urban centers.
Toward the end of World War II many city workers lost their homes, or their jobs, or both, as a result of the air raids, and the trek back to the farms started again. It was accentuated after the surrender by the virtual collapse of Japanese industry, together with the extreme food shortage in the cities. The production index in manufacturing, based on 1934-36 as 100, fell to 28.9 in 1946, while agricultural production, measured in the same way, declined only to 60.8. By 1950 the number of farm households was larger than ever before in modern Japanese history.
The effects of the war were less damaging to agriculture than to manufacturing, and the extreme food shortage in the years immediately after the war caused the prices of farm produce to soar; the ratio of farm income to total national income advanced to 31 percent in 1946. The index of real income in agriculture stood at 108.0 in 1946 (on the basis of the 1934-36 average) as compared with 50.0 for industry. In fact John D. Eyre declares: “The Japanese farmer has enjoyed greater prosperity during the past decade than during any period of similar length in modern Japanese history.”14 As a result of the postwar return to the farms, which has receded only slightly in the last five years, it is estimated that there are now 25 percent more persons engaged in agriculture than before the war, despite the fact that the acreage under cultivation has not increased.15
The Economic Planning Agency noted: “It is an important fact that the agricultural and farm population have increased 20 to 30% over the prewar figure and have become fixed at that high level.”
Yet despite the large postwar increase in the agricultural labor force, Japan is, as a result of total population increase, further from feeding itself today than at any time in the past. In 1955, although a bumper rice crop set an all-time record, 27.2 percent of the foodstuffs and beverages consumed in Japan had to be imported.
Before World War II, Japan’s food deficiencies were more than supplied by its empire areas, mainly Korea and Formosa, leaving some surplus for re-export, but in the postwar period it has had to import over five million tons of foodstuffs annually (5.81 million in 1954 and 1955, 5.7 million in 1956) at a substantial cost in foreign exchange. In 1955 food imports amounted to $601 million, or one-fourth of total imports; in 1956 they totaled $544 million.
Thus maximizing food production is one of Japan’s most urgent problems. The elimination or significant reduction of Japan’s food deficit would materially lighten the Japanese balance of payments, but the physical and economic barriers can be overcome only gradually and in part. The Occupation’s Natural Resources Section held that there were good prospects for increasing food output. It stated that 40 percent of the paddy field areas south of Tokyo that lie idle half the year could be double-cropped by the introduction of better irrigation, drainage, and flood control. On this 600,000 hectares, a million additional tons of grain could be raised every year. Of equal importance, it held, are steps that might be taken to reduce the annual loss of staple foods that is caused largely by preventable insect attacks and diseases. These losses, it was claimed, exceed 3 million metric tons, or some 20 percent of total production of staple foods.16
Japan has had many plans in the past for the attainment of self-sufficiency in food.17 They have never been realized, partly because of lack of funds, but principally because they have been unrealistic and have failed to concentrate on the attainable. Since 1900 no Japanese administration has failed to give attention to the need for reclaiming land. With the tremendous influx of repatriates after the end of the war, as the growing food deficit became more urgent, greater stress was laid on this problem. The ten-year plan for increasing food production drafted by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry in 1951 was by far the most ambitious program yet contemplated, but events proved its unfeasibility, and it was later discarded. Nevertheless government expenditures channeled into agricultural public improvements have doubled since the prewar years, and the cumulative total area of land improved under government financing between 1946 and 1954 reached 1.7 million hectares.
The basic difficulty is that Japan has already accomplished the large gains in agricultural productivity and land utilization which the other, underdeveloped countries of Asia are now seeking to achieve. Japanese rice yields per acre, as Table III-5 indicates, are already among the highest in the world. Between 1880 and 1920 Japanese agriculture achieved a phenomenal 77 percent increase in output and doubled the productivity of farm labor, with relatively little capital outlay. This was done principally through the liberal use of fertilizer and the improvement of rice strains, but also partly through improvements in water and pest control and in cultivating, transplanting, and weeding.18 These improvements carried Japan almost to the top rank of rice-growing countries.
With the bumper crop of 79 million koku in 1955 (one koku is 4.96 bushels), and 69.7 million in 1956 (compared with 66.1 million in 1952, 54.9 million in 1953, and 60.9 million in 1954), due largely to extremely favorable weather conditions, particularly the almost complete absence of typhoon damage, Japanese yields rose close to Spanish, Italian, and Australian levels. That further advances can be obtained seems unlikely in view of the small size of the Japanese farm, which militates against further mechanization, as does the relative cheapness of family farm labor and the scarcity of capital in rural areas. The agricultural census of 1955 showed a farm population of 36,469,000 in 6,042,915 households (6.0 persons per household), with 4,293,100 households, or 72 percent of the total number, cultivating farms of one hectare or less. Another 2.8 percent operated farms of 1 to 5 hectares, and less than one percent had farms of 5 hectares and over.
|n.a. = not available|
|a1931-35.c1931-37.eAverage of 2 years.|
|b1936-39.d1936-38.fAverage of 3 years.|
|Source: Yearbook of Food and Agricultural Statistics, 1956, U. N. Food and Agricultural Organization, Part I, Production. The prewar yield figure for Indochina ranked between Madagascar and the Philippines. Figures for 1953, 1954, and 1955, however, are either not available or unreliable for Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam, and they are therefore not included.|
Yet despite these tiny holdings there has been in the last decade a surprising growth in the degree of small-scale mechanization. According to the 1955 farm census, the number of farm households using the so-called Japanese tractor, the power cultivator, has risen from 18,560 (0.3 percent of the total) in 1950 to 455,610 (7.5 percent) in 1955. This is a 25-fold increase in five years. Before and during the war, mechanization of Japanese farming was limited to the processing of harvested rice and other grains. Only in the last decade has Japanese agriculture made use of mechanical means of plowing, tilling, and other cultivating operations. The use of powered threshers and hullers increased from 2,676,640 households (43.8 percent) in 1950 to 4,400,635 (72.8 percent) in 1955, indicating that power threshing has become the normal practice.19 Power cultivators or tractor ploughs in Japan are generally powered by 5 horsepower motors and are far smaller than farm tractors used in the United States. Still they are four times more powerful than animal labor and eight times more efficient than manual labor.
This growth of small-scale mechanization was largely due to (a) the Occupation-sponsored land reform, which freed Japanese farmers from high rentals and thus enabled them to accumulate capital, (b) the improved financial position of farmers in the postwar decade resulting from high farm prices and increased production, and (c) long-term loans at low interest rates for the joint use of agricultural implements under the Agricultural Mechanization Promotion Law of 1953.20 As a result the ratio of machine power to all agricultural motive power, which was about 20 percent in 1935, has now reached 65 percent. It may therefore be said that improvements in the efficiency of agricultural machinery and tools and their popularization and adaptation to the needs of Japanese farmers represent one of the significant developments in postwar Japanese agricultural production. Yet it brings problems with it, for, as the Economic Planning Agency says:
Whereas in Europe and America, the agricultural population has generally drifted away from farming and the mechanization of agriculture has been developed to meet the resultant labor deficiency, in Japan the order is just the reverse. In Japan, the trend toward mechanization first comes about and then efforts are made to eliminate the labor saved as a result of this mechanization as well as to diversify management. This is not always easy, however, and is at present contributing to an increase in incomplete employment. Herein lies one of the problems of the recent trend toward agricultural capital intensification.
An increase in the use of agricultural chemicals against noxious insects and diseases is another conspicuous postwar trend. With the development of new products of high efficiency, the amount of investment in agricultural chemicals per tan (0.245 acre) has risen to about six times the prewar level. For example, the consumption by farm households of herbicide 2.4D, which eliminates weeds, has increased from 1.3 kilograms per tan in 1950 to 19.4 in 1955. All in all farmers’ purchases of production goods are about double the prewar volume.
The contribution of livestock to per capita daily caloric intake is lower for the Japanese people than for any other nation. It is lower even than that of India, where the Hindu taboo against killing cattle keeps meat consumption at a low level. Of the six million agricultural households, it is estimated that over half are at present without livestock. The scarcity of arable land, the lack of grazing land in the primary farming regions, and the relatively high cost of imports of feed concentrates handicap the expansion of animal husbandry. Japan has only one-quarter as many cattle and one-thirtieth as many sheep as the United Kingdom. To remedy the situation the government secured the passage of the Livestock Improvement and Increase Law in 1950, and since then there has been some increase in the livestock population on Japanese farms. For example, between 1950 and 1955 the number of milk cows kept by Japanese farm households doubled, yet even then only 4.2 percent of Japanese farm households kept milk cows. Japan is still behind other nations in livestock development.
The Japanese people derive approximately 85 to 90 percent of the animal protein in their diet from fish. Fish consumption is higher per capita in Japan than in any other country. The average Japanese consumes 102 grams of fish products daily, compared with 57 grams in Norway, 36 in England, 18 in France, 15 in Canada, and 14 in the United States. In prewar years the production of Japanese fishermen averaged 9.3 billion pounds, double the catch of the United States, which ranks second among fish-producing nations. Destruction of the fishing fleet and restrictions placed on the fishing grounds greatly reduced the catch in the immediate postwar years. The limitations of the “MacArthur line,” restricting Japanese fishermen in waters near Korea, were removed in April 1953, but Japan subsequently encountered drastic limitations imposed by South Korea, Communist China, and the Soviet Union.21 Despite these, however, the fishing fleet has now been rebuilt (1.3 million gross tons in 1955 compared with 526,000 gross tons in 1934-39) and the total fishing catch increased to 1.15 billion kan (a kan is 8.27 pounds) in 1956, 30 percent above the prewar peak (see Table III-6). Japan is once again the world’s most active fishing nation, with a catch almost double that of the United States, which ranks second. Owing to the increase in population, however, Japan’s per capita consumption and its exports of fish were both, at the end of 1956, still below prewar levels.
|a One kan is equivalent to 3.75 kg. or 8.27 pounds.|
|Source: Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Tokyo.|
In addition to the problems of international restrictions and seizure of fishing vessels by unfriendly nations, the Japanese face the problem of depletion of fish in coastal waters. The Japanese fishing censuses, taken over intervals of five years, indicate that between 1949 and 1954 the percentage of the catch taken by small-scale fishermen operating with non-motor-driven vessels, or with motor-driven vessels of less than 3 gross tons, fell from 28 to 17 percent, while that of the large fishing companies increased from 19 to 25 percent. Thus the small marginal fisherman is being forced out of the industry. The government is now turning its attention to this problem. Just what, if anything, can be done remains to be seen.
The overall picture of food in relation to population is difficult and perplexing. Japan cannot feed itself.22 The percentage of food it must import has been increasing. The large annual cost is a severe drain on its balance of payments. There is vast overpopulation and underemployment on Japanese farms.23 In contrast with the trend in most countries, where farm population has declined since before the war, in Japan it has increased.
Just as Japan cannot feed itself, the average Japanese farmer cannot live off his farm. He must supplement his income from outside activities and the larger part of the increase in his income in recent years has come from these activities rather than from farming (see Table III-7). The number of farms has increased, but land under cultivation has decreased. The size of the average Japanese farm, already tiny, has declined.
Although the Japanese rice output and fish catch reached new peaks in 1955 and 1956, the steady growth of population creates an ever-expanding need, which steadily becomes more difficult to meet because the limits of arable land, of yields per acre, and of fishing grounds seem close at hand. From an economic point of view, consolidation of landholdings and increased mechanization, accompanied by the draining off of the surplus agricultural population into expanded industry or overseas migration, would seem logical, but this would be very difficult to achieve. The current prosperity of Japanese farmers is somewhat deceptive, for it conceals maladjustments which may at some future time cause a good deal of trouble, as they did in the early thirties.
|Source: Survey of Farm Economy, 1957, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Tokyo.|