Agriculture is, and always has been, the country’s greatest economic resource and rice is its main product. Due to the predominantly mountainous character of the territory of the Empire, only about 19% of its surface is usable for agricultural purposes. For Japan, this figure is 26%, but this area has not yet been fully cultivated. In general, in the south it is more so than in the north. In Kyūshū, for example, 80% of agricultural land is exploited, in the regions of Kwantō and in those around Ōsaka and Nagoya it is 30-43%, while in the mountainous regions of northern Hondo only 9%., 3%.
In the formation of the agricultural land, the alluvium is of little importance, because the considerable slopes of the relief do not allow the accumulation in the plains of large quantities of debris. On the other hand, the abundant and widespread volcanic materials of the Cenozoic and Neozoic have much greater importance, often represented by vast layers of ashes, which constitute an excellent soil for crops, provided that, due to their high silica content, they are suitably corrected. with other materials and fertilizers. Granitic soils, so abundant everywhere, are the most suitable for rice cultivation, because the very fine and impermeable particles resulting from the disintegration of the feldspar, penetrating into the subsoil, retain the water on the surface, maintaining the humidity required by the plant.
According to Cachedhealth, the moderate temperature and the abundance of rainfall also provide exceptionally favorable conditions for agriculture, both because they make possible a great variety of crops, and because they allow intensive cultivation, which, at least in part, compensates for the scarcity of agricultural soil. The significance of this for the nation’s economy will become clear when one thinks that, while the area cultivated in Japan is just 1/20 of that of the United States, it must feed a population equal to half of these. In general, after the rice harvest, in September and October, wheat or barley is sown, which are harvested in May; the soil is then flooded and rice is planted again. The agricultural population is about half of that of the country. In 1926 it was represented by 5,555.
This excessive fragmentation of the agricultural land is due in part to the topography of the country, rich in variations and in part to the greater capacity of cultivation on a small area to feed a dense population.
During the feudal era the daimyō and their direct vassals, the samurai, were the owners of the land and their farmers were the tenants. With the Restoration, they took possession of the lands they cultivated and from this the current agrarian structure was born. Today, those who own lands can cultivate them themselves or give them to sharecropping. In the first case the cultivation system is called jisaku, in the other kosaku. In 1924, 31% of agricultural families worked in jisaku, 28% in kosaku, the rest half in one way, half in the other. Recently the first system has been spreading more and more, partly due to the accidents that frequently arise between the owner and the sharecropper, due to the lack of legislation that regulates their relations in a precise way, partly due to the impulse of the government, which, in order especially to prevent agricultural populations from pouring into the cities, already so congested, subsidize financially and help those who want to become owners by any means.
The main product of the fields is rice, grown on 55% of the total agricultural area; then come cereals with 28%, mulberry with 10%, then soy, sweet potatoes, azuki (Phaseolus radiatus), tea, tobacco, vegetables, etc. come again. Rice (kome) is the most common food and very often, especially among farmers, exclusive to Japanese. Rice is an exclusive production of the regions hit by the monsoons, therefore it cannot be cultivated either in Sakhalin or in the Kurils. The most producing regions are the provinces of Niigata, Fukuoka, Hyōgo and Aichi. The total Japanese production, around 108 million hl. the year is not sufficient for the national requirement, which, although with fluctuations, is also continuously increasing; the difference (from 9 to 18 million hl. per year) must therefore be imported from abroad, especially from China. The average annual value of rice production, in the five-year period 1923-27, was 1,944,048 yen, corresponding to approximately 66% of the total annual average value of agricultural production in the same period. sake, alcoholic beverage prepared by fermentation. Wheat (mugi) is a subsidiary food used especially for the manufacture of sweets, udon, Japanese macaroni, etc.; it must also be imported from abroad. Soy (daizu) is, after rice, the most popular food. Soya beans are eaten as they are or processed to extract the oil, or to make products such as miso, especially milk, no act ō or soy cheese, t ō was soy or gelatin; the most important, however, is the sh ō yu (hence the name soy), a kind of sauce, a must in indigenous cuisine. Tea (cha) is originally from China where, in very remote times, it was introduced in Japan. Today it is grown especially in the southern part of Hondo (prov. Of Shizuoka, Wakayama and Nara). The Japanese only use green tea; the black one is for export. This takes place largely in America, where, despite the competition from fearsome rivals, such as tea from Ceylon, Java and India, Japanese tea is highly appreciated especially due to the persistence of its pleasant aroma. Total tea production was around 37-39 million kg in the four-year period 1927-30. Tobacco was introduced in Japan by the Europeans (16th century). Its cultivation is a state monopoly and therefore subject to government surveillance; in the four-year period 1927-30 it gave over 600,000 q. nodded. L’), cotton (wata), hemp (asa) are also cultivated but on a very small scale. Sugar cane is grown only in Formosa, beetroot, on the other hand, largely in the eastern regions of the island of Yezo. Fruit growing does not have the same importance in Japan as it does in Italy, and this is due, more than anything else, to the climatic conditions, especially the atmospheric precipitations, which are more abundant than in Italy. Among the fruits whose production is remarkable are plum, peach, pear, persimmon, apple, grape and mandarin.
Even the breeding of animals does not have much importance in the activity of the Japanese peasant because, due to the scarcity of agricultural land and the need to use all the available land for food crops, the country lacks meadows and pastures; on the other hand, the excessive fragmentation of this, almost does not make you feel the lack of animal help in rural work. The purpose of breeding is therefore almost always to obtain useful products such as milk, eggs, wool, etc. However, it is greatly encouraged by the state, both with the importation of good breeds and with the establishment of rational breeding stations.
Cattle (about one and a half million) are raised especially in the western part of Hondo and in the islands of Shikoku and Kyūshū. Horses (about one and a half million) abound in the north, but they begin to spread to the south in the provinces of Fukuoka, Kumamoto, Miyazaki. Pigs (about 700,000) are widespread in Ryū-kyū, in the provinces of Kagoshima, Shizuoka and in Kwantō. Goats (215,400) make up about 65% of the livestock population of the Okinawa province; however, they also abound on the island of Kyushu. Sheep (20,700) are very little widespread and are mainly found in the north; most of it is owned by the government which is trying to spread them. There is a large number of poultry, which is raised almost everywhere, but especially in the provinces of Aichi, Chiba and Kagoshima.
An activity that should be placed among those of an agricultural nature is sericulture, which in the rural economy occupies a place equal, in importance, to that of rice cultivation. In 1925, sericulture was practiced by 1,948,706 families, especially in central Japan (provinces of Nagano, Gumma, Saitama, Aichi, Yamanashi, Gifu and Fukushima) and its development has been remarkable, as evidenced by the fact that in the last 40 years the production of cocoons has become eight times greater (kg. 368.689.011 in the four-year period 1927-30 against kg. 42.332.557 in the five-year period 1885-89).
The following table concerns the main agricultural productions of the last five years (the quantities are given in thousands of q.):