Japan Economic Sectors
Agriculture and livestock. – The cultivated lands in Japan amounted to 6 million and 41,111 hectares in 1938 (15.8% of the total area) and occupied over 14 million individuals out of the 29 million active population, feeding 80-90% of all residents and providing a large number of products, which are the basis of the country’s industrial wealth. Cultivation is largely divided into small plots, ranging from 1 to 4 hectares. The work is not always mechanized, but on the other hand it is supported by a large irrigation network. The main agricultural activity remains rice cultivation; also noteworthy are the productions of potatoes, wheat and tea.
The development of these crops proceeded satisfactorily even in the war years, so much so that eg. that of rice was 6,300,000 tons in 1945; corresponding to 2/3 of the pre-war harvest and in 1946 of 9,002,000, which made it possible to decrease imports and increase the official ration of 1945 by 20%, estimated at 1400 calories per individual. The wheat harvest was in 1947, of 10.966.000 q., That of tobacco of 597.890 q., That of tea of 249.380 q. The land reform of 11 October 1947 was a remarkable achievement, which promises real rural progress. It provides for the concession to peasants of plots of land, generally of about 4 hectares, with payment facilities through agricultural credit, and extensive technical assistance with the development of farmers’ cooperatives. It is expected that this providence will benefit 80% of the rural population and that as many as 2 million farmers will become small owners.
Until 1938, sericulture kept its great importance. In this year it employed almost 2 million families and produced a spring and autumn cocoon production of 322 million kg., Corresponding to a value of more than 419 million yen.
But with the war this breeding lost its primacy, also due to the reduction of the surfaces cultivated with mulberry trees, caused by the extension of cereal crops. In favor of sericulture, however, a five-year plan has been prepared, according to which the total area of 183,000 ha., Planted with mulberry trees in 1947, will have to increase to 270,000 ha. in 1951, passing the production of cocoons from 77 million kg. to 138 million, corresponding to about one third of the pre-war period.
Compared to 1930, the number of cattle increased considerably (2 million and 86,000 in 1947) and vice versa that of horses slightly decreased (on the same date, 1,254,000). In 1937 there were 89,815 sheep, 293,302 goats and 1,109,739 pigs.
Forests. – According to Picktrue, they continue to be a substantial source of wealth for Japan, covering nearly 21 million ha in 1937. (54.5% of the total area), with an increase in extension compared to 1930, for the reforestation carried out, and a production of wood of about 136 million yen, of which over 26 million for pine and fir.
Fishing. – In the period 1938-42 Japan was at the head of world production with 3,622,000 t. in 1942 (about 28% of world production). In thousands of yen, the value of the fishery was around 220,000 for fresh fish and algae, and 215,000 for preserved fish. After the Great Depression of the years 1942-45, fishing resumed in 1946, with 330,000 t. of products. At the end of 1947 the fishing fleet numbered 16,411 steel-wood units, even of over 5 tons, with a total tonnage of 419,342.
Mineral resources and industries. – In 1935 the following figures were given, relating to extractions: gold, 18,321 kg; silver, 256.004 kg.; copper, 70,913 tons; zinc, 34,191 tons; coal, 37,762,491 tons; with regard to processing: cast iron, 413,507 tons; steel, 3,976,075 t. After the war, a maximum production capacity of 2 million tonnes was imposed on Japan. of iron and 3.5 of steel, which also leads to less coal production. In fact, in 1946, 20.35 million tonnes were extracted. of coal and 180,000 t. of iron and 552,000 t. of steel.
Among the industrial activities, before the war the first place remained to spinning, which in 1936 recorded 7130 factories and 350,000 workers and a production estimated at more than 1,741,638,000 yen, of which over half a billion for silk yarn. Also noteworthy were the enterprises of artificial silk, the textile and electrical ones, which in 1936 were calculated at 9867, of which 9099 were suppliers of electricity.
Completely demolished and greatly damaged by bombing, the industries were in full ruin in September 1945. Now they continue to suffer from an acute depression also due to the lack of coal, the inadequacy of transport and capital, due to high inflation. and the uncertainty of entrepreneurs in the face of the problem of reparations and the critical national situation. Thus the global index of industrial production marks a very tenuous progress, passing, from January 1946 to January 1947, from 15.8 to 30.4 with the greatest increases from 46.1 to 77.3 for coal, from 43.1 to 112.5 for iron, from 10.3 to 21.7 for metals, from 6.4 to 18 for textiles, etc. Differences of views between the United States, interested in a rapid Japanese economic recovery, and Australia, also contribute to delaying it.
Taking into consideration the main productions obtained, we note first of all that every effort has been used to activate the extraction of coal, which yields over 4 million t. per month in 1944 it had dropped to 500,000 in November 1945, rising to 2 million in January 1947. D. Mac Arthur had suggested the nationalization of the mines, but, in the face of strong opposition from interested circles, he withdrew the project.
From 1943 to 1946, iron ore production fell from 225,000 t. to 46,000, of cast iron from 332,000 to 15,000. The textile industry has suffered extremely serious damage also because the Japanese government used its machinery to a large extent to make as much iron material available to the war industries as possible. Thus the production of cotton yarns (which had 12 million and 278 thousand spindles and 254 thousand looms in 1940) in the period 1943-46 contracted from 9400 to 4900 tons. and that of artificial textile fibers, in which Japan had conquered a leading position (96.5 million tons of rayon and 176 thousand of other fibers in 1938), had reduced to 315,000 tons. in 1942. That of raw silk of 34 million kg. in 1939 it dropped to 2 million in 1946, rising to 9 million in 1947. The spinning mills were reduced in 1946 to 268 and the basins from 535,000 to 42,670. Nothing is known about shipbuilding and the mechanical industry, which were also very flourishing before the war and which owing to this must have certainly received a strong impulse.