Rural Economic Development in Japan From the Nineteenth by Penny Francks

By Penny Francks

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Extra info for Rural Economic Development in Japan From the Nineteenth Century to the Pacific War (Contemporary Japan)

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Despite the significant urban growth of the first half of the Tokugawa period, which produced some of the largest cities in the world at the time, 80–85 per cent of the population still lived in villages in 1800 (Crawcour 1989: 571). Almost all of these would have engaged in cultivation, to some degree at least, and a government survey of 1874 found that 61 per cent of final output was classed as agricultural (Yamaguchi 1963: 5). In what follows, the agricultural structure that had become established by the nineteenth century is described, as background to the subsequent analysis of output growth in the central crop, rice, and in the other agricultural products grown around and alongside it.

10 Meanwhile, as double-cropping spread, farmers were developing other techniques designed to raise land and labour productivity in rice cultivation and free resources for other crops. g. Smith 1959: 94–5). Arashi’s work on Tokugawa-period records of the names of seed varieties, for example, shows that throughout the country, and even in the far north, 10–20 per cent of the varieties grown appear to have had the same names as varieties grown in the far south in Ky¯ush¯u (Arashi 1975: 300). The process of breeding late-planted, shortstemmed, fertilizer-responsive varieties suitable for use in double-cropping rotations culminated in the development of Shinriki, the ‘miracle’ variety which dominated rice cultivation in the warmer parts of the country in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, but which was, as Arashi shows, the product of a long history of varietal improvement in the more advanced agricultural regions around Osaka (1975: 366–72).

Meanwhile, the Land Tax Reform which accompanied this provided for formal private ownership of cultivated land and for the payment of fixed taxes on land in money. More broadly and more gradually, the new government’s measures accelerated the spread of markets in land, labour and output and the integration of rural areas into the national and world economies which had begun in the decades before 1868. However, it is difficult to argue that, in terms of the pattern of economic change and the day-to-day socio-economic life of those who lived in the Japanese countryside, 1868 marked a dramatic turning-point and the economic growth of the post-Restoration years is now generally viewed as the continuation of a long phase of expansion in agriculture and (largely rural) manufacturing dating back to the beginning of the century, if not earlier.

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