Agriculture and farming. – According to behealthybytomorrow, 45% of the active population is still employed in agriculture. The land splitting, accentuated by the post-war agrarian reform, which made most Japanese farmers into small direct farmers (today 82% of the farmers own the land on which they work), is generally accompanied by the spread of the type of farm family, in which all valid members of each family are involved. These farms normally have less than one hectare of land and each family is made up of an average of 4-5 people; it follows that the material work of man has an extraordinary importance in the production process.
Although it is therefore a form of agriculture that is still backward with very little remuneration for the workers, the yield of the crops is excellent in itself, and is such as to at least ensure the nutrition of the farmers. In the best soils with a suitable climate (especially in the southern parts of the Archipelago) during the same year the cultivation of rice alternates with that of barley and wheat, and in this way we try to obtain – with extensive use of fertilizers and labor – two cereal crops per year. Despite these techniques which aim at the maximum possible productions, regardless of the necessary costs, Japan still has a food deficit of 20% which is covered by imports (for example, 25-30 million cereals are imported per year).
On a cultivated area of 5,048,000 ha, 3,232,000 ha (64%) are used for rice cultivation (143,280,000 q in 1957). The other main cereal crops are barley (1957: 928,000 ha and 21,600,000 q) and wheat (1957: 615,000 ha and 13,300,000 q). Among other food plants, citrus fruits prevail (1957: 7,650,000 q), soy (1957: 4,590,000 q), sugar beet (1957: 950,000 q of sugar), sugar cane (1957: 190,000 q sugar), potatoes. Other important crops are tobacco (1957: 73,000 ha and 1,450,000 q) and tea (1957: 45,000 ha and 724,000 q).
Sericulture, given the current difficulties in exporting silk, due to the prevalence of artificial fibers on world markets, is not as important as it once was. In 1957, however, Japan was the largest producer with 1.167.240 q of cocoons (out of 2.695.400 q produced in the world), but the pre-war production was around 3.5-4 million q. The farming of pearl oysters (in Toba) is also important. on the other hand, livestock farming continues to be poorly developed, except that of sheep (which have more than tenfolded in twenty years). In 1957 there were 3,177,000 cattle, 1,546,000 pigs, 945,000 sheep, 818,000 horses, 669,000 goats.
Forests. – The forests still cover 22,545,000 ha (over 4 times the cultivated area), despite the damage suffered in the last 25 years, due to excessive and irrational cuts. In addition to supplying construction timbers, they also contribute to feeding the paper industry and some artificial fibers (1957: mechanical pulp 772,000 t, chemical 1,663,000 t).
Fishing. – Japan still has the primacy of fishing in the world: 53.990.000 q in 1957, 400.000 boats. There are 600,000 employees and 1,400,000 people are engaged in fishing only as a complementary activity.
Japanese fishermen have been greatly damaged by the loss of the Kurils and Korea, whose continental shelves are particularly rich in fish. The product, consisting of sardines (12 million q per year), tuna, salmon, cod, herring and shrimp, is partly canned and exported. The Japanese also participate in whaling in Antarctica with 54 whalers and 5 farm ships. In 1957, 14,614 chiefs were killed.
Foreign trade. – Imports involve two characteristic product sectors: food products and industrial raw materials. In 1956 the imported goods were the following (in US dollars): raw cotton 510 million, crude oil 350, wool 250, scrap iron 240, wheat 160, iron ore 160, sugar 120, coal 100, other commodities (with worth less than $ 100 million) $ 1,339 million.
Exports mainly concern industrial products, but there are also crude products (such as silk) and semi-finished products, which Japan, despite its high degree of industrialization, finds it convenient to export to benefit from better customs treatment in the buyer countries. The commodities exported in the same year 1956 (also in US dollars) were: 310 million ships, 260 cotton artifacts, 210 iron and steel artifacts (excluding ships), 130 rayon artifacts, 120 packs, 110 fish, other commodities (with values of less than 100 million dollars) 1360 million dollars.
In the same year 1956 the countries that supplied the greatest imports were: USA with 35% of the total, Australia (8.1%), Canada (4.3), Saudi Arabia (3.9), Mexico (3.5), Philippines (3.3), Malaysia (3.2), India (2.6), Indonesia (2.4), Great Britain (2.2). It should be noted that China, now absent among Japan’s major suppliers, sent 14% of imported goods in the period 1934-36.
The countries to which the greatest exports went were (1956): United States with 21.2% of the total, Liberia (10%: these are ships purchased by non-Liberian owners, but destined to fly the Liberian flag), Hong- Kong (4.9), India (4.5), Formosa (3.2), Malaysia (3), Thailand (2.9), Indonesia (2.8), Communist China (2.8), Ghana (2.7). Still on the subject of the changes that occurred in trade between Far Eastern countries after the Second World War, it should be noted that in the aforementioned period 1934-36 China absorbed 32.8% of Japanese exports.
Here are the values of foreign trade in the five-year period 1954-1958 (in millions of yen): Year 1954: imports 863,785.4, exports 586,562; 1955: 889.715 and 723.816; 1956: 1,162,705.9 and 900,229; 1957: 1,542,090.1 and 1,028,886.6; 1958: 1,091,510 and 1,035,455; 1959: 1,295,280 and 1,244,520.