Japan's Success


13. Chapter 13

Resources and Industrial Progress

It is curious that in Japan, which has a smaller proportion of agricultural land than any other civilized country in the world, agriculture should have attained a position of such supreme importance. Yet, despite many handicaps which might have thwarted a less resolute and resourceful people, more than three-fifths of the population are dependent on the land, compelled to the hard lot and the plain and clean living which must be the part of all who till a somewhat unkindly soil. These dominant facts must be ever in the mind of the student of Japan, since they reveal a condition of affairs which has had a marked effect in directing the currents of past and recent history. Soilpoverty was the root cause of Japan's entry into the three great wars of modern years, and it is no exaggeration to say that the Chino-Japanese and Russo-Japanese Wars were won on the rice-fields from which the legions of Japan were mainly drawn.

In the old days, when a far larger population was fed with ease from local supplies, the tiller of the soil ranked high in the social scale, and was a man of means ; in later years the farmer has stood in a quagmire of abject poverty. This condition of affairs is not a cae of individual or even collective misfortune ; it arises from basic conditions, and is the poverty of a race. The result has been exhibited in a tendency during recent years for the young farmer to forsake the country and join the industrial wage-earning class in the cities. To raise the status of the farming population is the problem which has been set modern Japan.

From many aspects the conditions which confront the agriculturist are abnormal. Japan is a land of small holdings ; it was well said by Uchimuraj ' there are no farms ; there are only gardens '. Only three farmers in a hundred cultivate as much as 8 acres each, and 70 per cent, of the whole class must subsist on holdings of 2 acres. The percentage of land under cultivation in Japan proper is only abcfut one-sixth of the total area, and in spite of highly intensive cultivation, rigid frugality, and in most cases skilful husbandry, the vast majority of the agricultural class cannot live by the land alone. Consequently, every member of a household employs his or her enforced leisure from farming in some occupation whereby the joint income may be augmented. Chief among these are sericulture and filature ; others are various manufactures from straw, and forestry and fishing.

The agricultural class is divided into jinushi (landowners), jisaku (farmers or peasant-proprietors), and kosaku (farmers or tenants pure and simple). The last-nariied comprise about 50 per cent, of the farming population. The jinushi are capitalists, very few farming their own lands ; the peasant-proprietors, who often cultivate portions of land for the larger proprietors, make a fair living ; but for the tenant farmers a life of privation is the only outlook.

Rice, besides being the staple food of the people, is the basis of the national drink, sake, and its importance is equal to that of all other products combined. It is grown in two varieties, glutinous and non-glutinous, and it is from the latter variety, which forms about one-tenth of the crop, that sake is brewed. The area under rice has increased 80 per cent, in the last thirty-five years, and is believed by many to have reached its maximum. Irrigation, chiefly from rivers and reservoirs, but also from lakes, weUs, and springs, is universal in the cultivation of paddy-fields, and farming communities frequently combine to install mechanical pumping-plant. Good paddy-fields can be made to bear rice crops in summer and barley and other crops in winter. The upland fields, being unirrigable, are only to a very limited extent used for the cultivation of rice. Rotation crops are, however, raised twice a year, usually barley and wheat as winter crops, and soya, sweet potatoes, and millet as summer crops. The ordinary potato was brought into Japan soon after the Restoration, and its cultivation has made such rapid progress that there is now a considerable export trade to Russia, Siberia, and the Philippines. Tea flourishes exceedingly in the warm and humid climate of Japan. Introduced from China in a. d. 805, it became rapidly an indispensable item in the diet of all classes.

The cotton-growing industry has been almost entirely swamped by imports from America, China, and India, and its present position is hopeless. Moreover, the fibre of native cotton is much shorter than that of foreign species.

Hemp, as a material for cloth, has been supplanted by cotton, and is now chiefly used in the manufacture of fishing-nets and ropes. Its production is still, however, considerable. It is grown chiefly in Hokkaido. Tobacco, on the other hand, is cultivated everywhere save in Hokkaido. The manufacture of tobacco is a government monopoly, and growers must sell all their produce to the authorities. It follows that the State has full control over the cultivation of the plant, and of late years it has used its powers to restrict the area planted in order that more attention may be paid to the improvement of the quality.

Sugar-cane was grown, in Oshima and Okinawa (in the Riukiu islands) as long ago as a. d. 1600, and until recently Sanuki, in the Kagawa prefecture, was the centre of a considerable refining industry. But it is Formosa which is destined to render sugar-cane growing really important in the economy of Japan.

A comparison of the relative positions of human and animal labour in paddy-fields and upland farms shows that the area tilled exclusively by human labour still forms a large proportion of the total, though it tends steadily to decrease. The draught animals used by farmers are oxen and horses, and the proportion of animals employed up to a recent date worked out at little better than one animal to each two households.

Such a condition of affairs naturally raises the question of stock-breeding. The wars with China and Russia emphasized the scarcity and poor quality of the native stock, and in 1906 the authorities established a horse administration bureau. The breeds imported are mostly British, and they are gradually replacing the native stock. In much the same way the native breeds of horned cattle, strong and hardy beasts of burden, though ill-looking through neglect in breeding, are disappearing in favour of imported or cross-breeds. By precept and example, and by means of prizes, the government of Japan fosters and promotes stock-breeding to the limit of its resources, and when the difiiculty of extending and developing the industry is considered, its improvement under State encouragement is highly satisfactory.

Generally speaking the education of the agriculturist to a better knowledge of the science of his industry is steadily extending, and has undoubtedly contributed to the improvement of yield of crop per -unit of area. Hundreds of thousands of farmers have now completed their courses of instruction at the schools, and a knowledge of the more productive methods of agriculture is being widely spread.

Silk is of first-rate importance ; ten million bushels of cocoons are treated annually, satisfying the large home demand and providing for a considerable export trade, mainly with the United States. Authentic records show that the silkworm was first introduced into Japan by a Chinese royal prince, a. d. 195, and that the first knowledge of the art of silk-weaving was imparted to the Japanese by emigrants who, in a. d. 283, accompanied another Chinese prince to Japan, became naturalized and were settled in various districts as instructors to the inhabitants. From the very beginning the industry was encouraged by the court, which set the example of planting mulberry trees and rearing the worms, and stimulated production by enacting that some of the taxes paid in kind should be paid in silk fabrics. The opening of the country to foreign trade was, however, in conjunction with the subsequent epidemic of silkworm disease in Europe, the starting-point of the present immense importance of sericulture in Japan.

Silkworm-rearing and raw silk manufacture seem almost as if they had been specially designed for the benefit of small farmers. Conducted on a large scale, sericulture has never been successful, but in the hands of nearly 1,500,000 families scattered throughout the Empire from Hokkaido to Formosa it thrives admirably. It cannot be doubted that the outlook for sericulture in Japan is most favourable.

The State is watching carefully over the future of agriculture in all its phases, educational, financial, and the rest. Probably no government in the world gives so much attention to the promotion, encouragement, and protection of industrial enterprise as does the government of Japan.

The Hypothec Bank of Japan, which was founded with the object of facilitating the supply of capital for agricultural purposes, has lent large sums. Moreover, the Co-operative Societies Law has done good work in promoting the formation of credit, purchase, sale, and productive societies. The agricultural and the horticultural experimental stations now estabHshed in nearly every prefecture have also been of incalculable service to the industry ; the silk conditioning house has had the effect of rehabilitating the sUk producers in the eyes of the traders ; and few of the government's many other measures for the improvement of Japan's chief industry have failed in their object.

Given this parental care, the assiduity and inherited aptitude of the Japanese agriculturist, and a soil which, while not prolific, has always responded to the farmer's wooing, it would seem justifiable to regard the position of agriculture in Japan as assured for many years to come.

In the forests, which cover 60 per cent, of her total area, Japan has entailed inheritance from the remote past. The entail is still respected ; in recent years, however, the property has been cautiously developed and exploited, and the yield increased to an extent and with a rapidity which indicates great resources. Forestry and reafforestation are applied sciences which are far from having reached their final phase of application in Japan. It surprises those who are familiar only with European practice to find for what a variety of purposes trees are planted - including the prevention of soil-denudation, as a protection against flood, wind, tide, and other elemental dangers, for improving the public health, and with other and what to Western eyes would appear to be fantastic objects.

Forests clothe the slopes of most of the mountains of Japan, but abound particularly in the northerj island and in the northern districts of the centre of Honshiu. Of the total area of forest and wild land in Japan proper alone, some 55,000,000 acres, roughly one-third, are State-owned. The State forests represent those which the feudal princes, at the time of the Restoration, surrender to the government, a certain proportion of these being handed over to the Crown.

Of the forests in the frigid zone, which comprises the KurUes and most of the northern half of Hokkaido, many are not yet explored, though they are known to contain an abundance of conifers.

In the temperate forests, which extend over the southern part of Hokkaido and the northern part of Honshiu, the species number over sixty. The peculiarly scented fir, Hinoki, is the best of Japan's timber trees, being tough, strong, and close-grained ; it is used for building, shipbuilding, and bridge-work. The Sugi {Cryptomeria japonica) is one of the commonest conifers ; in the Akita district it grows to perfection. The wood is largely used for the manufacture of tools and utensils. The Momi (Abies firmd) is very widely distributed, and the wood is used almost exclusively for the manufacture of paper pulp, and for tea-chests and the cases and boxes which are an item of Japan's export trade.

Among the broad-leaved trees of the temperate forest zone, the Keyaki (Zelkowa Keaki, Sieb.) is supreme in respect of utility and value. It is in great demand for building, carving, ship-building, and for the manufacture of costly furniture, some of the sub-species having a beautiful grain. The Buna, a variety of beech (Fagus sylvatica Sieholdi), is a very widely distributed species, used mainly for firewood and charcoal. It was of this tree that the Ainu of Old Japan made their log boats. The sub-tropical area contains many species, some of which are particularly valuable. The most important is the camphor-tree, which is sometimes found forming large forests. The Akamatsu, or Red Pine (Pinus densiflord), h perhaps the most widely distributed of all the coniferous trees.

In addition to these timber trees there are groves of bamboos of many varieties, splendid specimens of which are found in the neighbourhood of Kyoto and elsewhere.

The mushroom-growing industry of Japan deserves mention no less on account of the methods employed than because the annual production exceeds 5,000 tons. There are ten or eleven chief species of edible fungi.

A glance at Japan's Coast-line, with its long reach north and south, from the frigid to the tropical zone, and its innumerable bays, gulfs, and river-mouths, will make it clear that many of the inhabitants of this densely-populated string of islands could and must rely upon the sea for sustenance. Daily fare of rice and vegetables needs to be supplemented by some more invigorating food, and as the Japanese ate, and eat, but little flesh, the obvious deduction is that fish has always entered to a large extent into the diet of those who could obtain it. There is ample evidence as to the antiquity of the fishing industry in Japan. To-day the industry finds either constant or partial employment for between one and a half and two million people ; but, like the small farmer, the fisherman receives an almost incredibly meagre return for his hard and perilous toil, and the number of regular fishermen is decreasing.

For this unsatisfactory state of affairs there are several reasons. It is true that Japan is excellently placed in respect of natural conditions which should ensure thst the fishing industry, conducted in the scientific and methodical manner which one has learned to associate with government-encouraged industries as a whole, should be at least moderately lucrative. At the Marine Biological Station in Sagami over four hundred species of marine products have been classified which are of importance either as food or as fertilizer, or as providing material for various industries. The species chiefly fished for are the bonito, sardine, tunny, tai, anchovy, mackerel, and yeUow-taU, and of sheU-fish the seaear and oyster. But the vast majority of Japanese fishermen, with their unseaworthy craft that can barely sail against the wind, must confine their operations to within a very short distance of land, and the effect of many years of reckless and improvident fishing is now being felt, some species having become almost extinct. Modern methods are adopted but slowly ; the curing business is still in its infancy, and, finally, lack of capital makes speedy and effectual reform impossible.

The herring fishery is at present restricted to the western shores of Hokkaido and the north of the main island (Aomori and Akita), and to the months from March to May. Sardines and anchovies are caught off nearly the entire coast of Japan, with seines and purse-seines. Most are used as fertiUzer, though some are boiled and dried for food. A little canning and sauce-making are done. The bonito is a favourite fish with the Japanese, especially when dried and smoked. It is taken chiefly with rod and line and a bait of live sardine, and as it haunts warm currents it is found nearly everywhere in the south and often in the north.

The tai (pagrus) is caught for the most part during spring and summer in the Inland Sea. It is very seldom salted or otherwise cured. Tunny-fish are found everywhere, and taken with drift-nets and long lines. Mostly eaten fresh, they are occasionally cured in the same way as the bonito. The yellow-tail (Seriola quinqueradiatd) is taken in the Sea of Japan and the south-western seas with lines, grill-Bets, and otherwise. It is used either fresh or salted. The mackerel is also a very ubiquitous fish, and is caught everywhere with spread-nets and seines.

Salmon ascend many of the rivers flowing into the Sea of Japan or the northern part of the Pacific, especially in Hokkaido and the head of the main island. Trout are found in company with salmon, and are both taken and used in much the same fashion.

Of shell-fish, the sea-ear or ear-shell is valuable both for its flesh and for the mother-of-pearl contained in its shell. The flesh is largely exported to China. The oyster is next in importance, and there is a growing demand for this bivalve.

An industry of great antiquity and some importance in Japan is that of salt-refining. Rock-salt being practically absent from the mineral list of Japan, most of the salt used is extracted from sea-water. The methods in vogue have remained unaltered for ages, and consist of the building at ebb-tide of a low circular wall on the foreshore, in which sea-water is half evaporated. The mixture of brine and sand is then removed, and the evaporation process is completed, in Japan proper, in pans or other receptacles over a fire of faggots.

The salt-refining industry is now a government monopoly, and a somewhat unpopular one ; but it is well that a mineral of such importance in all countries should be exploited to its best advantage, and this could not be expected from the crude, slow methods of thousands of small manufacturers in every part of the Empire. Several model salt-refineries have been established by the government, in Chiba, Hiroshima, and other prefectures. The main sources of supply in Japan proper are the coasts of the Inland Sea, but a great quantity is imported from Formosa.

The mining industry of Japan dates to an early era. In the case of oil there are records which carry the story back to the seventh century, while gold and silver mining is known to have been practised in the eighth. Marco Polo reported that gold ores were plentiful in Japan, and there is some ground for the belief that the primary object of Columbus in sailing westward was to prospect for the precious metals of Japan. Progress in mining was slow ; for centuries there was a persistent reliance on old methods, and even to-day, although important developments are foreshadowed, the place won by the mining industry is not a high one. The hopes for the future lie in the variety of the deposits available, the new recognition of the importance of the industry in the national life, the acceptance of the new methods of mining which have won success elsewhere, and the determination to find the capital necessary for development.

Coal and copper occupy, and have long held, the first and second places in the output list, followed by iron, petroleum, gold, and silver in the order named. The tonnage of coal mined represents about half the total mineral output, the main seat of production being the Kiushiu district, which possesses advantages over other coal mining areas in regard to transport facilities. The output of this field, about 17,000,000 tons a year, represents about 75 per cent, of the total, and the district is not likely to be ousted for many years to come from the place it has won as the chief centre of production.

Copper is widely distributed in Japan, but the output is mainly derived from the Honshiu and Shikoku districts. Some large and well-developed mines, notably the Ashio and Kosaka, are in operation. Many of the copper ores are argentiferous, and a high percentage of gold is present in some of the deposits worked.

The gold-mining industry depends almost entirely on lode working, although placer-mining is practised to a small extent. The feature of recent developments has been the adoption of modern plants complete with cyaniding machinery and other accessories, and the output, which is now about 400,000 ounces a year, is steadily increasing. The production of both gold and silver has been stimulated by the needs of the European War. Nearly all the large silver-producing mines are in Honshiu, more than half the total output of 5,000,000 ounces being derived from argentiferous lead ores, and about one-fourth from the silver copper ores.

Real progress in the production of petroleum commenced when the aid of American geologists and engineers was first sought forty years ago. The oilfields are mainly situated in the inner zone of North Japan. Until the early 90's shallow hand-dug wells were the usual feature, but American methods have since been more generally adopted, and wells have been sunk to depths of 230 fathoms. There are now 3,000 producing wells on the Echigo field alone, and some remarkable gushers have been tapped.

Iron mining is still in its infancy. The ore deposits are fairly widely distributed, but only a very few mines are in operation, and in comparison with her needs, Japan is poor in iron. The ore deposits include magnetite, hematite, and brown ore. A small industry, the revival of ancient practice, has been established in Izumo, Hoki, Bizen, and other provinces for the production of iron from magnetite sands. The establishment under government auspices of modern ironworks has recently given a great impetus to the manufacturing side of the industry.

Zinc, which in earlier years was exported in considerable quantities, is now being used in manufacturing operations at new works, and the industry promises to be an important one.

Progress in mining is at least unhampered by labour problems ; the Japanese miner is a willing and contented worker, and the fraternal spirit which appears to animate the men engaged in the extraction of minerals is reflected in the mutual aid associations, of which many now exist, and which are supported by the mine owners as well as the workers. The mining laws, which at a period not so very remote shut the foreigner out from all participation in Japanese mining, have been amend,ed, and foreign companies now enjoy equal rights with native owners.

The manufacturing industries have continued soberly prosperous for the last twenty years. The important industries are in a stronger position than they were in 1896. The number of mills, factories, and plants, and the capital invested in industrial enterprises, have probably increased twoin some industries three-fold ; there has been a large increase in the number of hands, and official reports show that the wages of the workers in nearly all branches of industry have doubled. Speaking generally, the industrial districts of Japan have little reason to complain of the manner in which they have progressed, and there are signs of increased prosperity in the large centres of industrial activity. It is impossible in a work dealing with the history of Japan to trace the history of the particular industries which now form the basis of her strength as a manufacturing nation. It may be said that those which did exist before the Restoration have been born again, and that whilst the introduction of new methods may in some cases have sacrificed the artistic side of Japanese manufacture, it has made it possible for the Empire to enter into competition with the other great manufacturing nations of the world.

In the course of her rise as an industrial nation Japan discovered that the profits from the minor arts and crafts, for which she was so rightly celebrated, were insufficient to support modern armies and buUd modern navies, and that only by manufacturing staple commodities on a large scale could she hope to become a first-class Power. Hence she went shrewdly to work estabUshing filature plant, building spinning-mills, introducing Jacquard looms, improving her methods of dyeing, building plants for the manufacture of iron and steel, and shipyards to construct a navy and a merchant marine. It was impossible to initiate and carry on these modern industries without some deterioration of those arts and crafts for which Japan, in common with other Eastern countries, had been famous for so many centuries. When she thus began to build factories, import filature plant and spinning and weaving machinery, equip and instal machine-shops, and operate railways, the European world looked askance, and suggested that Japan should stick to her handicrafts, in the skilful conduct of which she stood unrivalled. The fact is that the pressure of outside events compelled both the creation of the Army and the navy and the establishment of industries on a modern basis. The great military and naval organizations which have been called into existence since the war with China, and their effective quaKties in the field and on the high seas, have established the reputation of Japan as a first-class fighting nation - a courageous as well as a humane people. The ability and the skill in organization which can successfully bring the machinery for modern military and naval operations into existence can surely be turned to the task of manufacturing machinery with which to accomphsh peaceful conquests in the markets of the world. In the manufacturing industries Japan has been successful - more successful than some thought possible. If there had ever existed any doubt on this point it has been removed by the rapidity and organizing ability displayed in the manufacture of munitions of war for her Allies in the Great War.

During the last ten years there has been a decided improvement in the quality of workmanship and in the business methods in vogue. Technical knowledge has increased during this period, and the wages paid for nearly all kinds of manufacturing labour are more than twice what they were when the writer first visited Japan in 1896. With increased wages comes a higher standard of living, and a greater efficiency in workmanship should follow. There is no reason why Japan should not produce in those departments of industry suited to her labour a superior quality of manufactures. A better educated and more thoroughly equipped merchant is entering the fields of trade and manufacture in Japan. In the early days merchants and manufacturers were looked down upon, and were almost regarded as inferior beings - certainly inferior' to the old samurai class. The development of modern industry or commerce and the increasing requirements of modern life have made it necessary for the better classes to enter these occupations. Great business enterprises are, therefore, no longer conducted by men who have little or no standing in their own country, but are in the hands of men who rank in education and social standing on an equality with the governmental class, and who, by reason of the increasing intercourse with Western nations, are themselves becoming persons of importance, equally anxious to obtain a high character for probity abroad and to maintain their position as honourable merchants and manufacturers at home. In other words, the Japanese manufacturers and the Japanese merchants are rapidly assuming positions similar to those occupied by their contemporaries in Europe and America. Other countries have lived down their reputation for cheap and inferior goods, and there is no reason why, with proper care in the selection of raw material, the systematic use of the best machinery, and the employment of better trained and better paid labour, Japan should not, so far as quality is concerned, produce manufactured articles that will rank in the world's markets on a level with those of any other nation.