In building a modern industrial society, Japan had to overcome a number of problems, such as the surviving traditional methods of work in agriculture, forestry and fishing, as well as the obsolescence of some industries and the lack of raw materials, especially fuels.
Thanks to the systematic use of artificial fertilizers, Japanese agriculture is relatively intensive, but the traditional fragmentation of land that does not allow for more extensive use of mechanization and the protection of agriculture by the state against competition from cheaper production, especially from the USA, means that relatively many workers are still employed in it (more than 6%). It only accounts for about 2% of the gross domestic product. Arable land makes up only 12% of the country’s surface and the area of pastures is practically negligible. Larger agricultural holdings are found only in Hokkaido. Everywhere else, traditional terraced fields scattered on the slopes of the mountains form an integral part of the cultural landscape.
According to themotorcyclers, the most important crop is rice. Summer heat and high humidity create ideal conditions for its cultivation, yet most areas must be irrigated artificially. The breeding of frost-resistant varieties increased yields per hectare, and today rice is grown practically all over Japan.
Retail prices of rice were deliberately inflated, and this policy led to large rice surpluses in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Under international pressure, Japan was forced to reduce the rate of price intervention for rice, which prompted farmers to diversify production. Tractors and mechanical cultivators replaced traditional work methods, and the liberal use of insecticides and artificial fertilizers also began. Before World War II, silkworm cocoons were Japan’s second most important agricultural export after rice. Today, rice is followed in terms of volume by vegetables (cabbage, onions, cucumbers, tomatoes and peas), sugarcane and sugar cane, and in terms of value by hops and fruit (citrus, apples, melons). Potatoes, soybeans, beans, less cereals and tea are also grown. In poorly developed livestock production, pig and poultry farming dominates. A large volume of food must be imported.
Fishing and forestry
Fish is the most important source of protein and protein for the Japanese, and the country also ranks first in the world in fisheries (10-13 million tons per year). However, most fishing enterprises are small businesses. Government plans to increase fishing on the high seas at the expense of coastal catches have collapsed after a number of states extended the coastal economic zone to a distance of 370 kilometres. At present, the import of fishery production is higher than its export. Sardines are mainly caught. Among the most popular Japanese dishes are mussels and oysters, as well as prawns, shrimps and crabs.
Japan is fundamentally opposed to a global ban on whaling. Although it agreed to a blanket ban on whaling in 1982, although it reserved the right to kill whales for “scientific” purposes, in 1991 it joined Greenland and Norway’s demands for its reauthorization.
Japan has a larger area of forests than, for example, Finland, where forestry is an important source of income. However, Japanese forests are much more difficult to access and 2/3 of the total forested area is in the hands of smallholders, which makes it difficult to manage them effectively across the board. Afforestation is largely left to the public sector. To meet demand, wood must be imported in bulk.
Healthcare, social care and education
The majority of Japan’s population is covered by a public or private health and social security program that pays appropriate benefits in the event of illness, occupational injury and disability, maternity, old age and unemployment. The health status of the population is excellent, the average life expectancy is among the longest in the world.
After nine years of compulsory schooling, most Japanese students continue their three-year studies at upper secondary schools. After their graduation, students can opt for a five-year study at a technical university, a four-year university study or for a university with a shortened two- or three-year cycle. There is a huge emphasis on education and all types of exams are very demanding.
Since 1969, Japan has maintained an increasingly high balance of payments surplus. Thanks to creative, aggressive marketing tactics, high quality and favorable prices, it is gaining an ever-increasing share of world markets. An important factor in Japan’s success is the close cooperation between manufacturers, the commercial banks that finance them, and the central Bank of Japan, from which the commercial banks borrow most of their working capital. Tourism is also a welcome source of income, but spending by Japanese tourists abroad significantly exceeds this income.