** war and social upheaval: World War II Japan home front agriculture

World War II: Japanese Home Front--Agriculture

World War II Japanese agriculture
Figure 1.--Food and the need to expand agricultural production drove all three Axis countries. Japan of all three had the weakest and most primitive agricultural section. None of the three Axis countries made any effort to modernize agriculture. The response was the same--conquer the lands of foreign countries. For Japan thismeant Korea, Mnchuria, and China. In the case of Mnchuria, Japanese settlement was encouraged. Agricultural ws one of the resources in the Southern Resource Zone that drove the Jpabese to atack the United Sates and wage the Pacific War. This is a view of a Japanese farm. It is dated January 1944 on the back, but that is an archive date, not the date it was taken.

Japan is a heavily populated island and because of the mountanous terraine, limited agricultural land. Food was a major attraction drawing Japan into China. Japan was not self sufficent in food and needed to import rice and other food stuffs. Japan's focus was on inuistrialization. Very little attention was given to modernizing agriculture. Japan before the World War II made one limited efforts to raise agricultural production by imprioving methods, but the miltarists who dominated the govrnment refused to consider a land reform that would transfter land tenure from landlors to the peasantry. (The pressure of the War would eventually force land reform on Japan, but it was not until after the War and American occupation that the peasantry began reaping any benefits.) In fact the posibilities of increasing domestic food production were limited. Japan is a series of highly mointaneous islands. There is a large population with limitd areas of land. As a result, the population was depndent on imported rice and other food supplies. Because of reverses in the War, especially the American submariners destroying the Japanese merchant (maru) fleet, imports became increasingly difficult. Aerial mine laying was anothr factor. This substantially reduced imports from the nearby sources (Manchuria, Koreaa, anf China). The war time conscription of men reduced the agicultural labor force. As a result, the Japanese at the time of the surrender were living on rations at just survival levels. Factory workers report being pleased to find a noodle or two in the soup they were given. And the American strategic air campaign was demolishing the country's transportation network. It is not possible to destro farms by air. Unlike industry farms are not clustered into small locations. It is possible to destroy the transport system making it difficult to get food into the cities. And if all of this was not bad enough, farmers encounterd crop failures on an inprecedented level in 1945. The Japanese committed a horrifying list of attrocities during the War, one of the ones narrowly averted was starving their own people. The Emperor, cabinet and military commandrs were fully aware of this. This was exactly what they were planning to do. And there was a precedent for this. Japanese garisons throughout the Pacific and Southeast Asia were ordered to become self-sufficent, meaning in many cases to starve to death. Here we see a Jaanese mother with her two vildren just after the surrender (September 12, 1945). Had the Japanese not surrendered, civilians like this all over the country would have starved in a terribl famine during winter 1945-46. This would have been one of several famines the Japanese caused in the China and other areas they occupied in which millions perished.


Collingham, Lizzie. The Taste of War: World War II and the Battle for Food (The Penguin Press: New York, 2012), 634p.


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Created: 6:07 PM 8/14/2017
Last updated: 7:07 PM 8/12/2018