chapter  5
24 Pages

Town and Country

For much of the modern period Japan has been a predominantly agrarian country. In the Tokugawa period agriculture served as the cornerstone both of the economy and of society as a whole. The importance of manufacturing increased steadily from the beginning of the Meiji period but until the late 1920s agriculture accounted for over 25 per cent of net domestic production. As late as 1930 over 50 per cent of the population - more than 30 million people - were still dependent on agriculture for a living, and it was not until two decades later that there was an absolute fall in the number of Japanese working in the agricultural sector. The rapidity of Japan’s economic and political transformation and the enduring influence of Tokugawa practices and ideas into this century mean that in Japan, as in other late industrializers such as the USSR, agricultural issues and the impact of the rural sector have been of crucial importance throughout the past 150 years.