Strong Belief in the Japanese Farm Policy of the Need to Support Small-scale Farmers

Author Name YAMASHITA Kazuhito (Senior Fellow, RIETI)
Creation Date/NO. June 2017 17-J-040
Download / Links


There is a strong belief among the Japanese population that its farming industry is sustained by small-scale farmers. This idea has prevented agricultural reforms from occurring. Policy proposals with the intention to enlarge farm size so as to make agriculture more efficient and competitive have faced strong opposition or criticism claiming that this would make small-scale farmers redundant. This criticism has been asserted from not only farmers associations but also certain people from the mass media and opinion leaders. This also has appealed to many ordinary people. This also explains why most of the Japanese population have lead lives away from farming and villages for a long time and know nothing about what really happens there. Nowadays, there are still small-scale farmers, but they are no longer poor farmers. Most of the small-scale farmers work for factories, companies, local governments, and other places beyond their farms. Generally speaking, they earn more than large-scale full-time farmers. In addition, farmers have become a minority in the farming communities. However, the majority of the Japanese population is preoccupied with an erroneous image of farming and villages which have become a thing in the past.

Tokiyoshi Yokoi from the Meiji era advocated the doctrine or guiding principle that small-scale farmers should be supported. This guiding principle was associated with the interests of the land owners. In reality, it aimed not at protecting the poor small-scale farmers but at serving the interests of the land owners who suppressed these small-scale farmers. There are economic reasons behind it. After the restoration of the Japanese economy after World War 2, this guiding principle has been asserted by a specific farming group called the Japan Agricultural Cooperatives (JA). This paper analyzes the continuation of this guiding principle in the Japanese farming society by comparing the Yokoi's highly conservative idea with the reformist idea of Kunio Yanagida and Tanzan Ishibashi.