Japanese farms and farming explained

Why was human waste the main fertilizer in the Edo period?

The increasing population and urbanisation meant that the previous method of burying leaves and grasses as compost was not enough. The lack of horses (as only the upper classes were allowed to ride them) and other animals (as most people did not eat meat) meant that humans were the main alternative source. The fact that city dwellers lived in blocks with shared toilets must have also have made this system easier than in some countries and so have lead to its development.

Why are Japanese fields still so small and irregularly shaped?

Land was redistributed after the Second World War by the occupation authorities as a way of breaking down the feudal system that was thought to have led to the war.

Why do you still see people planting rice by hand?


  1. June 15, 2008 at 3:12 am

    I have question. Why doesn’t the water seep away. I know the rice paddies are edged with concrete but are they also lined with concrete? like a pool? is the water running continually to keep it full? There are a lot around my place and I was wondering …?

  2. alexcase said,

    June 16, 2008 at 11:34 pm

    That’s a great question. I haven’t noticed that they have water running in to them all the time and obviously it was the same before concrete was invented. Could that be the reason why the soil has to be like clay, because it retains the water?

  3. AMIIE said,

    March 24, 2009 at 5:51 pm

    HELP ME!!!


  4. AMIIE said,

    March 24, 2009 at 5:52 pm


  5. April 16, 2010 at 12:06 pm

    A lot of the paddies are swamps unto themselves anyway. I remember seeing a brown looking paddy field after harvest. I jumped on to it, thinking how nice it would be to walk in a field again. I sank up to my hips.

  6. April 16, 2010 at 12:07 pm

    The land distribution in some rural areas seems to have enriched the high school teacher class of people. I note this strong correlation between: local teacher, farm family.

  7. Rex said,

    May 11, 2013 at 10:30 pm

    I have a question. In Japan, can land (specifically farm land) be owned by private citizens? Or is it all owned by the government, or by corporations? I have a feeling it’s one of the last two previously mentioned. Can a citizen own land in Japan, or is it a yes, but so extremely expensive no normal citizen could own it really?

    • alexcase said,

      May 12, 2013 at 12:44 am

      Many small farmers own their own land, mainly due to policies of the occupying Americans after WWII. That is one of the reasons for the inefficiency of Japanese farming.

  8. crella said,

    May 12, 2013 at 8:22 am

    You can own your own land. DH’s family has 3-4 rice paddies, they let other people plant in them in exchange for rice at harvest time. You cannot leave rice fields unplanted, so letting others do it and being given rice is common.

    The paddies are not lined. Water is added through ditches that channel rain water and water from ponds. The water would stagnate otherwise, wouldn’t it? I never really thought about it….however, you often see little fish, tadpoles etc so the water must be fresh or circulating.

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