Japan: Land and Men: An Account of the Japanese Land Reform Program, 1945-51

Japan: Land and Men: An Account of the Japanese Land Reform Program, 1945-51

Japan: Land and Men: An Account of the Japanese Land Reform Program, 1945-51

Japan: Land and Men: An Account of the Japanese Land Reform Program, 1945-51

Excerpt

O UR jeep halted at the crest of the mountains; the drive had been long and difficult up the narrow rough roads from Lake Biwa. Pausing, we gazed down the rugged slopes and canyons toward Kyoto, the ancient capital. The panorama we viewed was no scene of mountain wilderness but a pattern of carefully designed, intensively cultivated fields. From above, the terraced rice paddies descended in irregularly shaped patches. Tiny terraced fields formed a landscape in shades of the vivid green of newly planted rice down the mountain sides. No gorge or canyon was too steep, no hill too abrupt to halt their graceful curving overlay, transforming the scene from mountain vastness to pastoral intimacy.

The roads, built not originally for wheeled vehicles, but as a passageway for the toiling feet of generations, were jolting torture to ride over. At every hairpin turn, burdened farm men and women stood aside to permit our passage. Their poised loads signified their common occupation -- great bundles of straw, leaves, and twigs were being carried to the homestead for use as compost for the fields or for fuel in the home. These had all been gleaned in the most painstaking fashion from the neighboring wooded area.

The ancient highway narrowed to enter the teeming heighborhood -- clusters of tiny farmsteads, the buraku, which made up the village of Oharame. Like all Japanese villages, Oharame is a collection of neighboring hamlets and all the surrounding tilled fields together with the adjoining forest land whose tribute of compost and firewood is an essential part of the village economy. The village is very old, for this part of Japan has been settled for centuries. Traditionally, the stalwart men of Oharame have been selected as pallbearers for the funerals of the Japanese emperors. So the fields and farmsteads of Oharame are not the crude achievement of a transitory settlement nor is the village a result of recent agrarian development. On the contrary, it is the manifestation of a very old and complex civilization. Strange and primitive to Western eyes, Oharame and its fields never -- theless represent civilization -- civilization in different terms and in unfamiliar patterns, but in the essentials of an established social order, an orderly development of man's relation to natural resources, still a valid instance of a completely matured culture.

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