Wednesday, May 18, 2016

"they sought means to bring him in" - Japanese Paddy Agriculture

Paddy Fields around Tokyo

Japanese Paddy Agriculture

Wheat started to be cultivated in ancient Mesopotamia 8,000 years ago, though they made bread without fermentation.  At the same time, wheat was introduced into Egypt, but by chance ancient Egyptians found fermentation process that was adopted to their bread making.  Then this fermentation bread was imported to ancient Greece.  It paved the way for the ancient Greek-Roman Civilization.

The ancient civilizations in India was also established through wheat cultivation.  However in China, a civilization around the Yellow River, established 6,000 years ago, was based on wheat cultivation, but its another civilization around the Long River was established based on rice cultivation more than 10,000 years ago.

And, today there is a theory that rice cultivation was imported into ancient Japan from a region that belonged to the Long River Civilization about 3,000 year ago, though it was about 2,500 years ago that rice cropping started to prevail in Japan.

What is remarkable about Japan is that wheat cultivation never became a mainstream of its agriculture.  From ancient days to today, the Japanese have mainly cultivated rice.  No bread making from wheat was tried in Japan before its Westernization that started in the middle of the 19th century.

While the Chinese Civilization partly relied on wheat cultivation, the Japanese Civilization solely depended on rice cultivation.  In this context, Japan is the only major civilization that has developed solely relying on rice and paddy fields.  This is one of unique characteristics of Japan among developed countries and major countries in the world.

From one grain of rice, 200 grains are reproduced, while one grain of wheat produces only 20 grains.   From a same area of crop land, rice provides calories 1.6 times more than wheat does.  In addition to the natural environment suitable for rice cropping and making paddy fields, this efficiency of rice must make it the major staple for Japanese agriculture.

But, paddy agriculture is very different from wheat farming, which fostered uniqueness of the Japanese culture against Chinese and European cultures.  Rice cannot be grown in the concave-convex fields.  To fill the field with water, it must be even.  To set up a paddy field is not so easy as to plant seeds in grassy and uneven land.

As for uniqueness of the Japanese culture, Japanese did not experience full-scale hunting and stock raising era.  They entered the era of rice cropping after a hunting-gathering era.  The Japanese archipelago has no great plains or plain forests suitable for full-scale cattle breeding.

So, while wheat farming and experiences of hull-scale hunting and cattle breeding are common in the mainstream of the world, including Europe, India and China, Japan lacks such traditions.  But Japanese have been engaged in almost solely rice farming.

The key to understanding Japan and the Japanese is this tradition of paddy agriculture.

For example, sushi with rice and seafood is a result of this uniqueness.

Trend of Yield Amount of Rice in Japan

Ranking of Rice Yield by Country


Rice bowl

Area under wheat, pulses cultivation rose, rice fell


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Luk 5:18 And, behold, men brought in a bed a man which was taken with a palsy: and they sought means to bring him in, and to lay him before him.
Luk 5:19 And when they could not find by what way they might bring him in because of the multitude, they went upon the housetop, and let him down through the tiling with his couch into the midst before Jesus.