Agriculture in Japan 1


DR LIEBSCHER'S little work is the result, the author tells us, of his investigations during an eight months' sojourn in Japan in 1880. A cursory glance at the contents shows that it bears the physiognomy of a, strictly scientific work. The work is divided into five parts:—(1) The condition of the climate and its influence upon the land-products; (2) the condition of soils and its influence upon the land-products; (3) the social condition before the year 1868 (before the reformation); (4) the reformation and reorganisation of the State since the year 1868; (5) foreign commerce. I shall notice shortly each chapter with some remarks. Beginning with the first chapter, Dr. Liebscher commences with the monsoon, within whose sphere Japan is situated. It has, as is well known, a certain determined direction during the whole year. The summer (south-west) monsoon comes from the south-west from April to September, while the winter (north-east) monsoon comes from the northeast during the rest of the year. To the first, according to Dr. Liebscher, Japan owes its tropical flora, such as Chamærops excelsa, Tkea viridzs, Cycas revoluta, &c., and to the same he attributes the chief land-products, such as cotton, sugar-cane, tobacco, Indian corn, and rice. Why the summer monsoon ts so favourable to the growth of the land-products is because, says the author, it causes a warm temperature, and the abundant precipitation of rain (maximum 1794 mm. in a year). He ignores then altogether the geographical position of Japan, that on one side she lies partly in a subtropical and temperate zone, on the other she is surrounded on all sides by a large body of water. The north-east monsoon brings a dry and terribly cold winter, though somewhat modified by the “Kuro-Siwo” current and this monsoon is the sole factor that renders the climate unfavourable, causing the remarkable phenomenon of the “freezing of the soil.” Dr. Liebscher says, the regular course of the monsoon assures the people who happen to inhabit those lands which lie within the sphere or that wind, of a never-failing good crop of rice. Thus we are accustomed to depend solely upon rice, and consequently we become vegetarians. We cannot entirely agree with him, but rather lay more stress upon the influence of the Buddhist religion, which once wielded sway over us. As to the unfavourableness of the climate due to the monsoon, he is unfortunate in selecting as an example the Hakone region. The volcano of Fuji San (3784 m.) is a high peak covered with everlasting snow, and at the foot of this lies the Hakone Pass (804 m.). Here Dr. Liebscher had seen on the western side (toward Fuji) around the Lake Hakone, a dreary sterile slope; while the opposite mountains, lying on the south, are covered with a luxuriant growth of forest. He ascribes the cause of the sterility of the northern to the cold winter monsoon, and the thickly wooded ranges to the summer monsoon. I explain this striking contrast quite in another way. Fuji San is an active volcano, and at the foot of this lies the region referred to. It is natural that no tree will flourish at or near recent volcanoes, which send out an enormous quantity of scoriæ. Moreover the Hakone Pass is situated at a high altitude (804 m.). We find thick forest at the top of the Brocken in the Harz mountains. Could we expect the same at the summit of Vesuvius? The climate of Japan is not so ineffective as Dr. Leibscher has depicted in his work; in reality it is far more conducive to fertility than that of Germany.

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KOTÔ, B. Agriculture in Japan 1 . Nature 28, 231–233 (1883).

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