Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 48.djvu/490

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pursuits, and on the ownership and use of ships, boats, and vehicles. The land taxes, however, contribute the largest amount of revenue to the national treasury, furnishing about seventy per cent of its receipts, exclusive of the local land taxes; and in many districts of Japan the total amount yielded by the farmer to the Government, national and local, was estimated in 1891 at even more than fifty per cent of his crop.[1]

Very curiously, the responsibility for the existence and continuance of this extraordinary system of land taxation in Japan, which finds no parallel in any other country, and the incidence of which constitutes such a burden on the mass of its population, has until a very recent period rested with foreign nations rather than the Japanese Government, and in this wise: When treaties were first made by foreign nations with Japan, after the opening of its ports and the abandonment of its old-time system of non-intercourse with the rest of the world, it was assumed on the part of the former that the Government and people of Japan were in a semi-barbarous condition, and ought to be treated as such in all political and commercial negotiations; and that in respect to trade and commerce the greatest advantage should be taken of the weaker nation that circumstances would permit. The leading nations of Europe and the United States accordingly stipulated, in their treaties with Japan, that it should

  1. "This statement, however, gives no indication of the true condition of the Japanese farmer. In this country, where the Government performs so many functions which in America are left to the individual, a high rate of taxation is not necessarily an indication of poverty or of a low standard of living. With a sufficiency of land and a variety of crops, even the Japanese farmer can live comfortably, especially if a good fraction of his land ia dry field (hata), on which he generally raises two crops a year. Very few of the farmers of Japan, however, are in this condition of tolerable comfort. The amount of the cultivated land of the empire is so small (less than twelve per cent of the whole area) and the population so large (over forty millions) that the land belonging to each family is absurdly insufficient. The average holding is less than two acres, subdivided into smaller parcels, which vary in size in different provinces, but average nearly one eighth of an acre each. Thus, to picture a typical Japanese farm, one must imagine a piece of land less than two acres, cut up into about fourteen pieces, or bits, each separated from the other by a raised path of earth. Even then the picture is incomplete, since the bits belonging to one farmer are not necessarily adjacent to each other, but frequently many a rood apart. Such a beggarly amount of land, even under the most perfect system of cultivation, can not of course yield sufficient to bring up a family according to Western standards of comfort. The idea of wages, or remuneration for labor, scarcely enters the Japanese farmer's mind; he is content if, after paying his taxes, he can in some rough fashion merely make both ends meet. At any fair rate of wages, farming is carried on at a loss in Japan. The farmer seldom eats the rice he grows, generally using barley or millet as a cheaper means of subsistence. His expenditures are on an infinitesimal scale; the clothes of the family are often heirlooms handed down from generation to generation; and as for saving anything from year to year, the practice is so little known in this country as hardly to be considered a virtue."—Correspondence New York Nation, 1891.