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发布时间:2014-02-16 10:08:03  

Mechanization of Paddy Cultivation in Japan and Its Effects on

Farm Households


The process of shifting the source of motive power from men and animals to mechanical power for the cultivation of rice in Japan has accelerated in the last years. The process of mechanization has had noticeable effects on the conduct of agriculture and the operations of farm households. The reduction of labor as a result of mechanization, for instance, has contributed to the reallocation of household and affected the use of "excessive" labor for wage earning in seasonal or part-time work.

The pervasiveness of the effects of mechanization on farm households suggests that there is a need to focus on the diffusion and use of farm machines for rice cultivation. The first objective of this paper is to consider the national householdpurchase patterns of selected machines, especially the paddy planter. The signifi-cance of the paddy planter is the belief that it eliminated the last, and major, vestige of hand labor. Further, the paddy machine is viewed as a completely ,Japanese farm implement (Kudo 1972, 14). The second objective is to review the effect of machinery purchases on the input of labor for rice farming. The effects of reduction in labor input during the agricultural cycle must be analyzed to gain insights into the conduct of farming and the reallocation of household labor. Patterns of selected machinery purchases

National pattern

??The ownership of paddy planters increased rapidly between 1970 and 1974 inJapan. Overall, the ownership of paddy planters increased in all farm sizes during the five-year period. The percentage of farm households which utilized paddyplanters increased accordingly from 2.7 in 1970 to 23.0 in 1974.(Norin-sho Tokei Joho-bu Norin Tokei-ka and Nosanengei-kyoku Hiryo Kikai-ka 1975, 68-71). This rapid increase in the ownership of paddy planters has led to the question of economical use of machines, especially among farm households with small paddy


The economical use of a paddy planter is considered to occur at 2.2 hectares of planted acreage per farm if it is compared with the cost of traditional method of planting paddies (Kudo 1972, 12). The economical criterion of 2.2 hectares suggests that a majority of these machines are owned by farm households which underutilize the machines (Table 1). On the one hand, the ownership pattern may not accurately reflect the utilization level of the machines because owners may hire their machines and services to neighbors. On the other hand, criticism of farmers for their excessive investment in farm machinery is seen frequently in the literature.

The question of farm machinery purchases within the context of farm household incomes is a more important one than that of economical utilization. The so-called "agricultural dependency rate"-the capability to cover house-hold ex-penditures from farming-has dropped since the 1950's. In fact, this rate was down to about 32 percent in 1973 (Norin-sho, Norin Tokei-hyo). Further, only households with more than two hectares were capable of producing sufficient incomes from agriculture to cover living expenses by 1973 (Norin-sho Norin Keizai-kyoku Tokei Joho-bu 1975). This would mean that about 94 percent of farms are unable to earn sufficient income from agriculture to cover household expenses (Norin-sho, Norin Tokei-hyo). This figure is reflected in the fact that 88 percent of farm house-holds are classified as "part-time farm households" in which one or more members work in non-agricultural jobs, seasonally or part-time (Ibid). Incomes from non-agricultural jobs are used to make up the difference between agricultural earnings and total household expenditures. Also, a part of this non-agricultural income is needed to purchase farm machinery. Thus, from a financial viewpoint the level of agricultural dependency is a significant factor in determining the amount of non-agricultural incomes which will be spent for the purchase of farm machinery.

If farm households must finance their machinery purchases from non-agricul-tural incomes by "sacrificing" their agricultural "rest" period, then farm machines should be purchased by those households with sufficient work to operate the machines at an efficient level. But the purchasing behavior suggsts that other forces influence the decision-making regarding machinery purchases. The propensity for machines must be sought in the farmer's view of machines.

The farmer views a machine, especially the paddy planter, as a way to reduce the boring, tedious, painstaking, and time-consuming tasks associated with paddy cultivation (Iwashita 1975, 59). This view of farm machines developed from the introduction and use of earlier farm machinery such as the hand tractor and binder which reduced the work load and hardship associated with rice production. In addition, the recent and continuing mechanization of tasks at seasonal sites seems to have impressed farmers with the role of mechanical power. During the author's interviews with farmers, they frequently referred to the mechanization of tasks and consequent ease of work at the seasonal work sites. Thus, the ease of accomplishing tasks by the use of machines, through past mechanization in agriculture and at the seasonal work sites, has had a definite influence on the farmer's perception of the values of reducing the pains of cultivation. Consequently, this perception has, in part, motivated farmers toward the acquisition of machinery.

The social importance attached to ownership of farm machinery may be another factor in its purchase. The idea of "being equal" with other households is an important aspect of relationships in the village. Individual farmers attempt to stay within the mainstream of the village by following current practices. If neighbors are converting to a newer paddy planter there is a feeling of the necessity on the part of others to do likewise. Further, each farmer would like to be re-cognized as doing the proper thing by his neighbors. In order to maintain status within the village, the acceptance of new methods and purchase of machinery to implement them is imperative.

From this perspective, farm machinery purchases must be viewed as part of an attempt to achieve equality and respectability in the village rather than a case of imitation or simply the availability of funds, though these factors certainly play apart also. The purchase of a farm machine also contributes to the sense of accomplishment by increasing the material holdings of the household.

From the viewpoint of the farmers, the flexibility in the utilization is a crucial consideration for the desire to own machinery individually. Individual ownership is favored over cooperative ownership of equipment for several practical reasons. One is the freedom to use a machine without worrying about demands for the equipment by cooperative members. Farmers want to complete their harvesting as soon as possible to prepare for departure to seasonal or part-time work sites

(Akita Sakigake Shimpo-sha Seiji-bu 1965, 8). Further, farmers have mentioned the need to respond to requests to report to work earlier at the seasonal work sites during certain years. Thus, the completion of harvest at the earliest possible moment may be critical to the individual farmer in a particular year. Under cooperative ownership of machines, this type of situation would be difficul to resolve. In addition, farmers believe that cooperative ownership of machinery contributes to careless operation of the equipment and minimal maintenance. This, in turn, would require unnecessary outlays for repairs.

These considerations of farm machinery ownership suggest that the underlying reasons for purchasing behavior among farmers are varied and complex. So it is clear that the ownership and use of farm machinery, from the farmer's perspective, incorporates a larger number of functions than that of a means for efficient production of rice.

Tohoku Pattern

A study of machinery purchases was undertaken among 57 households interviewed in 1975-1976 in the Tohoku region. In these 57 households, one or more family members were engaged in seasonal migration and/or part-time work locally. At that time, data on all purchases of farm machinery in a household were collected during the interviews, but only the purchases of combines, paddy planters, riding and hand tractors will be considered here because of their importance to paddy cultivation.

Household Pattern

An analysis of machinery purchases of selected individual households among the 57 farm households reveals several additional factors which influence farm machinery purchasing behavior. Generally, there was an increase in purchases after 1970. After 1973, however, the purchases increased substantially in the intermediate and large farm units. The purchase of riding type tractors with 20 to 45 horsepower rating as replacements for hand tractors contributed to this increase. The purchases of riding type of tractors is a part of what appears to be a six- to eight-year replacement cycle for ractors. The large number of riding types represented in this replacement cycle has also been influenced by the recent availability of the riding type of tractor.


One of the issues of agricultural mechanization in Japan is the conflict between mechanization and the cost of mechanization within the setting of small farm holdings. Basically, the conflict arises from the perception of machines as a representation of socio-economic values as compared to the perception of machines as unidimensional tools for the completion of tasks. Additionally, other contributing factors to this conflict are the methods by which farmers acquire machinery and use them. The farmers must engage in non-agricultural seasonal or part-time work, utilizing the agricultural "rest" period, to obtain capital to purchase these machines. But, these machines which are attained at a high cost to the farmers and their families in most instances are underutilized.

The acquisition of farm machinery and its use represents a range of values which farmers have developed through their experiences and beliefs. The farm machine, such as a paddy planter, reflects the desire to reduce the farmer's work load and the hardship which he associates with rice production. Also, the importance of ownership reflects the desire on the part of the farmer to be a part of the mainstream of the village, and certainly influences the decision to purchase and utilize newer equipment. Further, the ability of the farmers to use a piece of equipment without being obligated by needs of others for its use leads to the desire for individual ownership of machinery. Therefore, the feeling that machines need to be used economically, though an important factor, is overshadowed by the more pervasive view of the socio-economic value of machinery held by the farmers.


The author would like to acknowledge the support from The United States Educational Commission in Japan during 1975-1976. During 1975-1976, the author was affiliated with the Institute of Geography, Tohoku University, and would like to acknowledge the guidance and encouragement of the members of the Institute. Also, the author is indebted to Mr. Eiji Kishi, former Head, Norin-sho Nogyo Sogo Kenkyu-sho Sekisetsu Chiho Shisho, Shinjo, Yamagata Prefecture, for his assistance.


Akita Sakigake Shimpo-sha Seiji-bu (1965): Dekasegi. Akita Sakigake Shimposha, Akita

Iwashita, T. (1975): "Fukyo to Dekasegi." Norin Tokei Chosa 25-10, 47-50 Kudo, H. (1972): "Taue-ki Riyo Keizaisei." Ibid. 22-7, 11-14

Norin-sho North Keizai-kyoku Tokei Joho-bu: Noka Keizai Chosa Hokoku. Norin

Tokei Kyokai, Tokyo

(1960-1975): Norin Tokeihyo. Norin Tokei Kyokai, Tokyo

Norin-sho Tokei Joho-bu North Tokei-ka and Nosan-engei-kyoku Hiryo Kikai-ka

(1975): Poketto Nogyo Kikai Tokei, 1975. Norin Tokei Kyokai, Tokyo

North Tokei Kyokai (1975) : Nogyo Haku-sho. Norin Tokei Kyokai, Tokyo

Rodo-sho Fujin Shonen-kyoku (1975): Fujin no Ayumi Sanju-nen. Rodo Horei

Kyokai, Tokyo

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