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VI

“THEY ARE TAKING OUR FARMS!”

T

HE source from which Japanese immigrants are drawn is the agricultural population. The Japa

nese, small as his country is, is essentially the son of the soil. In the days of feudalism the farmer ranked next only to the samurai in the social scale. This exaltation of the agricultural class was due to various circumstances. In the first place, peculiar moral conceptions, more or less prevalent in all countries before the advent of the industrial era, kept commerce in abeyance and assigned an unenviable position to the merchants. Commerce meant bargaining, and bargaining could not be completely dissociated from chicanery and prevarication. So the samurai looked down with contempt upon traffic and traffickers, and deliberately nurtured scorn for money and the arts of money-making. Towards the farmer, however, his attitude was different. To him farming was one productive pursuit which could be free from sordid phases of commerce.

In the second place, the policy of exclusion adopted under the old régime resulted in the commercial, as well as political, isolation of the island nation. Thus obliged to become self-supporting, the country necessarily attached a great importance to men who tilled the soil and produced the daily necessaries of life. Moreover, the samurai, to be able to devote himself to the cultivation of martial arts and to a career of conquest, had to

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rely upon the farmer for the supply of provisions for himself and for his retainers.

Towards the last days of the military régime Japan enjoyed a period of peace of almost three centuries, uninterrupted by any serious warfare. Thus freed from the waste of war, the country witnessed an unprecedented increase of population. And yet its doors remained closed not only to those who rapped at them from without, but to those who wished to unlock them from within and to go forth into wider fields of activity. With emigration forbidden, with the importation of foreign commodities placed under ban, and with the group of small islands offering but one-twelfth of its total area for cultivation, how did Japan manage to secure enough foodstuff to sustain her ever-increasing population? Only by developing farming into a state of perfection. Of the science of agriculture, as the term is understood in our modern age, she knew but little, but experience of centuries taught her how to wrest from the earth all that it could yield without impoverishing the soil. Thus agriculture was invested with the dignity of a fine art, and men who embraced the calling were regarded not as mere tillers of the soil, but as gentlemen with keen sense of honour and self-respect. They were not even at liberty to quit their vocation and join the mercantile class, for that would mean a lowering of their prestige and the impairment of their dignity.

Looked upon as a most important element in the body politic, the farmer of old Japan was nevertheless simple of heart and almost unconscious of the high esteem in which he was held. Frugal, contented, industrious, and devoted to the hearth, he was not unlike the Swiss farmer of whom Goldsmith sang :

“Cheerful at morn, he wakes from short repose,
Breathes the keen air as he goes.
At night returning, every labour sped
He sits him down the monarch of a shed,
Smiles by his cheerful fire, and round surveys
His children's looks, that brighten at the blaze.”

The abolition of feudalism afforded him a greater opportunity and wider fields of activity. The new régime removed the circumstances which kept his aspirations unawakened, and the farmer was now free not only to carve out his own career, but to seek fortune beyond the narrow precincts of his native land. With the inauguration of a local self-government three decades ago, he became as important a factor in the political as in the economic life of the country.

This, then, is the sort of population from which most Japanese immigrants to these shores are derived. It is, therefore, but natural that the Japanese in America should show strong preference for farming and farm labour in spite of the great difficulties which they must experience in adjusting themselves to a method of agriculture totally foreign to them. In the past few years many well-educated young men from Japan have taken to farming. Some of such Japanese even studied in college. As farmers such “tenderfoots" may not, at first at any rate, be so successful as those settlers who are inured to farm life from their childhood, but had no opportunity to receive modern education. Yet, in the long run, these educated Japanese agriculturists will prove more valuable assets to this country, because of their intelligence, their adaptability, their ability to imbibe American ideas and adopt American customs.

California is, of course, the chief field of activity for Japanese farmers, but in almost every State whose agri

cultural resources are yet comparatively little exploited, Japanese have taken up farms. According to the “ Nichibei Nenkan," the year-book published by the Japanese American of San Francisco, in 1912 they owned 31,814 acres of farmland and leased 225,046 acres. Distributed among various States the figures are as follows:

Owned
17,765

525

California
Colorado
Idaho
Texas
Washington

Leased
172,512
15,997
12,174

10,390

Utah ...

2,330 12,136 5,659 2,033 1,189 325 I 20 571

123
1,892

Oregon
Nebraska
New York
Florida
Other States

боз
364
152

Total

31,814 225,046 It is estimated that about 41,000 Japanese, equivalent to some sixty per cent. of the entire Japanese population in continental United States, are engaged in agriculture. Of this total farming population about 5,000 are independent farmers, while the remaining 36,000 are farmhands employed by their compatriots or by American farmers. Even as the Jew takes to the clothing trades, and the Italian to various mercantile businesses, so the Japanese shows peculiar preference for agricultural industries. In California he is mostly engaged in potato, bean, beet, onion, and fruit culture; in Washington and Oregon his chief interest is in the orchard and dairy ranch; in Texas he is almost exclusively engaged in the culture of rice; in Idaho and Colorado he finds the sugarbeet industry most profitable; and in Florida he has begun to raise pineapples. On the outskirts of some of the larger cities on the Pacific Coast he has become a factor

in truck gardening. In Seattle and Los Angeles in particular his garden products are important features in the public markets both in point of quantity and quality. At San Francisco he operates one of the largest nurseries on the Pacific Coast. Indeed, the Domoto Brothers' establishment is so extensive that they virtually control the cut-flower market of San Francisco.

In Idaho and Washington the Japanese, while doing considerable farming, own no land. This is because those two States have not until recently permitted foreigners to own land. In March last, however, the State of Idaho enacted a new land law, extending the right of landownership to all aliens, Japanese not excluded, while the State of Washington revised its laws so that all foreigners are entitled to own urban land, though it still denies them the right to own rural land. It seems not without significance that these States adopted new laws without making any discrimination against the Japanese, just at the time when the California legislature was straining all its nerves to enact a law especially directed against the Japanese in the matter of landownership. Indeed, some of the sponsors for the anti-Japanese land bills in California volunteered to counsel the legislators of the neighbouring States to follow the example they had set, and adopt a law depriving the Japanese of the right of landownership. Oregon made no response; Idaho and Washington repudiated the advice by passing a law in favour of the Japanese.

Apart from such a magical catchword as America for Americans," or "California for Californians," there is no plausible reason for prohibiting the Japanese from acquiring land. Such arguments as are advanced by the authors of anti-Japanese measures have already been exploded. They argue that the Japanese does not know

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