Japan Agriculture and Fishing Overview

Japan Facts

Japan is an island nation in the Pacific Ocean in East Asia.
Capital: Tokyo
Official language: Japanese
Currency: Japanese Yen (JPY)
Passport and visa: When traveling less than 90 days, a Finnish citizen needs a passport as a travel document to Japan. Children must have their own passport from 25 June 2012. All foreign travelers arriving in the country who have reached the age of 16 will be given a facial image and fingerprints at the time of the entry check. Passengers who do not agree to the measure will not be admitted. Exceptions are holders of Japanese special residence permits.
Time difference to Finland: Summer: + 6 hours, Winter: + 7 hours

Agriculture and fishing

Japan’s mountainous terrain makes it difficult to cultivate arable land. The plus population pressure and post-war land reform, where old feudal farming was broken up and distributed to farmers, has divided the arable land. Small field patches are interspersed with buildings on all habitable land and an average farm unit is just over one hectare. Living on the income from such small farms is difficult, and most farming families therefore have agriculture only as a side job.

  • CountryAAH: Comprehensive import regulations of Japan. Covers import prohibitions and special documentation requirements for a list of prohibited items.

Economically, agriculture has lost weight, but memories of old famine and the fear of food shortages mean that it still has an emotionally strong position. In the electoral system, the voters’ votes in the rural areas weigh more heavily than those of the big cities. One problem is the rising middle age in agriculture.

The most important crop by far is rice. Modern cultivation methods have increased the yield and Japan is more than self-sufficient for rice. However, the small cultivation units make Japanese rice much more expensive than the rest of the world. Commercial rice imports were prohibited for a long time to protect agriculture from competition. In the 1990s, Japan was forced to soften the import ban, but the state still subsidizes the country’s rice farmers. For Japan defense and foreign policy, please check recipesinthebox.

Wheat, barley, rye and soybeans are also grown but on a smaller scale. Most grain needs are covered by imports from primarily the US, Canada and Australia. Growing demand for meat and dairy products has boosted livestock farming.

By tradition, fish is more common in the diet than meat and thus the Japanese’s most important source of protein. The release of radioactivity in the sea off Fukushima has spread a concern for fish caught in those waters, which affected fishing there in the same way that agricultural products from the region were affected by the disaster in 2011. Japan also has one of the world’s largest fishing fleets, which seeks catches around the world. But while fish stocks are shrinking and many states have expanded their economic marine zones, Japanese fishermen have been shut out of old fishing grounds. Japan’s deep-sea fishing has therefore been declining year on year. In return, imports have increased.


Agriculture’s share of GDP

1.2 percent (2017)

Percentage of land used for agriculture

12.3 percent (2016)



Military vessels and surveillance plan are sent to Omanviken

December 27

Japan sends a military ship and two surveillance plan to help protect ocean routes in the Middle East. The military operations should not participate in the US naval military effort to protect shipping in the Hormuz Strait, where tankers have been attacked and taken into custody by Iran. Instead, the ship and aircraft will monitor, among others, the Oman Bay and the Gulf of Aden.


Minister of Commerce resigns following scandal

October 25th

Isshu Sugawara, who took office as a new Minister of Commerce just over a month ago, is resigning after being accused of giving gifts to people in the constituency where he works. Among other things, a newspaper has reported that he has given 20,000 yen to a distressed family. Sugawara’s actions may be a violation of the country’s electoral laws.

About 40 dead in the tracks of the typhoon Hagibis

October 14

The typhoon Hagibis is one of the most powerful in Japan in many decades. Hurricane winds hit large parts of the country and large amounts of rain cause severe flooding and landslides. At least 43 people have been killed in connection with Hagibi’s progress and a dozen are still missing.

Trade agreement with the United States is signed

October 8

Two trade agreements are signed by the US and Japan. One agreement concerns agricultural commodities and means, among other things, that Japan will reduce tariffs by $ 7 billion on beef and pork, while the United States, in turn, will reduce its tariffs on Japanese agricultural products by the equivalent of $ 40 million, while Japan will also have greater access to the US market. In addition, a separate agreement has been entered into in which the countries have agreed to abolish duties on digital products such as video films, e-books and music.


South Korea deletes Japan from trading list

September 17th

Japan is removed from the so-called white list of South Korea’s foremost and most reliable trading partners. The message is yet another step in the trade dispute between the countries that started in the summer and also a response to Japan in August removing South Korea from its list of priority trading countries (see also July and August).

Abe appoints new ministers

11 September

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is reforming the government and appointing 13 new ministers. Toshimitsu Motegi becomes new Foreign Minister after Taro Kono, who in turn is appointed Minister of Defense. Abe also gives 38-year-old Shinjiro Koizumi, son of former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, the post of Minister of Health. Koizumi is popular with many Japanese and is predicted to become a future leader.


South Korea terminates defense agreement with Japan

22 August

A few days before it’s time for the annual renewal of a General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) with Japan to exchange military intelligence information, the Korean government announces the termination of the agreement. The reason is stated to be that it is not in the country’s interest to keep the agreement. The decision is seen as a result of the recently deteriorating relations between the countries. Much of the intelligence information that Japan and South Korea have been cooperating on through the agreement has been about North Korea and its testing of robots. Now, the countries will instead be referred to information from the United States, which is both countries’ military ally. The Japanese government is strongly critical of South Korea’s decision.

Japan deletes South Korea from the “white list”

August 2

South Korea is removed from the so-called white list of the nearly 30 countries that enjoy special trade benefits with Japan. The decision will enter into force on August 28 and is part of an escalated trade conflict between Japan and South Korea (see also South Korea: Calendar July and August 2019). South Korea condemns the decision.


The government parties win general elections

July 21st

Election to Parliament House. 124 out of 245 seats are at stake. The government coalition (LDP and Komeito) wins the election and retains its majority, though without securing the “super majority” of two-thirds of the vote in the House, which would make it easier for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to enforce changes to Japan’s pacifist constitution.


Emperor Akihito abdicates

April 30th

Emperor Akihito has since 2016, because of failing health and high age, asked to leave the so-called Chrysanthemum throne, which he climbed in 1989 after the father of Emperor Hirohito’s death. It is the first time in two hundred years that an emperor is allowed to leave the throne, as an emperor is required by law to sit on the throne for life. But Parliament approved in 2017 that an exception was made for Emperor Akihito, today 85 years. He is succeeded by his eldest son the 59-year-old crown prince Naruhito, who is inaugurated as a new emperor on May 1. The change of throne marks the beginning of a new imperial era called Reiwa, which means beautiful harmony.


Residents of Okinawa say no to the US military base

February 25th

More than 72 percent of participants in an advisory referendum on Okinawa vote against the ongoing relocation of the US military base Futenma to another part of the archipelago. Approximately 19 percent vote yes in the vote, with the total participation being around 52 percent. The no-votes want the military base to be completely moved from Okinawa. Prime Minister Abe says, despite the continued strong opposition among the Okinawas, that the relocation of the base will continue according to plans.

Human rights groups criticize legal systems

February 19

The ongoing legal process against the former head of Japanese car company Nissan, Carlos Ghosn, has been criticized by two human rights organizations. They say the case points to a problem that has long characterized the Japanese judicial system, namely the possibility of detaining suspects in detention for a long time before prosecution has been brought. Ghosn has been detained since he was arrested on November 19. They also criticize the fact that Ghosn did not have access to a lawyer during the interrogations and the inferior conditions prevailing for those who were deprived of liberty.


No solution to island conflict with Russia

January 24th

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin meet in Moscow to discuss bilateral cooperation. Among other things, Russia wants trade exchanges to increase. The two leaders fail to reach an agreement on the four southernmost islands in the Kurils, which both countries claim. The dispute over the rights to the islands has prevented the countries from concluding a peace treaty after the Second World War.

Russia and Japan are discussing peace agreements

January 14

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said at a meeting in Moscow with Foreign Minister Taro Kono that it is difficult to move forward with attempts to reach a peace agreement between the countries after the Second World War if Japan does not recognize Russia’s right to the four southern islands in the Kurilim chain north of Hokkaido. Japan has long held the position that all four islands are Japanese territory. In November, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed to try to bring about a peace agreement after the Second World War.

The government changes the budget after statistics scandal

January 11

The Ministry of Labor Markets admits that for several years it has failed to collect accurate statistics on employment and wages. The inadequate documentation has meant that many have not received the amounts they are entitled to from state payments of, among other things, unemployment benefits. This could involve close to 53 billion yen, which must now be paid in retrospect, which means that the state budget needs to be revised.

Japan Agriculture and Fishing