National Geographic : 1904 Nov
SOME FACTS thirty spindles. In deftness and delicacy of touch Japanese operators have no ri vals, but the Japanese industry is handi capped as yet by the scarcity of skilled labor. This disadvantage is, however, counterbalanced by the longer working hours of the Japanese mills, which work twenty-three hours out of twenty-four with two shifts of operators, and conse quently their production per spindle is 40 per cent greater than the production at the Bombay mills and nearly double the production at English mills. Another, and by far the most impor tant, factor is the low rate of wages. In 1900 wages were 9 cents per diem (American gold) for men and 5 cents for women in Japan, while in the same year they ranged from $.34 to $.68 in England and from 13 to 35 cents in India. It will thus be seen that the wages of the Japanese spinners are far lower than those ruling in India. Though it is a false notion that low wages in themselves are sufficient to es tablish Japan's yarn trade, there is no gainsaying the fact that the rate of wages has much to do with the determi nation of the cost of production. The scarcity of capital and the consequent high rate of interest, which ranges ordi narily from 8 to o1per cent, and some times even as high as r2 per cent, is a drawback. But this is offset by the longer working hours of the Japanese mills and the consequent larger produc tion of yarn per spindle. Whether the mills are run at night or not, the cotton spinning companies have to pay the same rate of interest. RICE AND THE FOOD SUPPLY It is undeniable that Japan has al most reached the maximum in her pro duction of rice. Of late years, even under the most favorable circumstances, the Japanese crops have not sufficed to feed the growing population without the importation of foreign supplies. Every inch of the arable land of the country has been brought under cultivation by ABOUT JAPAN 447 the labors of many centuries, and even the mountains are often cultivated to their highest summits, manure being laboriously carried up on human shoul ders. Under these circumstances, there is at present no prospect for any large extension of cultivable soil, with the ex ception of Hokkaido, the northernmost island of Japan, a great part of which still remains untouched. However primi tive be his method of cultivation, the Japanesefarmer understands his work so thoroughly that, by elaborate means of ir rigation and the skillful use of fertilizers, he has been able to obtain rich harvests from the same land during fifteen or twenty centuries. It will thus be in ferred that agrarian improvements in the direction of more scientific processes of intensive cultivation would hardly afford much relief, especially in view of the fact that the population of Japan is increasing at the rate of 400,000 souls per annum. It is quite evident that at no remote time Japan will be compelled to rely for her means of subsistence upon foreign lands. Agriculture, however, is still the fun damental basis of Japan's industrial life. To this industry the country owes its ability to pay its way, and but for the peasant farmer, who, by a more or less cheerful acquiescence in the imposition of a land tax, made it practicable for the newly formed central government to carry on the task of administration on a Western model, it is 'difficult to see where the resources could have been found for the consummation of so vast a change as that which has occurred within the last thirty years. The Jap anese farmers toil hard throughout the year, but their profits are small com pared with those derived from other kinds of business. Farmers conse quently are constantly forsaking their holdings for other lines of business. The result is a net gain to the country as a whole. Work is applied in direc tions which give a greater return to the individual and to the country.