National Geographic : 1967 Sep
Kayaks barely visible above the water, students stroke toward Umashima-one of 300 islands, plus thousands of rocky islets, that stud the 240-mile long Inland Sea. Villagers line the quay to welcome the foreigners and their strange craft. The terraced island, appearing high and dry from the sea, climbs a broad water-paved stairway to its summit (below). Working muck with an ox-drawn harrow, a farmer prepares for rice planting high on Umashima. Newly set plants already spike watery lower levels; vege tables carpet fields at left. Using every arable inch, Japanese still can farm barely a seventh of their mountainous land. With simple tools, hard work, and skill, they coax forth yields that place them among the world's most efficient farmers. Rice 302 grows on one of every two cultivated acres.