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The Hidden Face of Disaster: 3.11, the Historical Structure and Future of Japan’s Northeast via Japan Focus

Oguma Eiji
Translated by Kyoko Selden

A Provider of Food
It is not well-known that the Tōhoku region only established its position as the nation’s rice production center after World War II. Yields of rice, a commercial crop of tropical origin, were relatively low in the Northeast until the Taishō Era (1912-1926).

Rice production in the region, however, started growing partly due to advances in agricultural technology and partly due to a variety of economic and political factors. The factors included the expansion of Tokyo as the nation’s principal consumer market, government efforts to increase food production during and after the war, and the postwar independence of colonial Korea and Taiwan, which supplied Japan’s rice before the war. As a result, Tōhoku became a major supplier of rice, vegetables and seafood for Tokyo.

Especially significant was the food control system introduced in 1942 on a total war footing for the purpose of stable rationing. This system, in which the government purchased rice and other products at fixed prices and supplied consumers with food, stabilized the price of rice, which had been a crucial issue for prewar Japan.

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