[Historical Inspirations] 2017/04/20 – Japan & Its Historical Approach to Food

Sune here! I guess I should use a different tagline for this Mail Call since it really deals mostly with real life history.

Today’s update is in response to someone who thinks I am treating Japan badly. The question, when translated, is “How can Japan has a national motivation of securing food when Japan has been a prosperous and capable country in real life?”

Japanese cuisine is typically characterized by its simplicity. This was a historical matter as well as a cultural one. Japan is not a resource rich country. Its cuisine reflects that as a result of both economic and cultural realities. Japanese food economics historically has relied heavily on rice and lesser grains as a staple and seafood as a heavy supplement. Oils, red meats, fats and such are much rarer in Japanese cuisine than its neighbors.

For that matter, most of Japanese land is poor and not suitable for farming. If I tell you people used to fight for the right to eat white rice you might be shocked, but when we have a unit used historically to measure wealth (koku) that is literally an approximation of how much rice a person needs to survive for a year it shows just how important things are.

There is more to the historical precedent.

Historically Imperial Japan recognizes the necessity of living space in the context of food security. While no such term was formally coined like Nazi Germany the concept was the same. The bigger reason is all in the details. The Imperial Japanese Army saw that Germany was reliant on outside resources and became alarmed because when Germany was starved of those resources it was defeated. Virtually all of Japan’s raw materials had to be imported. In order to make Japan self-sufficient so Japan cannot be defeated Japan must create its own empire.

Evicting millions of Chinese farmers from Manchuria to make room for Japanese colonists to produce food for the homeland is one example. Japan being very interested in creating colonies for itself is another. Japanese farms being inefficient and incapable of producing food that allows for sustained national expansion is yet another. Economic interests is yet another.

Japanese reliance on its colonies for producing rice went from about 5% of its overall rice crop in the 1910s to about 20% in less than twenty years. Poor management of domestic policies did not result in an increase of wealth to the Japanese poor and farming classes. While we were starving the subhumans in Asia (Morgane has said that it was a rude word but I am just stating what the Army thought of the non-Japanese in the colonies at the time to emphasize how brutal the times were) a decrease in prices of rice (due to greater imports) resulted in massive poverty. Farmers could not sell their rice at the old prices due to cheaper imports and were forced to buy food. In many cases the cost to produce rice in the Japanese homeland was more than what the farmer would receive on the marketplace. In order to survive and pay rent they must take loans in which many times were very high in interest.

I had the opportunity to look at some not-destroyed records of the time. By 1931 when we were invading Manchuria farmer debt accounted for one THIRD of Japan’s gross national product.

At the time in 1930 documented deaths in newborns and other infants due to malnutrition and starvation was approximately five hundred thousand. About one of every ten child will not live to see his or her first birthday. Two hundred thousand elementary school aged children were attending class without anything to eat for lunch. People were eating tree bark and fertilizer (because of fish bits) and tens of thousands families were literally selling their daughters into sexual slavery just so they could survive.

Japan had problems and food was one of its biggest. I would not say that the militarists and ultranationalists “fooled” the Japanese people by “exploiting” this undercurrent of anger and directed it outward. There is no fooling anyone there. This was a concern significant to the population and most people eagerly went along with it. Japan was not lacking in political diversity or ideology at this time. The people just did not want to do things differently. Especially not when the military actively promoted self-interest and made the lives of those siding with it much better.

Some English-speaking KanColle fans have this idea somehow that everything was wonderful during the pre-war years. I can only say with certainty that parts of Japan was doing very wonderfully. For all of its technological advancements Imperial Japan is an excellent case study for systematically poor management and national policy making.

I tell you this not to embarrass my country and my ancestors. It is simply what it is. In order for Japan to move forward in this world or in our world it is necessary for us to look at history and understand what happened.

Anyway I will not bore you with more details of the rural reform plans or Manchuria or even indigenous Japanese policies that help inspire many angles of Pacific’s Japan. I will simply say that in real life, there is a book, 餓死(うえじに)した英霊たち, showing that more than half of the Japanese military losses were due primarily to hunger and starvation.

Pacific’s Japan knows this and tries to learn from this. Its strategy of trying to obtain living space and to improve its domestic industries has not changed from the defeated empire. From a purely thematic perspective my emphasis for Japan is practicality above all else. Much like real life history the Japanese government is still ran by the old Imperialists in Pacific. The old fears are also still there, but unlike the Empire Japan now has no colonies to extract food from.

And so Japan placed all of its hopes on three things. Scientific advancement. National patriotism. Time. Like Tokugawa Ieyasu, Japan did the first two things and waited for an opportunity. It would soon get one.

When the U.S. Pacific Fleet was nearly eradicated in a skirmish (covered up as a nuclear detonation + weapons system malfunction) against the Abyssal Fleet in a foolish show of force, Japan saw its chance. Here was the perfect chance to realign and revitalize itself nationally and militarily. The resurgent Soviet Union, a growing Chinese threat, and the weakened American presence in East Asia all pointed to an opportunity of the once in a lifetime type for Japan to make it great (?) again.

The opportunity died with the Hyuuga Incident.