-THE OLD JAPAN 647. An independent civilization.—Japan has a history very different from that of the other Asiatic countries we have studied. We have read of roving peoples, of conquests, of empires that rose and fell. Japan is different. She is protected by the sea. No foreigner has invaded her shores. For hun dreds of years her emperors have ruled their beautiful land, while the industrious people, aided by their good climate, developed agriculture, hand industries, arts, and a high civilization. For many centuries the Japa nese have been taught reading and writing.
648. An artistic people.—For centuries the Japanese were a nation of expert and careful farmers and skilled workers in wood, metal, clay, porcelain, silk, paper, and lacquer, which is a kind of varnish that we, in America, do not make. Japanese paper umbrellas and lanterns are so pretty that we sometimes use them for ornaments.
649. Japanese flowers.—Many plants in American gardens were brought from Japan. The people are wonderful gardeners, both in fruits and flowers. With patient skill they have produced many varieties of fruits new to us. In Japan there are cherry and other fruit trees that produce beautiful, large flowers but no edible fruit. Cherry-blooming time in Japan is a kind of spring festival. Thousands go out to see the cherry trees that almost bury the little houses in seas of red and pink and white blossoms. Often poems are written to the cherry trees.
650. Good manners.—The people have lived close together for such a long time that they have made a great many rules about how one person should treat another. Even the little children are taught to obey these rules of conduct. Indeed, the Japanese and the Chinese are among the most polite people in the world.
651. Love of country.—The Japanese have long loved their country. They love it so well that they are willing to obey its laws more thoroughly than we in the United States obey our laws. As soldiers, the Japanese have shown great bravery, and the people declare they would die to the last man to save their country from invasion.
652. Sports and games.—Japanese, both young and old, are fond of sports and games, and have many that we do not know in this country. Their wrestlers and acrobats some times come to America and give amazing exhibitions of what they can do.
653. Japan's problem—the food supply.— For many centuries the Japanese supported themselves by farming and household indus tries. They had no foreign trade. After many centuries the population became so dense that the people had a very hard time to get enough to eat. That is Japan's great problem—something to eat. The three large southern islands are about one-twenty-fifth as large as the United States, but they have more than half as many people as the whole United States. Japan is so hilly that only about one-sixth of her land can be farmed.
On the average, one acre of cultivated land has been made to feed four Japanese people.
654. Little land, much labor.—When four people get their food from one acre of land, it means that they must work very hard, and by intensive farming raise many crops. As one acre of ground can not be made to produce enough to feed both men and beasts, the Japanese do not keep animals. Man must, therefore, do his own plowing. Some times men and women pull plows, but most of the land is turned by hand with spades and forks. This is called garden agriculture, or hand agriculture. In the main island of Honshu the average farm is only 70 yards by 175 yards (two and a half acres). The field that grows wheat, barley, or rye in the winter is immediately spaded up after har vest and planted to rice or some other summer crop. More than half of the cultivated land of this part of Japan has been leveled for rice fields, called "paddies." (Sec. 672.) 655. Bamboo.—Our Bureau of Forestry at Washington tells us that we are using up our wood in the United States about four times as fast as it grows. We are able to do this for a time because we have only been in this continent a little while. Long ago the Japanese found that they must grow wood as fast as they used it. The wood that they cultivate is the bamboo (Fig. 516). It grows very quickly and is wonderfully use ful. To the Japanese, and to the Chinese as well (Sec. 675) it is lumber, water buckets, pipes, and innumerable other useful things. A list of all the uses made of bamboo would fill a page or two of this book. The young shoots are even used as lettuce.
656. Japanese usual meal of the Japanese garden farmers consists of rice, beans or other vegetables, much cabbage and other greens, a little fish, soy bean oil, and soy bean sauce for flavoring. The Japanese meal is nourishing, and because of the green vegetables it is more healthful than a meal of bread and butter, meat and potatoes. Instead of bread and potatoes the Japanese eat rice, because it is the best crop to grow in a land that has a warm, wet summer. They use fish and beans instead of meat, because land is scarce, and therefore animals are scarce. For the same reason soy bean oil is used instead of butter. We may not know it, but we often use meat to make our meal taste good. For that purpose the Japanese use a bit of fish, or a sauce made from fer mented soy bean meal.
657. Fisheries.—As the Japanese have neither room to raise meat, nor money with which to buy it, they must go to sea and catch fish. The waters near the Japanese shores are dotted with the sails of little fishing boats. No other nation except Norway has so many of its people catching sea food. Just as the people of California, Oregon, and Washington sail up to the coast of Alaska to catch salmon, so the Japanese now sail up to the cold Asiatic shores of Kamchatka oppo site Alaska, and catch salmon and other fish, and crabs. This sea food is canned.