Agricultural Production and Economic Growth in Ancient Japan:
A Quantitative Analysis of Arable Land, Land Productivity and Agricultural Output

Masanori Takashima

February 2012 (Revised: August 2012)


This paper presents a quantitative analysis of long-term economic growth and living standards in ancient Japan during the roughly 480 years comprising the Nara (710-794) and Heian (794-1195) periods. The analysis is conducted by estimating production in agriculture, which was the pillar of the economy of ancient Japan. Specifically, arable land, land productivity, and agricultural output are estimated for three benchmark years - 725, 900, and 1150 - using quantitative data obtained from ancient records. The results indicate that (1) economic growth in ancient Japan was relatively steady and moderate, and (2) agricultural output per capita was very low and ordinary farmers must have struggled to survive on their income from agricultural sources alone. The findings thus suggest that ancient Japan was reliant on agriculture, which however, was poorly developed and showed little technological development, so that there was little economic growth.

Full text

PDF Download (PDF: 1.4MB) (in Japanese)