Sokendai Review of Cultural and Social Studies


Changes in Forms of Occupation and Division
of Labor in a Seaside Lowland:
The Sea and the Land in Urayasu


(Natural History Museum and Institute, Chiba Chief Senior Scientist)

Key words:

meadow belonging to the sea, agriculture, fishery, division of labor, inferior farmland, quantitative data, Urayasu City, Chiba

The purpose of this article is to consider the historical and folkloric significance of agriculture in a swampy lowland beside the sea.

I consider the division of labor among local residents of Urayasu and describe occupations that were devised to sustain their lives as they kept up with progress of farming techniques and coped with environmental change on land that is inferior as farmland. I consider these matters diachronically, up to the point at which the occupations become locally extinct. I have conducted this inquiry by examination of quantitative evidence in documents and by oral interviewing.

Approximately three-fourths of Urayasu City, Chiba Prefecture, the site of this investigation, is land reclaimed from the sea. Filled in after the late 1960s, it was once a very large tideland and a place that was most suitable for fishery and laver culture. The primary occupation of residents was fishing, but there was also agriculture. From the last years of the Meiji era, new techniques of laver culture and shellfish culture flourished in Urayasu to offset the decrease in the catch of fish. In the agricultural sector, the new technical introduction of lotus cultivation brought a measurable increase in cash income. Thus for the generation active in the labor force in the Showa thirties (1955–1965), labor in Urayasu was divided among the occupations of rice growing, lotus cultivation, fishing, shellfish culture, and laver culture.I have analyzed the entries for 1953, 1955, and 1965, in the notebooks kept by Mr. N., a resident of Urayasu City. They reflect that the occupational structure of the area changed in the thirties through the forties of the Showa era (1960s–1970s). The factors that caused changes in occupational structure include: ① ups and downs of different occupations, ② technological change, ③ personal factors, ④ environmental change, and ⑤ social change. This article, by utilizing quantitative data, casts light on the forms of occupation of people engaged primarily in agriculture on land reclaimed from the sea, a subject that has not previously attracted very much attention.