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Vol.43 Hokkaido
Arp 25,2017
  I have traveled Hokkaido for two years in a row. Of things I learned from conversations with local people and documents, the following topics interested me:

1. Abashiri Kangoku (Prison)
 To prepare for Russian invasion in 1881, up to 10% of prisoners in the Honshu island of Japan were transported to Hokkaido to mostly work on road construction. It is said that full-scale Hokkaido reclamation started with prisoners.
 To provide food for themselves, prisoners sent to Hokkaido carved out new farms from the wilderness and grew potatoes and radishes. However, the vegetables did not grow well because the land around the Kushiro Prison, which originally held prisoners, was marshy. For such an agricultural reason, a branch prison was built in Abashiri in 1891. That is how the Abashiri Prison started.

2. Hokkaido Reclamation
 The summary of the subsequent reclamation is as follows:
(1) Sent mostly samurai warriors who lost their jobs to start reclamation on flat areas near the ports.
(2) Then, moved inland and cultivated flat areas mainly by the second and third sons of farmers.
(3) Finally, reclaimed areas in poor conditions, such as mountains and hills.

3. Cultivated Land
 It is said that the average cultivated area of farms in Hokkaido is currently is 20 to 30 cho. Twenty cho is 198,348 m2 (about 655,000 tsubo areas, which is four times the area of the Tokyo Dome). Land of this size is plowed by parents and children or two-generation couples. To complete the work, they need machines such as a tractor (10 million yen for Japanese one and 20 million yen for foreign one) and a combine (40 million yen for foreign one).
 I was surprised to hardly see abandoned farmland during my travel to many places in Hokkaido. According to local people, if farmland is abandoned, an adjacent farmer buys or rents it to expand its cultivated areas.
End.
Masaru Sugaya

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