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Japan’s historical Samurais were urban farmers

samFarmSamurai Urban Farm. Though each family decides how much of its garden to devote to farming and how much to ornament, most try to grow enough vegetables to meet their own needs.

Samurai farmers of Edo (present-day Tokyo)

Edo. Cultural period of Japanese history corresponding to the Tokugawa period of governance (1603–1867)

Just Enough: Lessons in Living Green from Traditional Japan
By Azby Brown
Kodansha International. February 1, 2010
Hardcover: 232 pages


Urban Farming in Edo did not start in a planned fashion. Rather, it was a spontaneous response to acute economic and agricultural conditions. Records show that, during the late Edo period, nearly every urban samurai family maintained a vegetable garden, and that over the years these gradually replaced large sections of their ornamental gardens. Consequently, to say that Edo was a vast urban farming area is no exaggeration.

It is ironic that it was the ruling class, under-funded, suffering from inflation, and deprived of real opportunity to improve its financial situation, that felt compelled to grow its own food. It was an “unofficial” economy, made possible by the fact that centuries of infrastructure work had left every family with a large garden with good soil.


The pattern of land of land use, the urban farmstead, is replicated by thousands of households throughout the samurai districts of the Edo metropolis. Many townsmen also have gardens, including small kitchen ones, but land in their densely populated districts is so prohibitively expensive that they are most likely to satisfy themselves with small pocket gardens instead of expansive wooded plots. Still, with so much of the city given to samurai, thousands of whom devoted about one-third of their property to farming, one can say that 50 percent of Edo’s land area is used for growing food to feed its citizens.

The book: Just Enough at Amazon here.

Just Enough website here.

See also “Japan’s Edo Culture Inspires a Sustainable Post-Industrial Future” by Jared Braiterman here.

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