This chapter has highlighted how the food regime approach represents an original tool for interpreting the decline in Japan’s food self-sufficiency, especially at a time when the debate on Japan’s participation in the TransPacific Partnership (TPP) and the food-security risks related to this involvement is flaring up, both at political and academic levels.
Japan’s food dependency has generally been understood as a consequence of industrialization, economic growth, and changing dietary habits, while, in fact, it was shaped by a combination of multiple factors. The food regime approach has allowed us to put the decline in food self-sufficiency in a historical perspective, in order to show how food dependence has been strongly influenced by the international structure of the food trade and by internal and external determinants of Japan’s foreign policy. As has been stressed in this work, Japan’s food dependence on imported goods dates back to World War II when Japan relied on food supplies from its colonies.
During the colonial period, Japanese authorities decided to concentrate national resources on the development of the military and defence sectors. In this way, Japanese colonies served as ‘agricultural appendages’ that supplied cheap food to Japan’s urban population. After the country’s defeat, Japan’s imperial system collapsed, and the Allied Forces occupied the country. During that time, Japan imported a notable amount of agricultural products from the USA under the food aid programme, and even once it had regained independence, the country continued to be a major market for the USA However, even though Japan became the main importer of American agricultural products, the choice to import more foodstuffs from the USA concealed a hidden agenda to protect and develop Japan’s interests in industrial and military sectors. After the world food crisis in 1973, Japan promoted the expansion of its agribusiness corporations in ‘new agricultural countries’, in order to diversify the sources of its food supplies and create a secure network of food imports.
In light of the findings of the study at hand, it is possible to claim that Japan’s food security and food self-sufficiency cannot be fully evaluated without reference to the international context and Japan’s broader economic security interests.