HIGHLIGHTS

  • He chose to study and later teach agriculture at Tokyo University. Intent upon discovering how land use and crops had evolved elsewhere, he continued his education in Germany and the United States and returned to become a pioneer in agricultural economics.
  • TOBATA became a champion of land reform. Attempted without success after the close of World War I, reform was accomplished with support from the Allied Occupation after 1945.
  • TOBATA helped devise government action to promote basic democratic ideas through cooperatives, education and demonstration.
  • Now retired from teaching, TOBATA devotes himself to encouraging understanding of the fundamental role of a healthy agriculture in promoting national and regional progress.
  • The RMAF board of trustees recognizes “his incisive contributions toward modernization of Japan’s agriculture and the sharing of its experience with developing nations.”

 CITATION

Born on February 2, 1899 in Mie Prefecture, Prof. TOBATA, as the son of a landowning family, in his youth became attuned to the seasonal rhythm of farming. Whereas most young men of his circumstance aimed for high government position with its prerogatives, he chose to study and later teach agriculture at Tokyo University. Intent upon discovering how land use and crops had evolved elsewhere, he continued his education in Germany and the United States and returned to become a pioneer in agricultural economics.

As his scholarship won adherents, TOBATA’S advice increasingly was sought by fellow academicians, technicians and government officials. In his advisory role he made important contributions to development of agricultural science and research and to charting Japanese agricultural policies.

Alert to the injustices and technologically crippling effects of a feudal land tenure system that the Meiji Restoration had left almost untouched, TOBATA became a champion of land reform. Attempted without success after the close of World War I, reform was accomplished with support from the Allied Occupation after 1945. As the transformation awakened peasant initiative, TOBATA helped devise government action to promote basic democratic ideas through cooperatives, education and demonstration. The Japanese farmer’s wife, known formerly as the “hornless cow,” also became his concern as he worked for her liberation and acceptance as a full-fledged partner in family decision-making.

With the triumph of sound policies and technology that enabled Japan’s farmers to support accelerated industrialization, TOBATA turned his efforts to helping developing lands. Through the Institute of Asian Economic Affairs, he and his associates began assembling data on their own experience and on actual potentials and problems facing farmers in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Sending abroad yearly more than 20 scholars to gather basic facts, the Institute is beginning systematically to provide information applicable in other lands. Now retired from teaching, TOBATA devotes himself to encouraging understanding of the fundamental role of a healthy agriculture in promoting national and regional progress.

In electing SEIICHI TOBATA as the 1968 Ramon Magsaysay Awardee for Public Service, the Board of Trustees recognizes his incisive contributions toward modernization of Japan’s agriculture and the sharing of its experience with developing nations.

 RESPONSE

(Dr. Tobata regrets that illness prevents him from being here today and has asked that this message be read):

I am deeply honored and pleased to have been chosen a Ramon Magsaysay Awardee.

Looking back upon my life, the first occasion when I was given an award was when I was a fourth grade pupil. At that time the head of the local government where I come from visited some 20 primary schools in the district and chose one excellent pupil from each school for an award. I still very well remember how proud my parents were when I danced home with my award. And the second award to bless me in my lifetime is a much greater one: the Ramon Magsaysay Award—an honor I never dreamed of receiving. Today my parents are no longer here to share this joy with me, although this time all my family, including my grandchildren, together with many of my friends are with me to share in this honor. Thank you very, very much for this great Award.

The citation covering this Award refers to ‘incisive contributions toward modernization of Japan’s agriculture and the sharing of its experience with developing nations.’ Indeed I must ask myself whether I really deserve this praise and reflect critically upon what I have done in the past.

Since the time when I was around 50 years of age, I began to doubt my capability as a scholar at the university; I was increasingly realizing that this role had its own limits. I mused what I should do to make the best use of what little capability I had. I concluded that I could more usefully exert myself to assist promising young men and provide them with better and greater opportunities for research and study, rather than myself continuing as a student. So, since the end of the Pacific War, I have taken posts as the first Director of the Research Institute of Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry from 1946 to 1956, and then as the first Chairman of the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Technology Research Council of the same Ministry from 1956 to 1963. After that I served from 1958 to 1967 as the first President of the Institute of Asian Economic Affairs, the first postwar research institute of this sort in Japan to specialize in research on problems of developing nations. While not everything went entirely as I had aspired, I am satisfied on the whole with what has been done to date—above all, a good many specialists have been developed in all of these organizations and, not of lesser significance, I could find men of greater competence than I on whom to pass my jobs. Yet, who can say that these are ‘incisive contributions?’ I recall the geese from the Roman tale whose quacks awoke the sleepy Roman soldiers in the face of the enemy’s night attacks, thus unwittingly saving Rome from possible defeat. My ‘contributions’ must in all probability be likewise indirect ones at the most. The Magsaysay Award Foundation was generous enough to honor an old Doctor Goose with this great Award! So, may I understand it to mean encouragement for me to raise louder quacks the rest of my life?

Modernization of Japan’s agriculture, the various efforts in this direction during some 20 postwar years notwithstanding, seems to me to leave much to be desired. Moreover, under influences of the fast growing non-agricultural sectors, Japanese agriculture today is in a very precarious condition. Yet we have had some advancement. In respect to rice cultivation, for one thing, prewar volume of rice production had barely exceeded 10 million tons; today, with cultivated area of paddy fields having increased only slightly, the volume of production in the normal crop year is well over 13 million tons and in 1967, in particular, it reached a record level of 14.45 million tons. And this in spite of the sharp decrease in the agricultural population and the trend toward greater proportions of old-aged and women in the farm labor force.

I may mention three major factors which have contributed toward this progress.

First, there have been increased application of science and technology to agriculture and greater dissemination among farmers of the latest agricultural know-how. Institutions for agricultural experimentation and research now are oriented more toward practical problems that farmers face. Also, more organizations are disseminating among farmers—and particularly rural housewives—information and techniques for the improvement of farming and living conditions.

Second, the relations between agriculture and other industries have become closer. Industries producing chemical fertilizer, agricultural chemicals, farm machines and implements and processing food are now ‘growth industries’ and their contributions toward increased agricultural productivity are considerable.

Third, while the initiative and leadership of the government agencies have remained as strong as before the war, noticeable postwar phenomena are a stronger confidence in the progress of farming as well as a greater will-to-work among owner-farmers, especially among young farmers.

So much for what I would like to say for today’s memorable occasion. I believe that some of the achievements thus far made in Japan may, with due corrections and modifications, prove applicable to agriculture, particularly to rice farming, in other Asian countries. Finally, let me say that I do always hope and pray, just as you all do, for further development of agriculture in this part of the world.

 BIOGRAPHY

In the short span of a century Japan has moved from a feudal to a modern society and from a basically agricultural economy to fourth among the world’s industrial nations. Japan’s agriculture supported this industrial development. Among Japanese scholars who have worked creatively on agricultural policy and economics to insure high agricultural growth and productivity, SEIICHI TOBATA is the acknowledged “Great Teacher.” His teaching has been on two levels, as professor of agricultural economics at Tokyo University and as administrator of major governmental agricultural programs. In both capacities he expanded the horizons of Japanese agriculturists and economists by adapting ideas he studied abroad to specific Japanese conditions and demanding that agriculture be considered in terms of modern economic systems.

SEIICHI TOBATA was born in the hamlet of Inoue of Toyochimura (a village later incorporated in Ureshino-cho), Ichishi-gun, Mie Prefecture, central Honshu, on February 2, 1899. Eldest of four sons and two daughters of Kichinosuke and Yoshiko Uejima Tobata, he grew up in the secure environment of a landowning family closely associated with the activities of the countryside. TOBATA affectionately describes his birthplace as “median.” Ise (the old name of the prefecture) is in the center of Japan, the climate is mild and in his youth “per capita income and expenditure were that of the average for the nation with neither very rich nor very poor people.” In a way, he says, he “never left Ise,” because he always came home for summer and winter vacations even after he started to work; it was only when he grew older that he was unable to get home at least once a year.

Inoue was a typical hamlet of some 30 families (50 years later this number had not changed) with a Buddhist temple and a Shinto shrine. Funerals, weddings, festivals and other celebrations were hamlet affairs. Crops were rice, barley and vegetables, and silkworm raising was an important industry.

(For the complete biography, please email biographies@rmaf.org.ph)