Pubdate: 1874 Source: Report of the Commissioner of Agriculture for the year 1873 Author: Hon. Horace Capron, Formerly U.S. Commissioner of Agriculture Pages: 372-373
AGRICULTURE IN JAPAN - HEMP & FLAX
Hemp is raised on valley-lands, which are dug up and flooded the same as for rice, and the same kind of fertilizers are used, that is, rape-seed or fish oil-cake, straw-manure, sea-weed, or liquid manure from closets. The hemp is not sown broadcast as with us, but is planted in March in drills 16 inches apart. As soon as the plants are well up they are hoed, and in addition to the manure worked into the soil previous to the planting, two or three times each month liquid manure is applied to the roots of each plant. Between these drills some kind of vegetable is grown and thoroughly fertilized. The ground is completely flooded several times by means of the ubiquitous irrigating ditches. In August the hemp is pulled, not cut, and is placed in the water-ditches and alternately soaked a few days and then dried for a time, till the external coating is thoroughly rotted; it is then beaten on a board or plank platform with a bamboo stick till the fiber is entirely cleaned. Another method for separating the fiber is by holding a number of the stems near their tops with the left hand, (an equal number at each time,) and with the right hand breaking them short off and stripping the fiber from the stems. This leaves it in hanks of uniform size, which is retained through the whole process until baled for market. To relieve the fiber of its glutinous coating is a very simple process. A thin piece of bamboo, about 3 inches wide and 2 or 3 feet long, is stretched over two bridges in a manner similar to the hairs on a fiddle-bow, so as to render it elastic; this is fastened in a convenient manner a little inclined. The hanks of hemp in the damp state are laid upon this as they are stripped, then another piece of bamboo, curved like a currier's scraper, is run down over this several times till the fiber is entirely clean. These hanks are then hung over bamboo rods to dry. It is then pressed into bales of 100 pounds each, and sent on pack-horses to market. It is probably the finest hemp grown in the world. The great length, fineness, glossiness, and strength of the staple are unequaled.
I have been unable to ascertain the average yield of hemp per acre. It is sold very low in the market at present, but when the proper machinery is invented for working this fiber it will prove a mine of wealth to Japan.
Flax is grown on the same soil as hemp, and manured the same, and prepared in like manner for market. It is also noted for its excellence. These two crops are raised by rotation, that is, are never grown two seasons in succession on the same ground.