The islands of Okinawa, in Japan's far south, have a long tradition of agriculture. That tradition was interrupted by the Battle of Okinawa, one of the largest naval assaults of World War II.

Today, hundreds of Okinawans are returning to agriculture through a program of "tacit farming."

Tacit farming involves an agreement between the Japanese government and the U.S. military. The Japanese government leases land from local landowners for use as U.S. military bases. Many bases, in turn, allow Okinawans to farm in designated areas. At Kadena Air Base, above, farmers cultivate land on the base's munitions storage area.

Tacit farmers grow food for local consumption and profit. Kadena, for example, is one of the largest producers of sugar cane in Okinawa. In addition to sugar cane, tacit farmers grow tropical fruits, such as mangoes, papaya, and pineapple.

  • The earliest evidence of agriculture in Okinawa dates from the 700s.
  • After Japan's defeat in World War II, Okinawa remained under American control. The islands were returned to Japan in 1972.
  • The United States maintains more than 25 military bases or other operations in Okinawa. The bases take up most of the local arable land.
  • Most tacit farmers are over 50 years old.
Noun

the art and science of cultivating land for growing crops (farming) or raising livestock (ranching).

cultivate
Verb

to prepare and nurture the land for crops.

designate
Verb

to name or single out.

Noun

material, usually of plant or animal origin, that living organisms use to obtain nutrients.

government
Noun

system or order of a nation, state, or other political unit.

Noun

body of land surrounded by water.

lease
Verb

to rent, or buy for use during a specific time period.

military
Noun

armed forces.

profit
Noun

money earned after production costs and taxes are subtracted.

sugar cane
Noun

tall grass that is harvested to extract sugar from its sap or juice.

tradition
Noun

beliefs, customs, and cultural characteristics handed down from one generation to the next.

tropical fruit
Noun

any fruit-bearing trees that do not tolerate frost.

World War II
Noun

(1939-1945) armed conflict between the Allies (represented by the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union) and the Axis (represented by Germany, Italy, and Japan.)