Only about 16% of Japan’s land is considered suitable for farming. This includes a considerable portion which is too steep to terrace for rice or other flat land crops which have a high yield and, usually, a high economic return. This land, however, is crucially important to agriculture.
Many crops are suitable only to upland farming since they require good drainage or little fertilizer. Tea plants are a good example of a crop which is found on south facing steep hill slopes offering barely enough room for the plant and the farmer together. The return on tea can be good since connoisseurs will pay extremely high prices for quality leaves. Fruits, especially citrus fruits like the mikan or ‘Satsuma’ orange thrive on hillsides. They have been encouraged by the government, both for their health-giving properties and for the profits they can wring from marginal upland.