On my first trip to Japan I was astonished by the prevalence of rice paddies in dense urban areas. A friend I was visiting mentioned that he occasionally had to cycle around a rice harvest from the plot next door on his apartment driveway. Throughout the city little patches of green space were being used for some kind of vegetable farm or rice paddy.
Why is this? What is so peculiar about Japan that people would forgo higher value urban land development to grow rice?