During Japan's era of rapid economic growth in the 1970s, a westernization of the Japanese diet led to a high consumption rate of milk and other dairy products. The annual per person consumption of dairy products jumped from 22 kilograms in 1966 to 92 kilograms in 1998. In 1999, Japan produced nearly 8.6 million tons of raw milk, approximately 60 % becoming pasteurized milk and the remainder being used in processed dairy goods such as cheese and butter.
Dairy farming is most prevalent in Hokkaido, Japan's northernmost island. Hokkaido accounts for more than 40 % of Japan's entire raw dairy production, but for only eight % of Japan's pasteurized milk production. Dairy farms in other places such as Kanagawa, Chiba, Aichi, Hyogo, and Tochigi produce most of the milk consumed in Japan.
In the year 2000, there were approximately 39,400 dairy farms in Japan. While this is considerably less than the 420,000 dairy farms that existed in 1963, the smaller number also represents major advances in rationalization, consolidation, and large-scale production.
*Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries data on livestock and dairy products