Japan being an economic powerhouse and neighbour to the ASEAN countries of Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Myanmar, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Brunei, and the Philippines has impacted greatly towards agricultural, technological, scientific, industrial, and socio-economic development in these countries for the last six decades. Many Japanese government institutions and funding agencies, universities, research organizations corporations, industries, and banks contributed towards overseas development and investment. Such ventures have helped to improve the living standard of ASEAN countries.
Food and agriculture is of prime importance for the people in ASEAN and rice is the staple food. For Malaysia, the earliest cooperative effort with Japan to mechanise padi cultivation began in 1958 spearheaded by the Kubota Irons Machinery Work Ltd. working closely with the Department of Agriculture (DOA). The introduction of small pedestrian tractors to cultivate padi fields improve production and alleviate the drudgery of manual work.
The mechanisation projects were successfully implimented henceforth Kubota became a household word among padi farmers all over the country. Initially, there were problems of logistics and organization that led to some bottlenecks in the availability of Kubota cultivators in certain rice areas.
Since the 1960s, Japanese research scientists supported by their government agencies eg. Tropical Agricultural Research Centre (TARC), Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) or FAO-funded projects conducted studies on physiology, varietal improvement, irrigation and other aspects of rice production. The results of such studies contributed towards modernizing the rice industry and help in training, skill upgrading, and internationalising local reseachers.
Japanese experts and scientists were in the forefront in promoting double-cropping of padi when the Muda Irrigation Scheme (MADA), Kedah was completed circa 1970. Till today, there are Japanese workers engaged in improving mechanization of transplanting, direct seeding, weed management, and socio-economic research jointly with MARDI (Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute), DOA, and MADA.