I use new evidence from servant contracts, 1610–1890, to estimate male farm wages and the length of the work year in Japan. I show Japanese laborers were surprisingly poor and could only sustain 2–3 adults relative to 7 adults for the English. Japanese wages were the lowest among pre-industrial societies and this was driven by Malthusian population pressures. I also estimate the work year and find peasants worked 325 days a year by 1700, predating the “industrious” revolution in Europe. The findings imply Japan had a distinct labor-intensive path to industrialization, utilizing cheap labor over a long work year.