As time passes, Japan is seeing many of its smaller countryside villages become depopulated as younger generations move to larger cities for work. For those who remain, farming lacks the appeal it once did because the yields required to make a living have increased. As a result, those that do look to farming find themselves turning away from sustainable traditional techniques toward a reliance on technology and scientific farming.
One traditional technique at danger of being lost is the practice of “yakihata” (焼き畑) - careful and controlled burning of fields which helps to remove pests and reinvigorate the land, fertilizing it with ash. This practice is currently used primarily in only one part of Yamagata Prefecture, and has largely disappeared from the rest of Japan. Traditions and skills like these are now at risk of disappearing from Japan altogether if change is not made to preserve this agricultural heritage.
As Japan has transitioned away from traditional farming techniques in favor of mass production, there is a growing call for increased sustainability across the entirety of agriculture and society. To this end, Japan (and other countries) adopted Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which include targets such as Zero Hunger as well as Responsible Consumption and Production by 2030. These, in addition to 15 other goals, aim to help make Japan a part of a global community that is focused on tackling the challenges facing our world.
To that end, Japan hosted the Nutrition for Growth summit in December of 2021, where it committed more than $2.8 billion USD in funding to help create a more healthy, stable, sustainable food system worldwide. While the overall focus is outside of Japan, the government has been working hand in hand with domestic companies like Ajinomoto and Aeon to form the Kyushu Rikisaku Brand, which is dedicated to bringing products grown locally and sustainably in Kyushu to market.
Kokoro Care Packages also makes sustainability a core value when selecting our local products. We partner with Japanese farmers and producers who are making an effort to preserve traditions or are using new technologies that help preserve the land for future generations.
Partners like Doi Farms, a rice grower in Nagasaki, who takes a holistic view of farming in order to produce rice that is more resistant to damage and the changing climate from global warming. Doi Farms also raises pigs fed on the husk and chaff of their rice, and the resulting compost is used to enrich the rice paddies as a chemical free fertilizer.
Another partner, Toyokunia, grows a Japanese heirloom variety of soybeans that had all but disappeared from farms around Japan. Saving this kind of soybean helps to preserve the food heritage of Japan, while also increasing the sustainability of domestic soy farming.
We recognize that producers and products made with sustainability in mind are becoming increasingly important for our future, and that by showcasing these, we not only offer artisanal products for you to enjoy, but hope to contribute to a more sustainable future.
About the author
Michael is originally from Chicago, IL in the United States, but has lived in Japan for seven years in Niigata and Hokkaido. He is an avid home chef, baker, and coffee enthusiast, but his one true love is ramen. Ever in pursuit of the perfect bowl of noodles, you can always find him by listening for the tell-tale slurp of ramen being enjoyed!