Category Archives: Issue: Technology

Voices from Fukushima: J?kichi Ishizawa

The following article was written by Mr. Jukichi Ishizawa, a 78-year old organic farmer from Fukushima, Japan. His place, Kouriyama City, is located 60 kilometers away from the Daichi nuclear plant that was damaged by the tsunami and is emitting nuclear radiation. He has been farming in Fukushima for the 61 years and is a member of Ainoukai, an organization of organic farmers in Japan, which is a member of AFA. (Translated into English by Abe Chatterjee Shantonu, also an Ainoukai member.)

Summer in Fukushima has come a week early after a brisk rainy season which brought perfect conditions for growing vegetables and rice. I grow rice using natural farming methods, and every other year, my crop is attacked and weakened by rice water weevils, so much so that it is impossible to make out the rice plants among the fast-growing weeds. This year it is different. The various tests that the prefectural government had to carry out to measure the radiation levels from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Accident led to delays in rice-planting. Apparently, this delay allowed my crop to be spared the weevil infestation, so this year my rice plants are growing proud and tall, dwarfing the weeds. I can only pray that the bountiful harvest is not contaminated by radioactive substances.

My vegetables too, are growing well. Cucumber vines are growing vigorously, and the summer crop of eggplants, bell-peppers and tomatoes has not been damaged by pests. Sadly, with no market to sell these vegetables, I will have to rethink my plans for the next few years.

It is thanks to the tireless efforts of people involved in and supporting organic agriculture that I am still somehow selling my produce. All the same, it is disheartening to hear customers who have supported us for the past 35 years say that they cannot buy my vegetables anymore because they are afraid of radioactive contamination.

As a member of Ainoukai, I have always been proud of the fact that my produce is safe and delicious, and that my customers place their trust in me. It is therefore worrying for me that I cannot guarantee the safety of my crops and dispel the anxieties of my customers because of the accident at the nuclear facility.
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In the News: Robot suits to aid elderly Japanese farmers with toiling in the fields

Manual labor is becoming more and more difficult for Japan’s aging farmers, prompting a Tokyo professor to devise a high-tech solution: mechanize the bodies of the farmers themselves.

Prof. Shigeki Toyama of Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology’s Graduate School of Engineering is close to perfecting a robot suit that could considerably reduce the physical burden of farmwork on elderly farmers.

People aged 65 and older are a key pillar of the agricultural work force, accounting for about 60 percent of the agricultural population in Japan. Development of the robot suit may come as welcome news to such elderly farmers.

While agricultural machines such as tractors and rice planters have reduced farmers’ physical burdens, many kinds of work still depend on manual labor, such as harvesting fruits and vegetables or pruning the branches of fruit-bearing trees.

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In the News: Yarns about yams: Blogging Japanese farmers

Kurashi — the “Eco blog” — has provided a useful post on the rise of Japanese farmers’ blogs. These sites not only let city-dwellers better understand the nature of growing fruits and vegetables but breaks the oft-held stereotype of farmers being country hicks unaccustomed to 21st century technology.

From Hokkaido’s Fujimori — a grape grower — to Okinawa’s Papaya House, Japan’s farmer blogs give a sense of the full diversity of agriculture happening within the nation’s borders. Most blogs are in Japanese, of course, but Pure Land Mountain is an American’s take on farming in Japan.

Read more: Blogging Japanese farmers |

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