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Robots in Fukushima monitor cucumber production in IT-farming joint project

np_file_25710-870x653Katsumi Hashimoto (left) president of the Fukushima Seed Center, talks about how he teamed up with two other technology companies to make cucumber farming less labor intensive.

Jul 24, 2020

Three ventures from the IT and farming industries have started testing methods to produce cucumbers with less human labor in Sukagawa, Fukushima Prefecture, in the hope that it will reinvigorate the agriculture industry suffering from a worsening labor shortage, including a lack of successors.

Two technology companies, Benefic Co. and MK tech, have teamed up with Fukushima Seed Center and established a project team called Smart Agri Fukushima.

The team created a 1,300-square-meter testing greenhouse, planted 2,000 cucumbers and is monitoring temperatures, humidity and carbon dioxide among other data remotely using robots. The team has already shipped 1.6 tons of produce to a local agricultural cooperative, with a plan to expand the greenhouse to 1 hectare, or eight times the current scale, in the next five years.

In developing robots to monitor the cucumbers, Benefic will be in charge of its software while MK tech will manufacture the hardware. In the greenhouse, cucumbers are produced through a unique hanging method, which makes it easier for robots to monitor the produce, rather than the usual method which is to cut the plant at a certain height.

According to the seed center, the Sukagawa area, well-known for cucumbers, has been struggling for years with a shortage of labor, causing farmers to automate the farming process to make it more attractive to younger people. In the future, they hope to spread the smart farming method nationwide.

We want to protect cucumber farming by making the fields less labor intensive,” said Katsumi Hashimoto, president of the seed center.

August 3, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , | Leave a comment

Fan club formed to promote Fukushima produce


Nearly 5½ years after the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, a fan club was launched last week with an ambitious membership goal: gain 200,000 members by 2020 and boost the region’s products in the process.

Called Team Fukushima Pride, the project’s fans aren’t devoted to a pop idol group, but instead the local specialties of Fukushima Prefecture.

Already it has the support of organizations such as Yahoo Japan Corp. and Synergy Marketing Inc., which runs the fan club for professional baseball team Tokyo Yakult Swallows.

Many people want to support Fukushima products but don’t know how to purchase them. I would like to organize a community for them and increase fans,” reconstruction minister Hiroaki Nagasawa, whose ministry spearheads the project, said.

At the heart of the project is a website that sells local products.

Hayato Ogasawara, spokesman for Fukushima Challenge Hajimeppe, an organization tasked with running the fan club and website, said the time of begging people to buy Fukushima products is over. Instead, the focus is to make Fukushima a brand of high-quality farm and marine produce.

Rather than stressing the safety of the products, we want to inform people simply how great producers and products” in Fukushima are, said Ogasawara.

He said since the disaster the prefecture has been working to assure the safety of its local produce.

We don’t conduct our own (radiation) checks on the products, but if asked we would explain the efforts of the prefecture,” he said.

Although many people supported Fukushima products in 2011 in the wake of the quake and tsunami, and subsequent radiation crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, Ogasawara said sales figures have declined as a result of what he describes as the spread of misinformation about food safety, and due to diminished public focus on the area.

The Fukushima Prefectural Government continues to monitor radiation levels of the prefecture’s food products, ranging from vegetables and fruit to seafood. Among the 9,445 samples of 374 food items checked between April 1 and Aug. 31, just three samples were found to contain radioactive cesium exceeding the government limit of 100 becquerels per kilogram, according to the prefecture. The items that exceeded the limit were banned from distribution.

The market value of peaches grown in Fukushima is roughly 80 percent of the price levels before the disaster,” Ogasawara said.

It’s easy to beat the price down if the product is made in Fukushima. Our mission is to bring the price up and eventually develop fan bases for each producer there.”

Available for purchase are fruit, vegetables, sake and traditional crafts produced in the prefecture.

While the website allows anyone to make purchases, fan club members also have access to exclusive items.

Admission is free, and members are also offered opportunities to interact with Fukushima farmers through a special Facebook group and harvesting tours.

After the disaster, I felt what we farmers could do by ourselves (was) very limited,” said Emi Kato, 35, a rice farmer in the city of Fukushima, who is involved in the project.

But now there is a platform, which connects farmers and consumers. I’d like to keep on promoting the charm of Fukushima products.”

September 14, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , , | Leave a comment

Damage caused only by misconceptions about the nuclear incident not by the nuclear accident itself, according to the Yomiuri Shimbun, a pro-government newspaper


Fukushima farmers plant flowers to revive agriculture

Tomoko Horiuchi checks eustoma she grows in Minami-Soma, Fukushima Prefecture, in early August.

FUKUSHIMA — Farmers from Fukushima Prefecture’s municipalities who have received the government’s evacuation directives in the wake of the 2011 disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant are cultivating flowers as a new agricultural business to rebuild their lives.

The climate in these areas is suited to growing colorful flowers, as it has abundant sunshine and a relatively large change in temperature between day and night.

After the nuclear crisis, the price of rice harvested in the prefecture has hovered at low levels because of the damaged perception of crops grown in the area.

But because growing flowers is less susceptible to damage caused by misconceptions about the nuclear incident, an increasing number of local farmers actively cultivate eustoma and other popular ornamental flowers.

Junichi Futatsuya, 65, from the Haramachi district in Minami-Soma, began cultivating eustoma in the spring of 2014 using an idle greenhouse where he used to raise rice seedlings. In 2015, a local agricultural cooperative that covers Minami-Soma formed a section to grow eustoma, with Futatsuya participating in the project. Membership has now grown to 25 people.

Stable prices

In July, the evacuation directives were lifted in most areas of Minami-Soma, and many farmers now sell their flowers in Tokyo in the hopes of gaining recognition for them in areas that are major markets.

Futatsuya, who restarted cultivating rice this year, said, “I’m expecting to secure income by growing rice and flowers.”

Kawasaki Flora Auction Market Co. trades in flowers produced by Futatsuya and other farmers from the prefecture.

We don’t hear any dealers in the market saying they would shy away from the products because the flowers are produced in Fukushima Prefecture,” said Manabu Aishima, 49, a section chief of the Kawasaki-based company. “Farmers can expect all-year shipping with adequate investment in plants and equipment.”

Tomoko Horiuchi, 69, also grows eustoma in the district. She said she did not experience a wide fluctuation in prices before or after the crisis.

It made me realize that flowers are not susceptible [to damage caused by misconceptions]. I would like fellow producers to increase to more stably supply flowers to the market,” she said.

Supporting ambition

Daytime entry is allowed in areas where evacuation directives have been issued as long as these areas are not designated as “difficult-to-return zones” due to high levels of radiation exposure.

In July last year, six farmers in the town of Namie formed a study group to grow flowers, and one of the farmers was able to grow and ship eustoma to customers.

The Namie town government plans to conduct a survey to find places suitable for flower cultivation and is considering consolidating greenhouses near the town office.

Meanwhile, in the village of Iitate, evacuation directives are scheduled to be lifted in most places at the end of March 2017. Four farmers will build greenhouses in the village to grow baby’s-breath flowers on a trial basis.

The Fukushima prefectural government is also financially supporting farmers if they build greenhouses and purchase equipment to make flower cultivation a new business in the Hamadori area, which is close to the nuclear plant.

We’d like to support ambitious farmers,” said Masatoshi Kanno, vice chief of the prefectural government’s horticulture section.

September 1, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , , | Leave a comment

Big business creeps into agriculture as farmers dwindle

“Fukushima is known for perilla production, and Yajima began cultivating the plant in there in 1999 after learning skills from local farmers. But he pulled the plug on the operation following the triple core meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant in 2011 during the quake and tsunami disasters in March that year.”


Shigeru Yajima, president of Morishige Bussan Co., takes a close look at perilla his firm is growing in Chichibu, Saitama Prefecture, in July.

With traditional family farms on the wane, corporations are increasingly entering the agriculture sector, taking advantage of an updated law allowing them to lease farmland across the country.

At the end of 2015, more than 2,000 companies were operating in the farm sector, a roughly five-fold increase from before the farmland law was revised in 2009, according to the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry.

Among them is Morishige Bussan Co., a food wholesaler in the city of Saitama that’s growing perilla on a 6-hectare patch of hilly land in Chichibu, Saitama Prefecture.

We have doubled the patch since last year and are growing perilla all over the field,” Bussan President Shigeru Yajima said in early July.

Perilla plants are grown from seeds raised in vinyl greenhouses; those planted outside two weeks earlier were already 10 cm high.

We have leased deserted arable land introduced by the Saitama prefectural and Chichibu municipal governments,” Yajima said. “Local people helped us improve the land.”

Oil obtained from perilla seeds is in booming demand as it is considered good for health and beauty, Yajima said.

Though perilla seeds produced in China and South Korea are available, we stick to homegrown seeds,” he said.

Fukushima is known for perilla production, and Yajima began cultivating the plant in there in 1999 after learning skills from local farmers. But he pulled the plug on the operation following the triple core meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant in 2011 during the quake and tsunami disasters in March that year.

Chichibu is suited to perilla cultivation because of its wide temperature variations, like Fukushima, said Yajima, who works the fields and processes the crops with five employees. Production of perilla and related business contribute to some 40 percent of Morishige’s annual sales of around ¥100 million.

To meet growing demand for perilla oil, Morishige farms out production of the plant to farmers in Gunma, Nagano and Miyagi prefectures.

Among other firms that have entered the farm sector, Kawaguchi Construction Co., a water supply and road construction company in the town of Minobu, Yamanashi Prefecture, grows Akebono Daizu (Akebono soybeans), a local specialty produced in a cool climate along the Fuji River in the southern part of the prefecture.

We become busy with public works at the end of each fiscal year,” said Osamu Mochizuki, president of the company. “But as we have lots of time to spare early in each year, I decided (to farm soybeans) to protect jobs for employees.”

The amount of deserted arable land has been growing in Minobu, like other places, in line with the dwindling ranks of Japan’s aged farmers and the lack of successors. The prefectural government offered some 3 hectares of such land to Kawaguchi Construction.

I decided to grow Akebono Daizu soybeans to help revitalize the local economy, hoping to develop them into a popular brand,” Mochizuki said.

Paste, curd and toasted flour made from dried soybeans are becoming popular. During an annual autumn fair to promote Akebono Daizu, many people visited the town to experience harvesting soybeans.

Of the roughly 2,000 corporations that have entered the agriculture sector, food companies accounted for 23 percent, agricultur and stock-breeding companies 22 percent and construction firms 10 percent.

Meanwhile, schools, medical institutions, social welfare corporations and nonprofit organizations represent a quarter of new institutional entrants into agriculture, according to Shinichi Shogenji, professor at the Graduate School of Bioagricultural Sciences at Nagoya University.

It is a welcome development for them to use agriculture to support the independence of people with physical or mental disabilities, such as creating job opportunities,” Shogenji said.

August 5, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , | Leave a comment

Here comes now Radioactive Organic!


Close monitoring: At Orgando, a restaurant and mini-market in Tokyo, organic produce grown by Fukushima farmers is labeled with the amount of radioactive isotopes it contains to ease consumers fears. | © ORGANDO



Fukushima’s organic farmers still battle stigma

“All publicity is good publicity.” Nowhere does this specious PR maxim ring more hollow than in Fukushima Prefecture. As if the horrors of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and the meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant weren’t traumatic enough, the region’s economic and agricultural recovery has been severely hampered by the reputational damage it has suffered since 3/11. If you think that’s difficult, try farming organically in Fukushima.

Falling prices and an aging agrarian population have made things tough for farmers all over Japan, but the presence of the word “Fukushima” on a supermarket label is often enough to discourage shoppers from buying produce, organic or not, grown in the area. Regardless of how far from contaminated areas it was grown — Fukushima is Japan’s third-largest prefecture — the region’s produce can’t easily shake the stigma of radiation.

An important hub in the network of NGOs, government bodies and corporate benefactors trying to change the prefecture’s image has been Orgando, a cafe and mini-market in Tokyo’s Shimokitazawa neighborhood, run with the backing of the Fukushima Organic Agriculture Network. For the past three years, Orgando has built a devoted following by serving Tokyo residents the best of Fukushima’s seasonal organic produce, in particular the crops that Fukushima is perhaps most known for: peaches, apples and rice. The menu changes daily, making creative use of the ingredients that come in, and the walls are proudly decorated with profiles of the 30 or so farmers who have grown the food. Sadly, as with many post-3/11 schemes, Orgando was only guaranteed official financial support until the five-year post-disaster milestone and is set to close March 20.

Orgando has played a valuable role in forging links between local producers and urban consumers, and dispelling the idea that all the region’s produce is dangerously contaminated — fruit and vegetables sold in the store are clearly labeled to show the levels of cesium isotopes they contain. Official food-safety guidelines stipulate 100 becquerels of radioactive isotopes per kilogram as the acceptable limit for adults, with 50 becquerels/kg for dairy produce and infant food, and 10 becquerels/kg for drinking water. The daikon, carrots and strawberries on offer this week contain no detectable cesium, while, according to their labels, bags of beans contained 6 becquerels/kg, a negligible dose of radiation compared to our daily exposure from soil and cosmic rays.

Allaying fears about contamination was one of the themes discussed during a February event in Tokyo focused on the role organic agriculture could play in Fukushima’s recovery, organized by Ryo Suzuki of Japan Civil Network.

“People mistakenly think that everything from Fukushima is dangerous,” Norio Honda of Genki ni Narou Fukushima — an NPO promoting local revival — said at the event.

Setsuko Maeda, of agricultural collective Tanemaki Project Network agrees.

“Fukushima isn’t only about radiation,” she says. “Our farming and fisheries are full of vitality, and it’s important not to forget that.”

The event gathered representatives from organizations such as Oxfam Japan, A Seed Japan and travel agency JTB, to speak about the challenges facing organic producers in the prefecture, along with some of the major success stories. The atmosphere was convivial, and the presentations were interspersed with opportunities to sample Fukushima produce, including octopus, meat, potatoes, peaches and apple juice, and high-grade junmai sake made from local organic rice, fittingly named Kiseki or “miracle.”

Another major theme was bioremediation, the use of crops to cleanse contaminated soil of radioactive isotopes. One plant that has previously been used to reduce levels of cesium and strontium isotopes in soils around Chernobyl is rapeseed. The Green Oil Project aims to re-create these results in the Futaba district around the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant. Water-soluble cesium isotopes are sequestered in the plant’s tissues, which are fermented to produce biogas methane. The canola oil extracted from the seeds has a cesium content below the detectable limit of 0.03 becquerels/kg. To promote the initiative, local high school students created Yuna-chan, a cute mascot whose name combines the kanji for oil and rapeseed to market the organic oil. U.K. cosmetics company Lush, a keen supporter of organic produce, has also agreed to take a portion of the oil for use in its beauty products.

Ultimately, though, human connections were seen as most crucial to giving Fukushima produce the audience it deserves, and to generating an interest in farming among young people.

“It’s about exchange,” says Akihiro Asami, secretary general of the Fukushima Organic Agriculture Network. “Producers can come to Tokyo, but I want consumers to visit Fukushima, and not just meet selected farmers but ordinary residents, too. If they sample rural life there, they’ll want to get more involved to support those communities.”

Event-organizer Suzuki is positive about what the future holds: “By 2020, I really think the knowledge accumulated through the activities of farmers and NPOs in Fukushima will be ready to benefit sustainability and rural development not just in Japan, but around the world.”

March 20, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , , , | 1 Comment

Fukushima farmers grow flowers using polyester ‘soil’


I don’t think that what may be good for flowers is also good for vegetables which are to go into the stomach of people…

Farmer Yukichi Takahashi, 76, checks anthurium flowers grown in “soil” made up of polyester fibers in Kawamata, Fukushima Prefecture.

KAWAMATA, Fukushima Prefecture–Farmers here have started growing flowers using polyester “soil” in the hope that the cultivation method will dispel concerns among consumers about radioactive contamination from the nuclear disaster.

The farmers are being helped by a team from Kinki University’s Faculty of Agriculture in Higashi-Osaka, Osaka Prefecture, and have started cultivating anthurium ornamental plants utilizing the soil, which is made up of filamentous polyester fabrics.

“This cultivation method allows us to grow plants without concern over the negative impact of the nuclear accident,” said Yukichi Takahashi, a 76-year-old farmer who is a key member of the project. “My dream is that our flowers will be used in bouquets to be presented to athletes on the podium during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.”

In a test run, 2,000 anthurium plants, known for their colorful, heart-shaped flowers, were grown in a 30-meter-long greenhouse in the Ojima district of Kawamata, located about 50 kilometers northwest of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

Local farmers who participate in the project will set up an agricultural corporation later this year with the aim of eventually starting full-fledged farming and shipment.

The project began in spring 2014 after the university researchers learned about the plight of local farmers when they visited to measure radiation levels in the town, which is located on a high plateau surrounded by mountains.

“By using polyester fabrics as a cultivation medium instead of ground soil, this new method will help protect Fukushima farmers from harmful rumors that may stem from consumers’ concerns over soil contamination,” said project leader Takahiro Hayashi, a professor of horticulture at the university, which is known for its advanced aquafarming and agricultural programs.

Kawamata once prospered through livestock and tobacco farming, but the nuclear disaster, triggered by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011, dealt a heavy blow to the area’s agricultural industry by spreading a large amount of radioactive fallout.

A southeastern strip of the town is still designated as a “zone being prepared for the lifting of the evacuation order,” and local residents remain evacuated from the district in temporary housing and elsewhere.

While radiation levels in the town’s agricultural produce have passed safety tests, consumers’ lingering concerns over possible contamination have undercut market competitiveness.


March 20, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , | Leave a comment

INTERVIEW/ Kazuya Tarukawa: Reality of Fukushima is unrecoverable, uncompensable


Kazuya Tarukawa at Sukagawa Fukushima.jpg

Farmer Kazuya Tarukawa at his greenhouse in Sukagawa, Fukushima Prefecture

Kazuya Tarukawa, a farmer in Sukagawa, Fukushima Prefecture, found himself in the media spotlight after his father committed suicide in the early stages of the disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

In a recent interview with The Asahi Shimbun, Tarukawa recounted how his gratifying life as a farmer drastically changed on March 11, 2011.

He also shared his thoughts on the compensation system, rumors about Fukushima products, and how Tokyo Electric Power Co. sent him a fax instead of a direct apology for his father’s death.

Excerpts of the interview follow:

* * *

Question: What are things like five years after the disaster started?

Tarukawa: Radioactive materials fell on this central strip of Fukushima Prefecture, too. Rice paddies, farm fields and plastic greenhouses were all ruined, so our “workplaces” were contaminated. But Tokyo Electric Power Co., operator of the crippled nuclear plant, has not compensated us for lost assets or removed the radioactive substances.

Five years have passed, and that’s it. We have only sustained damage and suffering. I keep asking myself, “Why do we have to go through all this?”

We did receive 80,000 yen ($706) in the first year of the disaster and 40,000 yen in the second year for psychological suffering, but that was all. The thinking behind the payments was probably like, “Here’s 120,000 yen, so keep your mouth shut and wait for the radiation levels to go down on their own.”

How can that make up for the damage we sustained?

Q: I have been told that your father was dedicated to organic farming of vegetables. Could you elaborate?

A: He cared a lot about the environment. He began growing winter cabbage because you never get worms, even without a single disinfection, in winter. The cabbage grows under the snow and develops quite a sweet taste. All local schools were using our cabbage in their school lunches.

He was so happy to be feeding children with something really safe and tasty. He was once invited by school officials to give a talk about food education. He was proud of things like that.

He hanged himself on the morning the day after the central government told him to stop shipping his vegetables. Around 7,500 pre-harvest cabbages were ruined. His farmland was contaminated. His heart was probably heavy while he was wondering how he would get on with his life.

Q: You reached a settlement in the case through the intermediary of the Nuclear Damage Compensation Dispute Resolution Center, whereby TEPCO acknowledged a causal relation with the disaster. Could you elaborate on that?

A: I took the case to the center because I wanted to avenge my father so he would not die in vain. I finally won the settlement and received damages. I thought that TEPCO people would finally come to my place to offer incense and apologize. But that never happened. I got a fax instead.

Q: How is the cleanup work going?

A: Our rice paddies were cleaned up. The ground was plowed to about 40 centimeters using a big tractor, sprinkled with zeolite and then plowed again. We were told that the zeolite will absorb radioactive substances in the soil, and that’s the cleanup thing.

But it doesn’t make sense. Rice may stop pulling up radioactive materials, but the absolute amount in the soil remains the same.

We are toiling every day from morning until evening on contaminated soil. We are filled with anxiety about what will become of us in the future, and whether we might suffer the impact someday.

When we were negotiating with the central government, I repeatedly asked farm ministry officials on the podium: “Do you know the first kanji in the Japanese word for ‘cleanup?’ (The kanji means “remove.”) You are just stirring things up. How can that amount to a ‘cleanup?’”

Everyone then cast their eyes low at their documents. They must have thought I was right.

Q: Isn’t there a way to strip away the contaminated surface soil?

A: We would be luckier if only there was a way to strip it off in thin slices. But in the month after the disaster started, the prefectural government gave us directions, saying it was OK to plow the ground. I didn’t quite believe in that stuff, but everybody did plow the ground.

We shouldn’t have done the plowing thing back then. They could have told us to stop growing crops for a year, and you will be compensated for that. That was a big moment when the sides parted.

It’s easy to strip off soil with a machine. But if you remove 40 cm of soil, you wouldn’t get decent crops. It takes tens of years to make just 1 cm of fine, fluffy soil.

I stick to what I am doing because I don’t want to let my rice paddies go to ruin during my time, the time of the eighth generation.

The paddies would quickly go to ruin if you didn’t do anything about them and just let them lie around. That would also cause trouble with your neighbors. Come to think of it, if you didn’t grow anything, you also wouldn’t be getting compensation money, and you would be left without income. You couldn’t maintain your living.

Q: What compensation are you getting for the farm products you grow?

A: We are only being compensated for crops with records of sale and proof that we suffered damage. For example, if you sold something at 2,000 yen before the disaster but now are making only 1,500 yen from it, TEPCO will compensate you for the difference.

But we have not been compensated for cucumbers for the past two years because their prices soared due to the unseasonable weather. People are saying stuff like, “We are not paying you because you are selling them at higher prices than you did before the disaster.”

It’s funny, huh? We would be making more money if it were not for the disaster. We are getting less than in other prefectures. You know, TEPCO is loath to shell out money.

And there are so many things that we have no way to seek damages for. Things that will never be with us again. We used to grow shiitake mushrooms at our homestead every year for consumption. Butterbur sprouts and Japanese angelica tree shoots from the mountains–they have all been spoiled. But we are getting nothing for that.

Q: What about the impact of negative publicity?

A: The 2011 harvest of rice from our paddies measured up to 30 becquerels or so in radioactive content. That was a safe enough level because the regulation standard was 500 becquerels (per kilogram; 100 becquerels from fiscal 2012) or less. But it’s something that you are putting in your mouth, after all.

Frankly, I didn’t want to eat it myself. Well, I did eat it because I couldn’t have gone shopping elsewhere.

But I do have a sense of guilt about making shipments. So I know very well why Tokyoites don’t feel like eating things from Fukushima. Who would want to buy stuff to eat from a place with such a stupid old nuclear plant?

It’s not about “negative publicity.” You suffer from “negative publicity” when your sales have dropped because groundless rumors have spread. But our case is not like that. Everything is well-grounded. The radioactive materials actually fell.

Q: Do they still continue to be detected?

A: No radioactive materials were detected in rice last year and the year before last. In fact, we have done everything we can. We are spraying potassium chloride, which suppresses the absorption of radioactive substances, every year.

All bags of rice are being screened, and when you get measurement figures, you are not allowed to ship them. I believe that rice from Fukushima is now much safer than rice from other prefectures.

And our rice is selling well, in fact, in the restaurant industry and in hospitals because you may never know that the product is from Fukushima Prefecture. You may not see a lot on the surface, but vast quantities are on the move. Because Fukushima rice tastes good. It’s sticky and sweet. So restaurant industry people seem to be happy because they can buy tasty rice at cheap prices.

Q: What about vegetables?

A: Greenhouses were under plastic covers at the time of the disaster, so the soil in there was never contaminated. I decided to grow everything in greenhouses, so I have almost stopped growing things outdoors, including cabbage, because I don’t want to see measurement figures in my crops again.

I am now growing broccoli, but the prices are so cheap, beaten down. Urbanites don’t bother to differentiate between broccoli grown in greenhouses and those grown in open fields as long as they are from Fukushima Prefecture.

Q: Nuclear reactors are being brought back online these days. Your thoughts?

A: Japan remained free of nuclear power for some time. But look, was there any part of Japan where everything was pitch-dark at night during that time? We certainly had enough electricity.

We may have paid more for crude oil, and nuclear power may be cheaper in fuel costs. But think about it: How much do you have to pay to clean up after a disaster when one happens? It’s really a burden. What would become of this country if another nuclear plant were to fail somewhere? You could raise taxes, but would that be the end of it?

Q: With whom do you want to share your feelings now?

A: I could be better off if I didn’t raise my voice and kept silent. But I am somebody in the media spotlight because of my father. There are hosts of other farmers who feel like I do, that something is wrong. It’s not in my power, after all, to hold my voice about such feelings. Doing that is dishonest.

That’s why I decided to appear in the movie (“Daichi wo Uketsugu” (Taking over Mother Earth), a 2015 documentary directed by Junichi Inoue). I particularly want farmers in areas hosting nuclear plants to watch this film. I want them to know what will happen when there is a disaster.

My father used to say: “Human-made things will certainly fail someday. Nothing can stand the forces of nature.” And things have turned out exactly like that. And after five years, nobody has taken responsibility.

* * *

Born in 1975, Kazuya Tarukawa worked for a company in Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture, after graduating from a university. He returned to his family home in Sukagawa, 65 kilometers from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, 10 years ago to engage in farming.

March 10, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , , , | 2 Comments