Since arriving in Tokyo over two months ago, I've been struck by the number of 'farms' scattered throughout the city. These lots, ranging in size from a quarter to half acre, overflowing with produce ranging from corn and potatoes, to grapes and fields of blueberry bushes. In a city where it seems every square inch is optimized for maximum functionality (remember, this is the city of capsule hotels where people crawl into cubby holes for the evening), how are farms- micro as they are- able to maintain their land base? How are they able to keep their farms alive?
It seems it's a matter of policy... and peer pressure.
Pitchforks might have felt a little heavier on May 29th 2014 the day after Bill 24 was passed by BC legislature which enabled protection of farmland placed in the ALR (Agricultural Land Reserve) over 35 years ago. The struggle for farm land preservation isn't local to BC, rather it is one being faced by farmers globally as evident by the mounds of articles posted on farmlandgrab.org.
I had the opportunity to visit Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology's (TUAT)silk worm production farm on a beautiful weekend in May. The farm site had been established to study the process of manufacturing silk economically and efficiently. Indeed, sericulture was a important field of study for Japan, whose economy as late as the 1950s was still relying heavily on the export of raw silk. In fact, when Japan opened it's doors to international trade in 1859, silk was one of the few products it had to trade with the West. In 1872, the Japanese government established the Tomioka Silk Mill, bringing in a consultant from France to help modernize and mechanize silk production. This mill helped make Japan the largest silk exporter in the world in 1907.
Emi Do: Exploring ideas in small scale agriculture: feasibility, viability, relevance and resilience.