Japan’s Food Security

I was never really aware of the food situation in Japan (where it comes from, its availability, how it’s produced), but through playing the online game EVOKE (as described on the site, “A Crash Course in Saving The World”), I’ve learned some surprising information:

  • Young people in rural areas (like Shichinohe) tend to move to cities for university or to find work. This leaves an increasingly aging population to care for the agriculture. I’ve seen this particularly in the spring and fall seasons, when hunched obaasans (grandmothers)  are out planting and harvesting the rice fields.
  • As more young people move to urban areas, urban sprawl expands into farm land, diminishing the already small area of arable land.
  • Japanese diet is also changing, including more meat, fat, and oil from its traditional fish and vegetables. This increases demand for imported soy and cereal grains to make feed and oil.
  • Currently, Japan imports 60% of its food, more than any other developed country (and with urban sprawl further reducing farming areas, this percentage may increase).
  • With climate change affecting weather patterns, worldwide crop yields have suffered. With smaller yields, crops are exported at higher prices. This means Japan must pay more for its imported food.

So it seems Japan has a food problem: aging farming population, diminishing arable land, and increasing dependence on imports that are getting increasingly expensive. So what can I do to help? Well, living in a rural area, buying local, or at least Japanese grown food would support Japanese agriculture, reducing Japan’s reliance on imports. This roughly translates as less meat, more vegetables. I’ve tried to put this into action by avoiding the meat section at my supermarket. I’ve also found a farmer’s market with cheap, in-season deliciousness. Don’t get me wrong, meat still makes my mouth water, and I have been known to enjoy some hot chicken curry at the local Indian restaurant, but I’m trying to help the obaasans and do my part in securing Japan’s food future.

This animated video gives a nice rundown of Japan’s food situation.

Oh, and the answer to last post’s puzzle is SAXOPHONE!


5 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Constance Brown on April 1, 2010 at 1:53 pm

    Thank you for this informative lesson concerning the food situation in Japan. It is wonderful of you to share your knowledge in this way as well as working to help the obaasans! We had a great time with your Mom, Ted and Elizabeth this past Sunday morning. We all met for brunch at Hot Cakes in Barracks Road and it was wonderful to catch up with them. Elizabeth is so tall and lovely. She has that great smile that you both share with your beautiful mother. I am so glad she called. It is very good to be in touch with you all. Please keep these interesting comments coming, Brandon. We appreciate your sharing your experiences with us so much!


  2. Posted by jannyd1028 on April 2, 2010 at 9:24 pm

    Not to mention the issues regarding high fish diets and the massive overfishing problem occurring in the world’s oceans.

    And a lot of those problems you mention aren’t restricted solely to Japan.

    I don’t eat much meat anymore either… except when it’s the pig the NOLS branch bought, raised, and then has been on the table being sliced up into tomorrow’s fiesta lunch. Yummy.


  3. I agree, buying local/domestic is the way to go!!


  4. Posted by wizard on April 8, 2010 at 4:15 pm

    april fools???

    doh.. guess not… but i love teh meats…


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