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Frequent Contributor

Farmers in Japan

My sister lived in Japan after college for several years and I was lucky enough to make a few trips over. As I've watched the images of the tsunami taking its toll, I have continued to be struck by the first video I saw -- it was one showing farmland disappearing into the muck. This weekend I took the time to go through some photos to put faces of real people to the devastation. Below is the first part of the blog & the full text can be found here.


Thinking of Japanese Farmers and the Land They Tend, I Want to Help the Recovery


On Friday as I woke up and turned on the TV and saw the devastation an earthquake and tsunami had wreaked on northern Japan, I was one of the millions who were stunned and immediately concerned about the people who’s lives turned upside down. I wrote a post on the topic for my travel blog and then tried to go through my day as normal. But throughout the day, names and faces of family and friends passed through my mind. And I breathed sighs of relief frequently as friends checked in on Facebook, through emails or text messages.I am among the millions who seem, for now at least, not to have faced a personal loss. For that I am truly thankful.


First visit with Japanese rice farmers


At the same time, I can’t help but think of those images of the tsunami coming miles inland washing over farmland. And having had the opportunity to get to know some Japanese farmers, there are real faces that go along with the land. Generations of families who have infinitely deep connections to that land through their farms. With that comes a wash of memories and the faces of Japanese farmers who struck me as so similar to the friends I have on farms across the US.

My First Visit to a Japanese Farm


For me, those TV images merge with images I’ve seen first-hand on visits to Japan. My younger sister Leslie moved to Japan for a few years after college and I took the chance a couple of times to go visit. Although my sister really didn’t have much of an ag connection then (she’s big into gardening though now), I really wanted to see rice  production there since it was a big part of my world in the US. So I contacted the embassy and kept writing letters & making phone calls for a while! That’s how I cam to meet Hitomisan. The photo here shows the director of the JA coop in Kameoka, Hitomisan, Leslie & I. (Sidenote: Yeah, I need to get a bunch of photos professionally digitized.) 

rice field in Kameoka, Japan

We spent a gray May day in the countryside watching rice be transplanted. It was an incredible difference as most US rice is dry-seeded versus transplanted into a flooded field.


Leslie was a trooper translating all my questions and all their answers (an exhausting task for sure!) And she did so well, that we came to a jarring halt when there was finally a Japanese word she didn’t know. The farmers knew I would know the concept so they kept explaining what this word meant, the role it provided until she and I figured out fertilizer!


The visit resulted in me writing a few magazine articles which was nice in picking up expenses, but more importantly, it also resulted in a great friendship with Hitomisan. So much so that years later a November visit included a second visit to Kameoka. This one without the “official” support of an embassy introduction.

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Re: Farmers in Japan

Thanks for the post, JP. I'll check out your blog, too. It's interesting to learn of your connection to Japanese agriculture.


The events there, obviously, leave one feeling helpless. I worked up this piece yesterday: U.S. farmers take personal view of Japan disaster.


Keep up the good work, and thanks for your participation on



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