Redefining Japanese Farming, Yusuke Miyaji

by edgyjapan on December 5, 2011 7:39 AM

Attempts to connect and rebrand Japanese farming and farmers with multi-facets.

By Og Mori

He was sitting on a bench of open-air part of a restaurant in Roppongi with his brand new Macbook Air. Considering the location and his appearance -- people may deduce that he is a creative director of a nearby creative agency. This person, Yusuke Miyaji, is in fact a farmer and owner of pig farm, "Miyaji Pork".

Redefining Japanese Farming, Yusuke Miyaji

A pig farmer in Roppongi -- note that Roppongi is a synonym for East Village in New York City and Lan Kai Fong in Hong Kong -- where the actions are taking place every night until the wee hours. What's is a farmer up to this part of the town?

Welcome to new Tokyo, where a part of Tokyo is gradually shifting to a farmer's community, because such lifestyle is beginning to be perceived as "hip and cool".

"Making Tokyo somewhat better place to live -- less congested and people are living more harmoniously -- ideally speaking, an allocation of a farmland in the center Tokyo wouldn't be a bad idea. But from an economical perspective, it won't be a good thing. As an alternative, I can try creating a connection between a big city and a village. This will be a key to revive shrinking Japanese farming system."

Like many other developed countries, Japan has been facing issues like rural city's depopulation, high-aging and dwindling birthrate in the recent years. Most of the farmers are living in rural cities and there is a lack of successors to keep the farming sustainable.

A motivated and a college-educated farmer, Yusuke Miyaji--who also happens to be a son of farmer-- stood up, and decided to tackle the issue. His idea was to make a comprehensive network of young Japanese farmers and utilize each farmer's power to address that farming is cool, vibrant, and high income earning industry. His ultimate goal is to diminish a stereotype of a farmer (hard and low-pay labor, industry with no future) and create a new attitude for agriculture. To initiate such move, Yusuke founded a non-profit organization, "Farmer's sons Network".

"If all the farmer's sons and daughters that are working as a business persons in a city successfully return to their hometown and become a farmer, two problems, depopulation of rural villages and farmer, can be solved simultaneously."

Yusuke calls this initiative "re-farm".

After he has established a network, his next step was to gather all the resources, both manpower and harvests, and run a stylish restaurant. Roppongi-noen (Translates into Roppongi Farmland)" was founded in 2009 and this restaurant acts as a gateway to connect farmers and urban dwellers. In another words, it is acting like a commando center for Farmer's sons Network.

Redefining Japanese Farming, Yusuke Miyaji
Roppogi Noen Restaurant, in the heart of Roppongi

"In Roppongi Noen, we organize events where farmers and consumers can meet together and share their passions and courage on farming. In recent years, a number of so-called organic restaurants has been increasing in Tokyo, but you can't get to talk to the producers. The harvests and the farmers shouldn't be divided. They should be connected."

Redefining Japanese Farming, Yusuke Miyaji
Event at Roppongi Noen, where farmers and diners have opportunities to mingle.

Yuskuke passionately speaks about the restaurant.

"Roppogi is also known to accommodate many expats and that makes this part of the town the farthest place from a farming village. But by providing farmers an opportunity to present their harvests through the restaurant, the expats will gain an opportunity to interact with them through what they consume. This is what I call Roppongi's new food culture, where rich and the city" and "fresh harvests and farming village" are merging and coexisting harmoniously."

His re-farming project also extends to the internet. My Farmer is an e-commese site, where customers can purchase the harvests through the internet. What distinguish My Farmer from the rest is that its emphasis is put on the communication between two parties -- seller and buyer.

"Each customer can check and comment on a farmer's blog, just like you do on Facebook. Through this interaction, I believe a sense of trust building occurs. In Japan, many of organically produced vegetables in supermarkets tend to be labeled with each farmer's name. But what can you deduce from the name? Can it be an evidence to proof that it is authentically organic? The answer is, of course, no. My Farmer is a gateway to create a semi-face-to-face communication, which ultimately leads to a trust between consumers and producers."

Yusuke's passion for the farming continues from many perspectives.

Miyaji Pork Official Website: http://www.miyajibuta.com/

Redefining Japanese Farming, Yusuke Miyaji

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