Local Environmental Movements: A Comparative Study of the United States and Japan

By Pradyumna P. Karan; Unryu Suganuma | Go to book overview

Chapter 10
Farmers’ Efforts toward an
Environmentally Friendly Society
in Ogata, Japan

Shinji Kawai, Satoru Sato, and Yoshimitsu Taniguchi

Organic or semiorganic rice1 made up barely 20 percent of Japan’s market in 2001 (MAFF 2002), and, presently, only a handful of local governments plan to introduce cost-sharing incentives for environmentally friendly agriculture. However, in Ogata Village in the northern prefecture of Akita (see figures 10.1–10.2), 80 percent of the rice is organic or semiorganic, according to a 1998 Akita Prefectural Agricultural College [Akita kenritsu nogyo tanki daigaku] survey (see table 10.1). This outstanding figure2 was realized through Ogata farmers’ unremitting struggles to overcome the political, economic, and social pressures that mounted over thirty years of settlement on Ogata’s newly reclaimed land.

This chapter will look at how various independent grassroots movements in Ogata played a role in creating an environmentally friendly farming society and how they together formed Ogata Environment Creation 21 (OEC21), which promises a new era of environment-centered thinking supported by agricultural industries.


Political and Economic Pressures

Local and global agricultural policies have greatly affected Japan’s rice farmers, both in recent years and at Ogata’s founding in the 1960s. In 1964, a seventeen-thousand-hectare, ¥85.2 billion reclamation project turned Japan’s second largest lake, Hachiro, into Ogata Village (Akita Daigaku Hachiro-gata Kenkyu Iinkai 1968) (see figure 10.3). Lake Hachiro used to support around twenty thousand residents in fishing-related industries3 and provided half of Akita Prefecture’s marine products (Hachiro-gata Kantaku Jimusho 1969). It is now a distinctive geographic feature, a “closed-water system” that includes the remnants of Lake Hachiro, irrigation channels, and the river systems of the surrounding area.

Ogata’s reclaimed land was intended to be Japan’s food basket. When the project started, Japanese rice production remained below national needs. National agricultural policies of the time sought to make Ogata a model for

Table 10.1. Environmentally Friendly Agriculture Practices in Ogata Village (1998)

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