Japan: Agriculture the latest trend among celebrities

The Japanese economy, as confirmed by the head of the Bank of Japan's research and statistics department Kazuo Monma (門間一夫), is facing one of the worse slowdowns in its modern history, with a GDP that has declined at a rate of 12,7%. Nonetheless, TV programs and lifestyle magazines are doing their best to inspire hope among their viewers and readers that not everything is lost.

Recently, in fact, a new trend has been spreading among Japanese V.I.P.: farm work. More of a few of these V.I.P. are celebrities who have decided to follow the example [jp] of pop-star Shiho Fujita (藤田志穂). Fujita announced the launch onto the market of rice produced by her company, with a view to redeeming the image of the gyaru [girls following a particular fashion style], who are often perceived in Japan as addicted to junk food.

おばあちゃんの畑, Granny's vegetable garden. By nozawa.takeshi

The reaction of many bloggers about this “agriculture boom”, so heavily discussed on TV and in newspapers, has however been skeptical. In response to this trendy return to Mother Nature, in fact, some of them criticized what they see as people making light of farm labour.

Nobuyuki (のぶゆき) stresses that the Japanese media bear a major responsibility, as they have been giving to people, and especially to young people, the dubious idea that agriculture is the “sheet anchor” in these times of economic crisis:


On TV and in magazines, there is more and more coverage of people who earn their livelihood through agriculture.
Of course it’s wonderful how those people can make a living of agriculture, but why is it that all of the media have decided to cover this topic?
I have the feeling that their focus is not on the beauty of agriculture, but rather that they are trying to give the message that “if you dedicate yourself to agricultural work, you may be overloaded with work, but at least you won’t be short of food”.


Honestly, agriculture is not that easy!
You go out into the fields at 4 in the morning and if you have to ship goods then you have to work 'till late in the night. And there are no holidays.
I was struck by the number of articles and reports about agricultural work given that there is no work that is as difficult [as agriculture].
Of course, compared to other countries, the number of people involved in agriculture in Japan is too small.
Why is this, when in developed countries such as the U.S. or France, agriculture is actually expanding with great success? Why isn't the primary sector growing in Japan?


I have the feeling that the problem is that, surprisingly, the only thing that matters is [whether farming] is seen as cool or uncool.
If, as they say, the reason [to push for agriculture so much] is because young people living in the cities nowadays have a hard life, I do wonder: even if they escaped [from the city to the countryside], intending to work in the fields, for how many years would they be able to bear it?
“If we escape, something will come of it eventually”. This way of thinking is overly optimistic.

Livin’ la vida inaka. By El Fotopakismo

Also blogger at Diary 3.08 insists on the hardship of farm work, which should not be underestimated:

これからは農業だ! なんて思っているくらいなので、
苦労 9 : 楽しみ 1 くらいじゃないでしょうか。(自分で食べる分だけなら5:5かな)

I come from a family of farmers living in the mountains, and when I was a kid I often had to help my folks with their work. So even I, who used to say “I will never be a farmer”, can understand this agriculture boom, which is about to take off.
However, I cannot help looking with suspicion at this trend that, according to many magazines, seems to be very popular among celebrities lately.
You can't grow any vegetables just going out into the fields once a month.
I’d like to tell them: “if you really want to do that, then instead of going to Yamanashi or Tochigi once in a while, rent a ward farm and try to grow everything by yourself!”
I have no right to speak to them in this way though, as I don’t work as a farmer, but nonetheless farm work is very hard.
[The proportion] of hardship to fun is probably something like 90:10. (It might be more like 50:50 in the case that [you are growing] food that only you will be eating.)

Considering the issue from another perspective, Kamiyama Yasuharu (上山保治) , highlights the potential market [jp] that this new fashionable hobby brings with it, even if he regards it as quite questionable:


It is obvious that [this trend] is related to business. I don’t think it is a bad thing, but I’d prefer that it doesn't cause problems in future .
If the producer [of a product] is a celebrity, this will affect its attractiveness and the result will necessarily be a profitable product-brand relationship.
There are many business opportunities!
And “agriculture” [has become] an interesting keyword.
Indeed, an element that had been so cast aside by this country may in this way open many doors.


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