Throughout history, farmers have grown crops suited to local environments and of native species, by nurturing and hand-selecting the seeds to carry on a lineage. However in post World War II Japan, agriculture rapidly became mechanized and geared towards mass production through the use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers. As mechanization asked for crops of identical shape and size, more and more food producers began to purchase F1 hybrid seeds instead of maintaining and handing down traditional and local native cultivars. Situated in the north-east of the Japanese archipelago, Yamagata Prefecture is one of the top rice growers of the country. According to a recent Yamagata University study, over 150 unique native food plants across the prefecture have been recognized. Such heirloom plants can be considered an important form of intellectual property, as they can convey senses such as taste, smell, and touch from generations decades and centuries ago. Yet due to an ageing population of food producers lacking successors, native varieties of food plants are endangered. Through this film, we hope to alert the world to the situation of Japanese heritage crops which farmers have nurtured throughout time.
Yamagata Prefecture is known nationwide for retaining an abundance of heirloom plants. Yet with increasing cross-breeding and less successors to the trade, some native crops are in danger of extinction. At this time, a movement has arisen to support food producers who protect and carry on heritage plants.
Associate Professor Egashira Hiromasa of Yamagata University researches locally native crops. He conducts scientific studies on traditional slash-and-burn agricultural methods and analyzes constituent taste elements of heirloom vegetables. Okuda Masayuki, owner and chef of the local restaurant Al Chécciano, is known as a pioneer in using native Japanese foods in Italian cuisine. Consumers and food producers alike have been inspired by his inventive recipes featuring the unique bitterness or tang of traditional vegetables. Heirloom crops are beginning to be acknowledged as treasures of the community, and producers are slowly increasing. With the triad meeting of food producer, academic, and cook, progress is being made into new recipes and research fields. Heritage crops are also "Living Cultural Assets" that can be used in the education of local history and folk culture. Grown in school gardens, heirloom plants can offer important lessons in agriculture and food culture. The community culture that nurtured, selected, and handed down seeds, local and native, teach us about boundless love. This kind of commitment is cardinal for a future sustainable agriculture. With the efforts of farmers who protect and bestow the seed, and supporters who demand quality food, the future of what the Japanese eat is about to make a mighty turn.
Note on Okuda Masayuki
He was awarded by the Italian town of Arcevia in March 2006 for his activities, and chosen as one of the world's top 1000 cooks at Terra Madre 2006, hosted by Slow Food Italy. Only 11 cooks from Japan were included.
The Director: Watanabe Satoshi
A native of Yamagata, he has been making films based in the local community over many years. His previous film was invited to the prestigious Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival.
"Reviving Recipes" Production Committee
The film production team consists of citizens involved in food and cinema related work in Yamagata. Alongside the production of this film, the committee hosts cooking classes and symposia related to Slow Food.
Information in Japanese:
|Source of the picture: http://www.heirloomseeds.com/|