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Young couple keeps farming alive in Fukushima Prefecture

Shohei Kikuchi and his wife, Yoko, hold lettuce they harvested from their farm in Kikuchi's hometown of Soma, Fukushima Prefecture.

Publication Date : 05-09-2012


A young man and his wife have returned to his parents' home to start farming after the Great East Japan Earthquake last year, though many in Fukushima Prefecture gave up farming after the outbreak of the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

When he visited his parents' home in Soma, Fukushima Prefecture, after the disaster, Shohei Kikuchi, 26, was distressed to see the city devastated by tsunami and people evacuated from their hometowns due to the crisis at the power plant.

Kikuchi felt he could not just let farming die in his hometown, so he started growing vegetables with his wife, Yoko, 27, whom he married in January.

He grows lettuce on his farm in Soma's Ishigami district. When he cut a lettuce plant root with his knife, water dripped from the cut. Observing this, he smiled at his wife, and said: "Lettuce will grow differently depending on how we water it. We'll learn through trial and error."

Although Kikuchi's parents do not farm, he was drawn to it as he likes working with soil.

After graduating from a technical school, he saved money working part-time jobs. He then spent about five years visiting farms across the country learning agricultural techniques. While he was doing this, the disaster struck on March 11 last year.

He returned to his hometown shortly after the disaster and saw many abandoned farms.

He said: "[I thought] if farmland is left unattended and fallow, this area will become underpopulated. Someone has to keep farming."

Determined to keep farming alive, he returned to his hometown in May last year.

Some acquaintances were against his plans, saying groundless rumors of radiation contamination of Fukushima products would make it difficult to make a living farming there.

However, Kikuchi did not change his mind and he was heartened when no radioactive substances were detected in lettuce he grew last summer on borrowed farmland.

Neighbours have watched him and some offered parcels of their land to farm. Although on borrowed land, his farm grew to two hectares in just one year.

He ships his lettuce and broccoli to supermarkets and farmers' markets. Mihoko Murakami, 63, an acquaintance who buys his vegetables, said: "His vegetables are tasty and have a rich flavour. It's difficult to farm in Fukushima, but the prefecture won't be rebuilt without young people like Kikuchi."

Yoko, who met Kikuchi at a farming seminar in Kagawa Prefecture three years ago, said, "Unlike Kagawa, it's cold in the winter here, but it's fun to work outdoors."

Yoko has also managed to fit in and be accepted in her husband's hometown.


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