The Japanese food culture is one of the most healthiest in the world. The Japanese are also known to have long life expectancy and their obesity rate is among the lowest in the world. It’s a clear fact that the Japanese people have a profound respect and love for their food and recently, this has transcended into the minds of young people.
These young people have awoken to an aging society that is not only rapidly globalizing. What this means for the future of Japanese food culture in Japan as a whole, is that the local farmers are beginning to struggle financially due to imported fruits and vegetables. Another point is that the farmers themselves are aging, and in many cases many farms are fading away due to the lack of people to take over.
But in the recent years, many young men and women have taken a special interest in farming and food production. They are not necessarily from the countryside, in fact, there are a lot more city-born people than you could imagine that have taken interest in this. These young people have taken those threats to Japanese food and farming to heart and have realised that something must be done by their generation to connect to the future of Japan.
The rise in the interest in farming began around 2009 and it has been gaining momentum ever since. It was referred to as ‘Nogyo-Boom (Farming Boom)’ but over 5 years later, there are still people who surpassed the ‘boom’ or trend and have stuck around to continue inspiring younger generations. And in true Japanese style, these young people who dedicate their lives to farming have coined the name ‘Nō-Girl’ or ‘Nō-Boy’ which is short for Nogyo (farming) girl/boy.
There are many reasons why Nō-Girls and boys are needed for the future of the Japanese farming industry, here’s a few:
- Farming in Japan has traditionally been a family-run business like it is in most countries, however, now that Japan has developed into a more technology-focused, fast-paced world, not every heir to the family is interested in taking over the business. Since the ‘Nogyo-Boom’ and since the farmers have first hand seen how serious and passionate the Nō-Girls and boys are about farmers, farming families have not only accepted but embraced welcoming non-family members into running the farm and to even taking over once they are retired.
- The Nō-Girls and boys come from a generation that grew up alongside technology and they are able to breathe new life into the farms with better marketing and sales knowledge and technology than farmers traditionally would have had access to. This means that farmers are able to market their produces directly to the consumers, and remove the need to completely depend on relationships with stockists, as many local farms to stockist relationships have been severed due to the rise of imported goods.
- In the past, children of farmers went from schooling straight into taking part in their family business. But with farming becoming a hot topic, some universities have made room for specialised studies related to all aspects of farming. This means, both youths from farmer’s families and those who are aspring Nō-Girls and boys have the opportunity to gain academic insight into farming in Japan, which will help with evolving the farms along with new techonologies and advancements of society.
- Farming has been and still mostly is a male dominated industry. However, with the help of the ‘Nogyo-Boom’, the concept of farming has become far less foreign to women in Japan. Bands of Nō-Girls from all over Japan are crowd-funding themselves to invest in dying farms to revitalise it and setting up their own farming businesses, like the Yamagata Girls’ Farm.
Much like most trends and subcultures in Japan, there are some weird features that have risen out of Nō-Girls and boys such as arranged marriage services between farming families and Nō-Girls and boys. There’s even now a fashion genre for Nō-Girls – Prime Minister Abe even attended a Nō-Girls Fashion Parade at Yamaguchi University last July.
But despite these quirky perks of the ‘Nogyo-Boom’ it is certain that the Nō-Girls and boys are pertinent to the farming industry of Japan. Thanks to them we can feel reassured that no matter what, Japan will have some delicious, fresh foods to enjoy whenever we visit in the future.