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People may have different views on what is most important in life, but when asked what is most important in their daily life, Nobody should hesitate to give the answer, ' That is food!' However great a civilization may become, however affluent their lives, we have to get back to our very starting point. This is the most fundamental of what living things sustain their lives on, along with sleeping, resting and excreting.

However, as our civilization 'progresses', our kitchen table has become more and more desolate, thanks to our too busy daily lives and that hateful American way of serving food. We witness increasing number of problems day by day such as starting a day without having breakfast, eating between meals, getting too fat or thin, eating too much meat or only vegetables, processed and/or imported foods.

Desolate tables cause numerous problems; strained family, unstable emotions, disrupted physical rhythm, and unexpectedly, resurgence of many symptoms of malnutrition such as beriberi, which used to rage long time ago, and the root of all the social evils. Nevertheless, people are willing to pay for the time saved, and their diet is becoming poorer and poorer.

But recently many people with sound judgement have pointed out the importance of good food, and many studies have been made to prove the hazards the poor diet brings about. Cafeterias in the city hall, for example, put up posters empathizing the importance of taking a variety of foodstuff. They seem to make efforts to prepare balanced diets in the restaurants which are responsible for serving food for a large number of people.

On the individual level, however, people care less about their own meals. The most important cause of this is the proliferation of convenience stores. Instant food and snacks have long been problems, and the coming of 24-hour stores has aggravated them. People buy lunch boxes, onigiri, and surprisingly, chocolate and potato chips and they are served as supper, the main meal of the day, not just as lunch or concessions.

Those people are sometimes lack in the fundamental nutritional knowledge, but in fact, they are also simply not interested in daily meals. They often sit up late and cannot get up early in the morning. Their routine is disrupted and this is the cause of the problem. Lack of interest leads, of course, to discouraging them to realize what is going on; processed food, preservatives, agricultural chemicals and imported foods. They are easy target of food producers and especially agribusinesses; they can make sure the increasing sales of their products as long as they serve something tasting good and looking good.

Under such a condition,indifferent consumers have their diet and their own health increasingly damaged without knowing anything, and on the other hand, they become naked kings who are to be spoiled by the agribusinesses. Their tactics let the consumers trust in them. Moreover the unaware consumers only wish to "be pleased", accustomed to being passive, and this makes them an easy target of the business. Unlike cars and furniture, supplying food has an advantage; they are not strongly affected by depression. In this way, consumers are more and more dependent on the suppliers, not even knowing how chemicals and preserves are used. To exaggerate a little, their life and death are at the mercy of the suppliers.

Let's see how dependent we are on imported food. Needless to say, we in Japan have more dangerously reduced the rate of self-sufficiency on food than any other country in the world. Many supermarkets are reluctant to inform us of where the products come from. Only a few stores display the place of origin conscientiously, but most consumers pick up the merchandise according to the price. Most of the imported foods, such as vegetables and meat are sure to be cheaper than the ones produced in Japan, so not a few people who are indifferent to what they eat will choose anything cheaper.

But, why do we have to buy pumpkins made in Mexico, broccoli in California, or grapefruits in Florida? Few people care about such stupidity as taking the trouble to bring them in across the ocean over a great, great distance. And look at the heaps of food left over! People are completely numb with the reality. If it is the normal standard of action to import the food that could otherwise be grown in our country, the liberalization of trade should be thrown into the garbage pan. Reducing cost has the top priority over anything else, and this economic system which cannot care less about our lives should first of all be burnt down in the inferno Nostradamus had predicted..

Being fresh is essential to food such as vegetables and fruits. Just because it's a long way and you have trouble keeping them fresh, you should not freeze them or powder them with preservatives. Considering the present system of transportation, all the local products on the farm should be consumed within the districts such as Hokkaido, Tohoku, Kanto, Chubu, Kansai, Chugoku, Shikoku, Kyushu, Nansei islands respectively. Citrus fruits and potatoes can endure comparatively long-distance transportation, but ideally, leafy vegetables such as lettuce and spinach ought to be harvested from your own yard. It is crazy enough to have strawberries in Tokyo which were brought from Kyushu by express trucks.

From the nutritional point of view, it is necessary to define precisely what freshness is all about, and regulate long-distance trucking with legislation. In doing so, we should grow sufficient vegetables and fruits with elaborate plans in and around the densely populated areas. As we used to say, "You are inseparable from the land in which you grow your food." and this should be the very fundamental of our lives.

We should continue our traditional way of eating and cooking. They have Arabian cooking in the Middle East and English cooking in the England, simply because the stuff produced there, the preference of the people for them and wholesome diets have been combined into one over a long period of experiences. It is all too clear to be hazardous to your physical constitution long established since the days of your ancestors, if you ignore these three points and continue to have American, or 'universal' way of kitchen.

The Japanese, for example, had seldom had beef before the Meiji Restoration. Only 150 years later, young people enjoy juicy beef almost every day. It is because Japanese people have eaten such fiber- rich vegetables as burdocks that they have longer intestines than the Westerners. Do you want to have a heart disease just to please American or Australian ranchers?

As we see in the final period of Roman empire, the extreme tendency to eat anything tasting good, so called 'gourmand' has often appeared at the apex of a civilization. All the profiteers alike have tried everything amusing and left nothing but eating something 'special'. If only a limited number of people were indulged in such follies, there would be no harm, but once the majority of the nation, like the Japanese middles class are, the whole population do suffer.

The typical examples are tuna, shrimps and beef. People in the Edo period didn't like tuna very much, but at the coming of the Meiji period, people suddenly came to like it, especially the part of the flesh called 'Toro' partly thanks to the fad which puts emphasis on anything prestigious, with the result of buying spree which causes the world wide depletion of this species. Shrimps may be preferred because they decorate the top of 'donburi', the rice bowl, but owing to the growing demand, shrimps are kept in the ponds all over the Asia including Taiwan, Thailand and Malaysia, where the vast mangrove forests have been cleared to construct the ponds and amounts of antibiotics have been thrown into it to prevent the diseases common to the shrimps. Those forests used to serve as a natural nursery for small fish, The environment there has been destroyed on a large scale. Anyone blaming cattle ranching may be assassinated since the dealers have so much powerful influence over the food industry; large tracts of lands have been cleared for growing corns and cereals which are to be fed to the cattle, instead of feeding them to the people dying of hunger, thus depriving them of their lives worldwide.

I regret to say very few people, in fact, realize the gravity of these problems merely because people have scant interest in their daily meals. Far fewer people pursue them farther. So, as I said before, people are at the mercy of the food industry. Good fathers would frown if you tell them these stories, who take their lovely sons and daughters to the McDonald's.

But politics should be something that changes the present society with the accumulated forces. I no longer want the progress of civilization on the material side, and there are so many instances of our environment getting worse just because people are indifferent and ignorant. The problems over the food is just one of them. It may be too late, but there must be some room to change it.

Ten Items You Can Put Into Practice For Improvement of Your Diet

  1. Never fail to eat all three meals, breakfast, lunch and supper.( What is taken for granted, Otherwise you will get too fat or thin )
  2. Small quantity, but rich in diversity in meat, fish, vegetables and fruits ( good examples: Potato or Pork miso soup stew, Chanko,--Sumo wrestlers' favorite, )
  3. Never eat between meals apart from laborers( You will surely get fat having coffee with sugar and sweet cake)
  4. Never eat what Japanese people have been traditionally unfamiliar with ( the worst; junk food )
  5. Stick to rice, Bread won't make you smart. ( US army in Japan used to recommend us to stay away from rice for the same reason. )
  6. Don't get too fat or thin.( It is quite difficult to keep fit, though. )
  7. Try to avoid eating beef, shrimps and tuna, considering the environmental impact producing them or catching them may cause. ( Don't say ' absolutely not', for you may lose your friends who are fond of them. But you should insist on stopping smoking, though! )
  8. Processed food begins with canned juice. Make your tea and take your Thermos with you. ( You could get one which keeps stable temperature and weighs little. )
  9. Think of your menu deriving from Japanese traditional cooking. ( Don't let your children have curry-rice, hamburger, spaghetti. That will make them forget what Japanese food really is. )
  10. Go on to catch whales, which we Japanese used to have since the days unknown. ( We could dispense withimported beef. Carefully managed, we could get stable sources of protein from whales. ).


  1. Straw Revolution * Masanobu Fukuoka * Shunju-sha
  2. Thank You, All the Foods!食べ物さん、ありがとう * 先生;川島四郎・生徒;サトウサンペイ * 朝日文庫
  3. Beyond Beef * Geremy Rifkin
  4. General Knowledge of Agriculture * 藤岡幹恭・編著 * 日本実業出版社
  5. From A Farmer to Consumers * 山下惣一 * 家の光協会
  6. Is Rice Growing Really Necessary? * 北村美遵 * 光文社カッパブックス
  7. Warning from the Sea and Fish * 小島正美 * 北斗出版
  8. A Farmer's Diary * 秋山豊寛 * 新潮社
  9. How The Other Half Dies; The Reasons for World Hunger * Suzan George
  10. Shrimps Made in Asiaエビの向こうにアジアが見える * 鶴見良行・村井吉敬 * 学陽書房

June 1999 First Written
July 1999 Revised

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