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
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
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
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
- Never fail to eat all three meals, breakfast, lunch and supper.( What is
taken for granted, Otherwise you will get too fat or thin )
- Small quantity, but rich in diversity in meat, fish, vegetables and fruits
( good examples: Potato or Pork miso soup stew, Chanko,--Sumo wrestlers'
- Never eat between meals apart from laborers( You will surely get fat having
coffee with sugar and sweet cake)
- Never eat what Japanese people have been traditionally unfamiliar with
( the worst; junk food )
- 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. )
- Don't get too fat or thin.( It is quite difficult to keep fit, though.
- 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! )
- 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
- 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. )
- 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. ).
- Straw Revolution ＊ Masanobu Fukuoka ＊ Shunju-sha
- 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
- Beyond Beef ＊ Geremy Rifkin
- General Knowledge of Agriculture ＊ 藤岡幹恭・編著 ＊ 日本実業出版社
- From A Farmer to Consumers ＊ 山下惣一 ＊ 家の光協会
- Is Rice Growing Really Necessary? ＊ 北村美遵 ＊ 光文社カッパブックス
- Warning from the Sea and Fish ＊ 小島正美 ＊ 北斗出版
- A Farmer's Diary ＊ 秋山豊寛 ＊ 新潮社
- How The Other Half Dies; The Reasons for World Hunger ＊ Suzan George
- 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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