Hokkaido was the production center of flax
Hokkaido, one of the largest tourist destinations in Japan. Plants and flax, which are the raw materials for linen products. Did you know that these two are tied together with an inseparable edge? If Hokkaido was the first to grow flax in Japan in 1871, then Hokkaido is the only one that produces flax as of 2019. Why is Hokkaido the only flax in Japan? What kind of person grows flax? On this page, we will introduce the producers who deliver flax to us and the connection between Hokkaido and flax.
Thoughts of people who make flax in Hokkaido
Japanese flax cultivation, which started in 1871, has declined due to the passage of time, and domestic flax is now produced only in Hokkaido. What do people who grow such precious flax think about when they face flax? Here, we would like to introduce some of the voices of farmers from the content "Living with Flax" on the Flax Village website.
The hard part of flax cultivation
Toshifumi Eiki, who runs an Eiki farm in Tobetsu, says that the yield of flax cultivation is not stable anyway. Even in the year when the harvest was not good, there were cases where it was growing well at first.
When he started growing flax, he said, "I didn't know how to make or harvest at first." Resurrection of flax cultivation, which ended decades ago, has never been an easy task.
Points that are devised in flax cultivation
Flax is a relatively new agriculture, less than 20 years after its resurrection. There are many things that go wrong, and farmers are still trying and error.
Under such circumstances, Shintaro Otsuka of Otsuka Farm devised a way to stabilize the harvest of flax. The process that Mr. Otsuka modified is sowing seeds. It seems that the seeding that is originally done around May is a little earlier so that even if the schedule goes wrong due to bad weather, it can be recovered later. There was a year when he dared to reduce the amount of sowing. It seems that it was an attempt after thinking that if there are too many seeds, it is easy for poor quality flax to grow.
How to grow flax
There is no "this" way to grow flax yet. There are also many farmers who rethink their plans every year.
The basic flow of flax cultivation is to sow seeds from late April to May and harvest them in August. However, in reality, there are places like Mr. Otsuka who sow the seeds faster.
In addition, each farmer is taking on the challenge of flax cultivation with strategies such as "giving plenty of fertilizer from the beginning in preparation for the rain around August" and "weeding by hand without using pesticides". Why do you grow flax so much? The answer is contained in the words of Mr. Oda, who runs a farmhouse in Tobetsu Town. "It's the most encouraging thing to have customers looking forward to flax."
Relationship between Hokkaido and flax
In this section, we will explain the relationship between flax in Hokkaido and the history of its history. Flax first appeared in Japanese history during the Edo period. However, at that time, it was only imported from overseas as a medicine, and cultivation began in the Meiji era. Let's take a look at the history up to the present because Hokkaido became a production area.
Hokkaido is a major production area for flax
Flax is an annual plant of the Flaxaceae family and grows well in cool areas. Overseas, Belgium, which is a specialty of linen, is the leading producer, and France, Russia, and China are famous as production areas. Compared to these countries, Japan is hot and humid, making it unsuitable for flax growth. There was only one area in Japan that was suitable for growing flax.
Yes, it's Hokkaido. The cold and dry air of what is called the "Northern Land" is an ideal environment for flax.
It is believed that Thomas Antisell, the person who proposed flax cultivation in Japan, also noticed the climate of Hokkaido. Japan, which received Thomas' proposal in 1874, began full-scale cultivation of flax in Hokkaido. It's been about 150 years since then. Today, a company called Flax Corporation plays a central role, and the land of Hokkaido continues to grow flax.
History of flax in Hokkaido
Flax was first cultivated in Hokkaido around 1871. It is believed that the prototype was made in Nanae Village, Hokkaido. In 1874, Takeaki Enomoto, the minister to Russia who received the opinion of Thomas Antisell, sent flax seeds to Japan, and flax production began in earnest in Japan.
The flax business in Hokkaido went very smoothly. During World War II, flax production increased due to growing demand for hemp, peaking in 1945. It is said that the flax field in Hokkaido was about 49,000 hectares at the peak.
At the end of the war, flax cultivation declined as demand for hemp declined, and in 1967 the flax business ended in Hokkaido. The flax field has disappeared from Japan. However, in 2004, the Flax Corporation was established with the slogan "Flax again in Hokkaido". Flax cultivation has been revived in Tobetsu Town and other areas. The company is currently working on the "Flax Renaissance Project," which aims to revitalize the region through flax.
Flax field in Hokkaido
The flax fields in Hokkaido, which have disappeared for a while, are regaining their former appearance through the efforts of volunteers. In this section, let's see what the flax field has revived in modern times. When we hear flax, we tend to associate it with products such as linen and flaxseed oil. However, there are many wonderful things about the flax field, which is the material of the product.
Location of flax fields in Hokkaido
Currently, flax fields are being developed in various areas such as Shintotsukawa Town and Tsukigata Town, centering on Sapporo City. The most famous flax field now is probably the flax field in Tobetsu Town, where flax cultivation was first revived.
Tobetsu Town is about 20 to 30 km away from the center of Sapporo. The base of the flax public corporation is also in this town, so to speak, it is a place that should be called the sacred place of flax in Hokkaido.
Every July, we hold the "Flax Festival" where you can enjoy the flax flowers that bloom all over. The time is usually from 7:00 to 13:30. Flax flowers bloom in the morning and disperse in the afternoon, so it is said to have such an unusual form. At this flax festival, you can not only enjoy the flax fields with your eyes, but also sell Tobetsu-cho's specialty products, eat and drink local foods, and hold a singing competition associated with the famous song "Flax-colored Hair Maiden". It may be good to enjoy the hospitality of Tobetsu Town while gazing at the beautiful scenery of the flax fields.
About flax flowers
Speaking of flax, "the maiden with flax-colored hair". Then, is there anyone who thinks that the flowers are brown? Unfortunately, flax brown is linen fiber. The flax flower is pale purple, and it is a very beautiful flower that gives an impression that is ephemeral to the viewer.
Flax blooms from late June to early July every year. The flax fields seen in the early summer when the blue sky spreads are very refreshing, and when you look at them, it seems that the memorable summer will come back to life.
By the way, flax has the property that it should not be grown on the same land every year. In Tobetsu Town, which I introduced earlier, there are several fields, and the place where flax is grown changes every year. If you want to see the flax field with your own eyes, check the time and place before you go sightseeing.
I have focused on the deep connection between flax and Hokkaido, and the people who are working for flax. Hokkaido, which has a strong image as Japan's largest tourist destination, had such an unexpected side. Currently, only Hokkaido is cultivating flax in Japan. If the flax products you pick up in the future are domestic products, please think about the people who are doing their best in the northern land. And if you have a chance to visit Hokkaido around July, please visit the area where flax fields are located. A wonderful view dyed in pale purple will welcome you.