History of flax cultivation in Hokkaido

Flax, which has beautiful blue and lilac flowers, is a plant cultivated only in Hokkaido in Japan. The flax flowers, which are in full bloom from late June to early July, are a popular local tradition. Linen and flaxseed oil made from flax are well known, but flax cultivation in Hokkaido has changed significantly with the times. Here, in order to get to know the plant called flax well, we will explain in detail the history of flax and the current state of flax cultivation in Hokkaido.

History of flax in Hokkaido

Flax, an annual plant of the Flaxaceae family, is a plant native to Central Asia and is cultivated in the subarctic region, which has a cool climate due to its sensitivity to high temperatures. In Japan, Hokkaido is the only place for cultivation, and the flax industry has begun.

Flax cultivation in Hokkaido has been around since the Meiji era

Flax cultivation began in Hokkaido during the Meiji era, which was also the pioneering era of Hokkaido. In 1871, Thomas Antisell, a foreigner owned by the Hokkaido Development Commission, encouraged cultivation, and Takeaki Enomoto, who received the proposal, introduced a technology to remove fiber from flax, and flax cultivation began in Hokkaido. is.

Hokkaido Hemp Co., Ltd. was established in 1890, and hemp factories were built in various parts of Hokkaido. At that time, the military industry was the main industry, and in 1920, the special demand of World War I peaked, and it grew steadily. In 1921, there were 85 flax factories, and many women worked there. During World War I and World War II from 1914 to 1945, the area of flax cultivation was significantly increased and textiles were continuously manufactured to meet special demand. It is estimated that around 1945, when it peaked, the area of flax planted was more than 40,000 hectares. In Tobetsu Town, which is known for flax cultivation even today, the third factory in Hokkaido was opened in 1894 (Meiji 27). At that time, various facilities such as inns and theaters lined up around the factory, and it was said that many people were working there.

The end of flax cultivation in Hokkaido

The era when flax cultivation was flourishing mainly in the munitions industry came to an end in 1967. After the war, the munitions disappeared due to the defeat, and the spread of chemical fibers that can be mass-produced unlike natural fibers was the cause of the rapid decline of the flax industry.

Cultivation of flax was finished in 1967 in Hokkaido, but there are place names in various parts of Hokkaido that are derived from the production of flax. The representative area is Aso in Sapporo.

The flax factory, which had been in operation since 1891, was closed and the site was developed as a residential complex, but the factory manager at the time, who was consulted to change the place name, proposed that hemp characters should be retained, and the place name was changed. It became Asabu-cho, Sapporo city. An explanation board with the words "Flax field" was built in Asabu-cho, and it is written that Asabu-cho is "Japan, the birthplace of the flax industry." I can understand the ancestors' desire to preserve the history of the flax industry, and even now, flax is cultivated in Asabu-cho, and you can enjoy beautiful flax flowers.

Reference: History of linen in the world From ancient times to the Middle Ages

The history of flax and the suitable land for cultivation

Flax, once an important agricultural industry in Hokkaido, is a plant with a deep history that has been used with ancient civilizations.

Flax history

It is believed that the first clothing worn by humankind was the tough, easy-to-fit animal fur. After that, focusing on fiber plants, I began to acquire techniques such as taking out fibers and spinning threads to weave cloth, and flax was cultivated.

Humans began using flax 10,000 years ago. It has a history that is said to be the oldest fiber of mankind, which sprouted on the Tigris Euphrates River, the birthplace of world civilization, from around 8,000 BC.

In ancient Egypt, linen is also widely used in Shinto rituals, and it has been found that linen is wrapped around a mummy 3,500 BC. The Old Testament also has a lot of descriptions about flax linen, and it can be seen that flax cultivation had a great influence on daily life. From around 2,000 BC, flax cultivation and cloth weaving techniques spread to Greece and Rome, and high-quality linen was very useful among Greeks and Romans, and linen culture developed rapidly. After that, it was brought to France and England, and it has built a long history in Europe as the oldest clothing of mankind. Linen, which has excellent water absorption and wicking properties, is durable and keeps cleanliness, and is a skin-friendly material, is widely used not only for clothing but also for home linen for bedrooms and kitchen items.

Reasons for flax cultivation in Hokkaido

Originating in Central Asia, flax is resistant to cold and high temperatures, so a cool climate is the best place to grow it. Flax cultivated in subarctic regions around the world has a climate that applies only to Hokkaido in Japan.

In addition, Hokkaido has vast land. When the Hokkaido Development Commission imported flax seeds and continued trial production, they saw that they were growing splendidly and began to cultivate them. At that time, agriculture in Hokkaido was primarily about cultivating crops necessary for daily life, but I thought it was necessary to cultivate crops that could be traded. Flax can produce oil from seeds and fiber from stems. Due to the historical background of the wartime, linen production has added value and many profits, so flax production has expanded. Linen made from fibers from flax stalks is very tough, absorbs moisture quickly, and has excellent divergence. Not only for summer clothing, but also for ropes, canvas, tents, etc., and because it was the best material for munitions, the number of flax factories increased steadily.

Reference: Cultivate flax

Regarding the movement to revive flax cultivation

Teikoku Hemp, which operated the flax factory, still exists as Teikoku Textile Co., Ltd. At one point, flax cultivation was over, but flax production has been revived as the flax public corporation was established and cultivation was outsourced to farmers in various parts of Hokkaido.

Flax cultivation revived in 2000

Flax, which was actively cultivated until the 1965's, has disappeared due to the spread of chemical fibers. However, after a long gap, a project was formed with the aim of reviving flax cultivation.

In 2001, we established the Entrepreneurship Promotion Office in Hokkaido Technical Consultant and started trial cultivation of flax business.

While conducting research in search of commercialization of flax products, it was found that flaxseed oil contains ingredients that are good for health, and in 2004, flax public corporation was established, and the flax business was established. It has begun to be deployed in earnest. We are advancing product development while receiving advice such as extraction and commercialization of flaxseed oil, which is expected to have beauty and health effects. In 2005, we started the "Hokkaido Flax Renaissance Project", and in 2007, we were certified as a "Product Manufacturing Support Project for Selling by Utilizing Local Resources". Flaxseed oil supplements have been featured in many media and have been highly evaluated by customers, and sales volume is increasing rapidly.

Current status of flax cultivation in Hokkaido

Flax, which had not been cultivated for nearly 40 years, was not easy to revive because there was no accumulation of cultivation techniques.

Since we started cultivation, we have been exposed to severe conditions such as abnormal outbreaks of insects and damage from typhoons, but the beautiful sight when flax flowers are in full bloom and the beauty of golden seeds. It seems that there was a lot of joy. The Tobetsu-cho flax production association was established by 10 farmers led by the president of Otsuka Agriculture Co., Ltd., but now the flax production area has expanded to 8 hectares.


Flax cultivation in Hokkaido is so popular that it is still left as a place name, and the desire to preserve its history is very well conveyed. Currently, a project is being organized with the aim of reviving flax cultivation, and various events are being held to expand the sales channels of flax products. The flax festival held in Tobetsu is a popular event that many people visit because it is held at the same time as the flax flowers bloom. The flax industry is indispensable when talking about the history of Hokkaido's development, but in the future, we will not compete with overseas products in terms of functional price, but the history of the industry, the thoughts of the people involved, and the uniqueness of Hokkaido. I hope that we will recover with unique added value such as quality and characteristics of Hokkaido.

Reference: Flax festival held in Hokkaido

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