‘Hometown’ firm helps new city folk aid farm kin

by Asako Takaguchi

Kyodo

Mitsushi Kodama established Jimoto Co. in Tokyo in April 2012 to sell rice, vegetables and other farm products together with people who, like himself, have moved to the capital but still want to support their families.

Kodama left Ueda, Nagano Prefecture, to study at a university in Tokyo. After finishing school, he found a job at a company in the capital but felt guilty for not helping his family out with its asparagus business. He left the company during his fourth year.

Kodama, 34, later launched a project called Segare and Segaru (Farmers’ Sons and Daughters) to help people sell produce from their hometowns. This laid the foundation for Jimoto Co.

Jimoto, which means “hometown,” organizes every month a fair in Tokyo where people can bring and market vegetables and other products grown by their families back home.

It also publishes gift catalogs that recipients can use to order such products as rice, vegetables, apples, jams and honey. The orders are filled and shipped when they come into season.

Rural farmers are expecting the catalogs to help increase sales, the company says.

The catalogues are personalized with pictures showing the people who grew the products, their sons and daughters, and their messages.

The company currently deals with products from only two regions, eastern Shinshu and Shodo Island on the Seto Inland Sea. It is slated to add other regions this spring.

Jimoto encourages those from outside Tokyo to return to their hometowns and take jobs there.

In an event Jimoto held in June in Tokyo, about 700 people from Nagano Prefecture, mainly university students, gathered to discuss what they can do to revitalize the prefecture and to build networks.