Voices | VIEWS FROM THE STREET

Views from Kyoto: What does the future hold for hemp in Japan?

Attendees at the International Hemp Forum, which was held at the Kyoto International Convention Center earlier this month, speak about their hopes for hemp in Japan.

by John Ashburne

Takayoshi Shimomura
Manga artist “Angyaman,” 34
I’d like more people to be aware of the forgotten traditions involving hemp in Japan. I went to Chizu in Tottori to learn about its hemp-growing tradition. Yet whenever I ask locals, “Did you know that your grandmothers and grandfathers were hemp farmers?” they are very surprised. However, they are also interested in learning about their roots. So, in a sense, the future of hemp in Japan is about educating us about our own history.

Hisashi Isogai
Licensed hemp farmer, 40
I was a photographer, surfer, smoker and hemp journalist, but I moved away from cannabis when my girlfriend died of lung cancer. I felt responsible. But after reading an article saying cannabis cures cancer, I studied the research, spoke to experts and got a hemp-growing license in Australia. I now pass on information about its health properties and cultivation through social media. Hemp production in Japan will soon be legalized. A movement has begun that cannot be stopped.

Rika Takenaga
Dietitian, 38
Shinto shrine ropes are made of hemp, and I think hemp can call back the Japanese spirit and bring us back to the good, natural state that Japan once enjoyed. Hemp has been called the “grass of the gods” or the “grass god.” Before I started studying it last year, I didn’t know medicinal cannabis existed, and I equated the cannabis plant with illegal drugs like amphetamines. Now I see hemp as a spiritual plant, and I think we’ll appreciate its true importance in the near future.

Toshihiko Ueno
Industrial hemp farmer, 36
Events like this are very important, but in truth, people like us are under a lot of pressure from the government through restrictive legislation. They don’t want ordinary individuals making use of hemp. Vested interests in the medical and pharmaceutical industries are threatened by medicinal hemp. They are afraid its use will hurt their business. On the positive side, awareness amongst the general public of the great benefits of hemp is growing more quickly than ever before.

Mariko Morimoto
Office worker, 32
I am actually very interested in the dietary and health- giving properties of hemp. As a foodstuff it is extremely nutritious, and little by little it seems to be growing in popularity. I myself eat hemp granola and sometimes take hemp oil. I think hemp is particularly good for you if your extremities get cold because you have poor blood circulation. So, it’s not only tasty but healthy too.

Makoto Matsumaru
“Hemprepreneur,” CEO of Elixinol Japan
It’s hard to predict what will happen, as it’s such a hugely versatile and remarkable product. It has potentially massive applications in agriculture, industry, biofuels, textiles, food and, of course, medicine. Perhaps hemp’s greatest contribution will be to reflect the condition of Japanese society. I like to think of it as akin the sacred mirrors in a Shinto shrine that encourage us to look deeply into our own hearts.