Makiko Yakushige, 33, had all the credentials to become a senior official in the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry: a diploma from the law department of the University of Tokyo and a fast-track career position in the ministry’s Livestock Industry Bureau.

Makiko Yakushige attends a meeting at the town hall of Towa, Iwate Prefecture. The former Agriculture Ministry official turned her back on Tokyo and moved to the countryside.

However, she grew tired of paperwork for parliamentary debates that meant she had to stay in the ministry all night. She also began to realize that the ministry was not a place for people who liked agriculture, but rather for those who wanted to climb the bureaucratic ladder.

As a little girl, she had longed for the world of the young Alpine girl in the novel “Heidi.”

Her chance to get firsthand agricultural experience came when Yakushige was sent to this town in 1990 to spend a month at a stockbreeding farm.

While helping the family look after calves, she became enamored with life in the farming community. Determined to raise cows, she submitted a letter of resignation after she returned to the ministry.

The ministry rejected her request but sent her on loan to the Towa Town Office in 1991.

After moving to Towa, however, she underwent a series of bewildering experiences that were alien to her as a city dweller.

For instance, when she neglected to greet someone she passed on the road, word soon spread that she was conceited because she came from the central government.

In spite of all this, Yakushige later gave up her bureaucratic career and married a colleague in the town office, who also farmed.

Being the wife of a farmer, she had to handle not only household chores but also to look after the cows and manage the family’s mountain forest.

However, Yakushige and her husband had to stop breeding cows after she was hospitalized for nephritis and spent three years recuperating.

She has since learned that the spirit of mutual help is strong in the farming community, as shown when neighbors came to help the Yakushiges harvest rice.

“Strong human relations are a safeguard in time of need,” she said.

Yakushige is currently busy working in the town office’s general affairs section.

“I have not given up my dream of raising cows,” she said. “There is still time left for that. I have no intention whatsoever of returning to Tokyo.”

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