Chichijima family keeps Japan’s earliest coffee cultivation tradition alive

Kyodo

On Chichijima, one of the Ogasawara Islands and known as the first place in Japan to grow coffee, a father and daughter have maintained a practice of coffee cultivation that ceased during World War II when all the islanders were forced to evacuate.

Motomi Nose, 49, and her father, Akio, 83, currently take care of some 1,200 coffee trees, each roughly 2 meters tall, at their farm, Nose’s FarmGarden, located in the mountains. The coffee farm had been abandoned for decades during the time when the island was put under U.S. control after the war, but some trees survived, enabling the family to revive the farm and continue its history up to this year — the 50th anniversary of the reversion of the Ogasawara island chain. Fruit can be seen on some of the trees, with some of it beginning to turn red. “Coffee trees are scattered everywhere, so I take care of them little by little everyday,” Motomi said.

Forefathers of the Nose family migrated to Chichijima during the Meiji Era (1868-1912) and began cultivating coffee. There are records that say coffee was cultivated in the Ogasawaras as early as in 1878, which makes the islands the first in Japan to grow coffee.

In 1944, however, Ogasawara islanders faced forced displacement due to the war, and Akio, who was 10 years old at the time, moved to the Kanto region.

Five years after the island chain was returned to Japan in 1968, Akio returned to Chichijima. While plowing the fields, which had turned into a jungle, he ran across coffee trees that had grown wild and began cultivating them. “I think (the coffee trees) had been waiting for their master to return,” said Motomi, who grew up in mainland Japan but moved to Chichijima at the age of 29 to help her father at the farm.

About 200 kilograms of coffee beans can be harvested at the farm each a year. Although the amount is limited, coffee from the beans is served at some cafes in Tokyo and Yokohama and has developed a reputation for its mild taste. Tours are available at Chichijima where visitors can experience harvesting and drinking coffee.

“I have a mission to continue growing coffee inherited from my forefathers, and to pass it on to the people who cherish the history of the island,” Motomi said.

According to the All Japan Coffee Association, coffee is mainly produced in Africa and Central and South America. Areas situated between latitudes 25 degrees north and south of the Equator are called the Coffee Belt, deemed ideal for cultivating coffee. In Japan, coffee is cultivated in the Ogasawara island chain and the prefectures of Nagasaki, Miyazaki, Kagoshima and Okinawa.