Farmer Kiyoharu Hirao has started to add more rice to the mix he gives his cattle in order to stretch his money further as a plunging yen drives up the cost of imported corn used in animal feed.

That makes him worried about the quality of his prized wagyu beef and, along with some other farmers facing similar hardship across the country, angry at the ruling Liberal Democratic Party that once held an almost unshakable grip on rural Japan.

"I don't know how much more people can take, myself included, since the price of feed and other products keeps going up," the 73-year-old Hirao said at his farm on the outskirts of the city of Yamagata, strains of classical music rising from speakers inside his barn. For years he has used music to calm the cows and ensure tender beef. Now he fears the rice will harm their gut bacteria.