Same as us, Mr.Otsuka is an ordinary university student but he is already on the way to explore himself in the field of agriculture.
His first contact with agriculture came from his dream. Growing up in urban areas, he could imagine the boredom of living in a city, swamped with work in his future. Instead of pursuing an ordinary city life, he gradually came to dream about “life on an island”. When he pondered it, something that consists of the basis of human beings came into his mind – that is agriculture. Speaking of food issues in Japan, its food self-sufficiency rate is significantly low and Japan heavily relies on food import. Once Japan is not able to receive enough import from overseas even for a short period of time, our dining tables would be easily threatened. Thinking in that way, his interests for agriculture got stronger day by day.
He started exploring agriculture last year. It began with a trip. In the trip, a travel agent introduces farmers which travelers can stay with. Then they visit the farm as a live-in helper and do some farm work. The trip offers chances to “just help” but not “work”, which enables them to fit in fine with the farmers as there is no employment relationship. He chose a burdock farm in Aomori and helped there for a few days. He dug up burdock and drove a heavy machine same as farmers from day one. His trip not only told us the reality of agriculture but reflected his values vividly.
He says he basically does not feel uncomfortable with trying new things. He says “fear comes from biased views towards interpretations of things. That is just a make-up. I put importance on trying before falling in the trap of distorted views”. To name a few, he formerly did not understand the need for learning English and avoided sports which seemed unsuitable for him. However, once he tried, he found things he avoided fun and attractive and he got acutely aware that he had too many fixed ideas over a variety of things. Therefore, he now cherishes the mind of “what is this?” rather than “it seems to be fun”, as the former has more potential to move emotions without stereotypes. Also, he takes it for granted that not everything goes well as he imagines. Based on this stance, he could persuade himself even if things go wrong and feels no anxiety and regret in moving forward. “It counts much more to spend time in thinking what you can do with what you have now than to fuss before actually trying” he said.
By experiencing the role as a farmer for a few days, he faced the reality of agriculture. Currently Japanese food self-sufficiency rate is low and Japanese agriculture has a rocky road ahead with limited human resources and lands. First of all, significant hurdle for newcomers stands. Fresh hands do not have enough chances to learn technical skills required for growing crops and in many cases they have to live in remote areas. Even if they have interest in agriculture, it is not easy to start farming. Moreover, different machines met with various farm works are required and its fixed cost is high. He then came up with an idea to share machines among farmers, which are funded by the government, but this idea can drive instruments markers to go bankrupt. He voiced “you cannot do agriculture with whim”. During the stay in the farm he also heard about a practice, which left him confused. “Some farmers are at pains to support prices of products. They are sometimes forced to throw away crops to boost it since increase in amount of production leads to downturn in prices”. It appears to be so wasteful but at the same time it tells the severity of agriculture.
On the other hand, a breath of fresh air came in – sixtiary industry. It is a combination of primary, secondary and tertiary industry. In sixtiary industry farmers engage in all the processes from production to selling. “Farmers can be committed to the quality of crops and they can develop sales strategies on their own. What is more, brokers are removed from the selling process, framers can expect more gains. By utilizing web selling, they can deliver products throughout Japan or send them abroad. Sixtiary industry is easier for those who have not worked in agriculture to step into, as they can take advantage of know-how cultivated in business fields”. Japanese agriculture keeps on evolving steadily.
In order to deepen the understanding of agriculture, he has joined different farming workshops besides this trip to Aomori. Why does he have so much energy for achieving his aspirations? His diary is the key for this. He has been keeping diary since the second year of high school. He hit on before that he did not remember anything on what he was thinking about a year ago and in order to understand more about himself, he decided to keep a diary since then. In this interview, he harked back to his thoughts holding the diary in his hands. He said “just like time is not a thing we can buy, memory is the same. Ten minutes in a day will bring you a priceless gift”. The diary is such a fortune for him. Noting down what he thought in everyday lives, he finds hints for action in his past and sees himself objectively. He also knows tips for how to create a desirable diary. “It is important to write down what is somewhere at the back of my mind now. You do not need to write down the whole thing in your head completely. After a while, you can restart thinking on it, looking back pages”. “My idea” is one thing you miss in busy days as he mentioned and it is the fortune we are liable to ignore.
His attitude is so much inspiring for students trying to find what we can do, want to do, and are cut out for. Way to his dream, backed by steady self-exploration and tireless energy, continues to grow.
Written by Manae Otsuka
Edited by David Fei