This was a journey as the last straw in search of a true follower of a true natural farmer, a master, a saint of the land, who once lived and practiced his farming for over 60 years in cooperation with nature. He was one of the few persons who wrote about his path to enlightenment through farming and one who actually understood the way of farming with nature. He was a philosopher and had such wisdom that saw the fallacy and foibles of the modern scientific era and how it was and is destroying nature. He was the author of a famous book that was translated into several languages and in English it is called, “The One Straw Revolution.” He was a Japanese man who lived in Iyo-shi, Japan. He also wrote several other books, another one that has been translated to English is “The Natural Way of Farming” available through Kodansha Publications.
I met this man almost thirty years ago when I was living in Kochi-shi, Kochi-ken, Japan. A friend of mine knew this humble farmer and knew I was interested in nature and in the restoration of natural food and natural farming and the health of the entire planet along with all of its beings. He was Fukuoka Masanobu (family name is written first in the Japanese language. the given name is second and I have used the Japanese here), a man of enlightenment, a Buddah in his own time. At that time, we sat on his mountain, drinking tea in his old traditional Japanese style farm house around the “irori” in the middle of the room. An “irori” is a fireplace and a cookstove in the middle of the room. It is like a square little sandpit. A large hook hangs from the ceiling to hang the cooking pot over the fire. This was very important in the traditional house because this is where the family gathered around at meal times to have good conversation and wonderful cooked meals right in the center. It served well to boil the water and make the tea with our conversation at that time. Our conversation was about farming, the land and the environment and the state of the world. He did most of the talking and we did most of the listening, my lifetime friend and partner and our mutual friend.
Mr. Fukuoka is no longer with us, he passed away at the age of 95 on his farm. But his farm was a mountain. It was a mountain of which everyone had said could not possibly be farmed in a natural manner as the soil was very poor. Mr. Fukuoka proved that it could grow enough food for humans. He did not till, no, never turned even one inch of soil, ever. All he did was throw seeds out randomly of many different species, from eggplant to daikon to carrots to rice to…….so many more. Then he put down straw for mulching. He said that his was the lazy man’s way of farming and also much less expensive. He did not put anything in rows and furthermore, very importantly, he did not put one species of seed in place. He mixed all the different types of plant seeds and literally scattered them randomly among the current grass and weeds. In nature, there are no weeds, all are plants, and in nature, many species grow together and live in harmony. Mr. Fukuoka was trying to copy nature. He did get harvests. I saw them. The daikon I saw were very big, crispy and healthy, then I saw blades of rice growing among weeds and many other vegetables scattered here and there, no order, all chaos, as a typical modern farmer would probably say. It was beautiful. When he harvested, he never harvested it all. He always left some crops to go to seed and reseed themselves. Once he established this, he never planted every year. Nature did the seeding. He never weeded, he never plowed, he never sowed, he never watered and he absolutely never used any fertilizer and and of course, never any herbicides or insecticides. He painted and wrote poetry on his mountain in that house, often. He remarked at how hard the other farmers were working and how much money they spent. They needed tractors, plows, rakes, fertilizer, chemicals; he marveled at how they were breaking their backs, had no time for family conversations and sometimes still could not make enough money.
Not only did he see most of his neighbors in this plight, but he also saw the destructive method that modern farming is to the environment including all of the lifeforms of the earth, from the tiniest bacteria to the humans and large animals. If you want to have a better understanding of what I am talking about, please obtain and read, the book, “The Natural Way to Farming” by Masanobu Fukuoka.
Back to the present, this trip, July of 2016, my mission to try to find a disciple of this master of natural farming. While there are many organic farmers in Japan, I wanted to find his disciple, one who could follow this truly natural way of farming, much more natural than just organic.
After having landed in Tokyo and meeting a friend there and then visiting old castles in Matsumoto, Kanazawa, Nagoya and visiting old temples in Kyoto and Nara, we finally went to Kochi City on Shikoku Island where I had lived years past.
Besides this trip being a search for a disciple of Fukuoka Masanobu Sensei, this was an exploration of all organic framing and traditional Japanese cuisine using only whole foods organically grown. What I found is that there is much more demand for organic whole foods and there are many more small-scale organic farms in Japan than the United States. I have also learned that there is great concern among the people in Japan about the GMO (genetically modified organisms) farming push in the United States. About 97% of all food in Japan is NOT GMO and the Japanese government is so far listening to its people. Do know, however, that the majority of farming is still chemical-based and is based on monoculture, the same as in the United States.
There is also a rise in the interest and use of Chinese herbal medicine both by the medical profession itself and the lay people. Some medical doctors in Japan have observed many side effects from the use of modern pharmaceuticals in patients and are studying Chinese herbal medicine on their own. They are trying to reduce the prescribing of these medications as a whole, also. These days the allopathic medical schools in Japan have added two semesters of Chinese herbal pharmacology to the medical curriculum.
The Japanese government itself seems more concerned about the health of its citizens and how to prevent and reduce the heavy doctor and hospital bills, especially since there are many aged people there. Also, the government and medical profession are concerned about the high incidence of modern diseases such as Alzhiemer’s, cancer and Parkinson’s disease, stroke incidences, diabetes and heart disease. As most of you may already know, the Japanese government foots the bill for all of these financial burdens (it is socialized medicine) and it is beginning to bankrupt them. Therefore, the federal government as well as the prefectural governments are interested in preventative health, such as promoting exercise programs and life-style recommendations, including diet and including recommendations of more traditional Japanese foods which they now realize are much healthier than the modern Western diet which they have adopted. This includes not ascribing to genetically modified organisms because it is so against nature. The further we have gotten away from nature, the poorer the health of the humans, animals, plants and the earth itself. This, more Japanese people understand, it seems, than Americans.
After getting settled in Kochi City, where I have friends, it was easy to get a network of referrals to many small-scale organic farmers because friends of my friends are doing such. Because of this, I had the opportunity to be taken to different farms. These farms are not easy to get to. Japan is a country that is 85% mountainous and all these farms are in the mountains, tiny roads and well hidden. The countryside, I must add, is stunningly beautiful because of the lush, thick vegetation and trees on all these mountains. Japan is a country of heavy rainfall and lots of sun and humidity in the summer. All excellent for raising food crops as well. A big problem for many farmers is that rice consumption has decreased in Japan and the price of rice is going down. It is difficult for them to make a living, so many sell out and move to the city. Young people can’t make a living farming, either. As in the United States, most farmers are aged 65 years and above. So I met some of the happiest people I know on their small organic farms, 82 years old, 75 years old, etc. Amazing people. While I can not possible tell of all my adventures in this short article, I would like to make the point that there is quite a consortium and network for organic farming, especially on Shikioku, and organic fresh markets as many of them are publicized with where and who is operating them and maps are included. There was no one, that we could find, that was practicing the “One Straw Revolution” farming, however.
The last farm to visit was a trip to Iyo City, about 80 kilometers from Kochi. We had contacted Mr. Fukuoka’s son, Masato and he welcomed us to come and spend some time with him. Masato is 73 years old, about the age that his father was when I had met him. He is practicing organic farming, but not the truly natural method of his father’s. Alas, Masanobu’s mountain is all wild; weeds, some wild vegetables and the old farm house on the mountain is falling down, a wreck, and dangerous to go inside. But all of it so beautiful. It was nostalgic, it was moving to my heart to see fallen clay pots lying by Masanobu’s old house. I peaked in and saw a remnant of what appeared to be the “irori.” There! There! I thought to myself, there is where we had tea. There is where we sat at the foot of the master and listened! It was here he had drawn a “sumie” (Japanese ink painting using brush and India ink) for us so many years ago, which now hangs framed in my house here in the United States. How could he not still be here? This ghost of a house and this ghost of a mountain……….. Now, we are listening to the son talk about this mountain. “None of us could make a living on it like my father,” he said, “none of us.” After walking, reminiscing and listening on the mountain, we all had a lunch at the local corner cafe, so fresh and all traditional.
His son, Masato, remember, is 73 years old and has delegated most of the farming, to his son. His son (Masanobu’s grandson) is farming down from the mountain, in dedicated mono-crop fields, and is doing most of the farm work now. We did not meet the grandson, Masato called him to see if he could get away for even five minutes to meet us, but he couldn’t reach him on his cell phone.
After coming down from the mountain, Masato took us to the tiny house which is being built of all wood, all natural, and no chemicals which he is building as a memorial to his father. The wood is all used wood, but looks totally new. He does realize his father was and still is quite famous among certain sectors of farmers the world over. To this day, he still gets some visitors from foreign countries. Masato does not speak English, and, rightly so, is not interested in people who don’t speak Japanese. It is too difficult to deal with them, he says. I don’t blame him. Who would want anything else besides this beautiful countryside of peace? He and his son sell their crops and he has juices boxed up in the barn for sending off to local stores. One of my friends bought cases. Of course, not me, I had to go back to America and these things would not be allowed.
So, no natural farmers………except some farmer back in Kochi told me that the closest follower of Fukuoka Masanobu is now farming in Nara! That is the trip for next year!
Now, let’s learn something from this. The reason I am sharing all of this with you is because I want you to understand what is occurring in our country and want you to know how you can become healthier. We are what we eat, there is no doubt about that.This is the way nature is set up. It is all about the transformative processes which must not be skipped.
We are in a crisis in this country with our food and the federal government seems to be part of the big problem. The GMO business is getting stronger and stronger. Most of our seeds are becoming this. Corn, soybeans, wheat, salmon. Here is why GMOs are being produced by Monsanto and sold to thousands of big farmers:
The seeds are being genetically modified so that they can be resistant to the chemical compounds which are being used for herbicides and insecticides. The idea is to be able to raise the wanted crop while killing the unwanted plants (called weeds). The problem is, these chemicals they are selling to the farmers and which they are using are very dangerous both to the plant, insect, animal and human life. Why are the honey bees dying out? Guess what, without them, no open pollination and the farmers need them; but it is the very farmers using these chemicals that are killing them. Farmers are pressured by salespeople to buy these GMO seeds and the dangerous chemicals; they are told they won’t make money without them.
But there is more. For example, Monsanto is now making a second GMO soybean seed to withstand even more dangerous herbicides than RoundUp. The first GMO soybean was created to withstand RoundUp, so that when that herbicide is sprayed, it would kill the weeds but not the soybean plant. Well, three years later, the weeds have adapted and have become resistant to RoundUp. Now, doesn’t this show the beauty and power of nature? It is so powerful. Good for the weeds! This second GMO soybean Monsanto engineered can withstand dicamba, an herbicide which is illegal and has not been approved for use by our EPA. The dicamba, when sprayed, drifts over to fields of farmers that have not used the GMO soybean and it kills their crop! Thousands of acres of other soybean farmers’ crops are being killed and could slash those farmers’ yields. This hurts these farmers financially and they are already in their leanest year since 2002, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The GMOs created by Monsanto and fostered by other agrochemical companies are upsetting the entire eco-system and harming the environment, including humans. In addition, it will never end if this is kept up because the weeds will mutate to resist the chemicals and agrochemical corporations will just make more dangerous and toxic herbicides and insecticides and ALL crops will be GMOs (that means YOUR food) and we will be more and more prone to sickness and disease.
Please refer to the August 3, 2016 Wall Street Journal article in the business section for more information on this soybean story. Please also research more about your food crops.
There is also a recently enacted labeling system put out by the FDA for our food products. Alas, the only requirement is that the label be a scanning bar code and smaller food companies are exempted from labeling. The best solution is to buy certified organic by the CCOF or USDA, because organic farmers do not use GMO seeds. Also, most of the tables at farmers markets are NOT organic. Look for their certification. To be safe, buy all certified organic whole produce and cook it yourself; the same goes for meat if you eat meat. Stop buying packaged and canned food.
Take the next step and grow your own, but make sure the seeds you buy are organic and non-GMO! Now go further and write all your senators, Congress and the President and tell them you don’t want GMO food. Call them. Speak out. We can’t give up. The BEST proof to the FDA that you want healthy food is to stop buying the unhealthy and buy certified organic. Our government seems listen to Monsanto and the other big agrochemical corporations on this mostly, but if you don’t buy Monsanto’s product, they will fail. We have only one life and one body and mind on this earth, let’s make it a healthy and fun one. This is the last straw and our last chance.
Dr. (Shihan) Mary Bolz
Master of Science Oriental Medicine
Doctor of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine
6th Degree Black Belt Okinawan Karate & Kobudou