JOURNAL / JAPAN etc.(English)


Japanese Ingredients for the World’s Top Kitchens #11

The Power of Soil


text by Michiko Watanabe / photographs by Daisuke Nakajima / English text by Susan Rogers Chikuba

Though the times are always changing, there are certain timeless ingredients from Japan that will never go out of style. Yukio Hattori, president of Hattori Nutrition College in Tokyo, introduces unique labors of love—items grown and produced with care and integrity by hardworking suppliers across the country.

Taku Abe heads MOA, a five-hectare farm in Shizuoka that upholds principles of natural farming taught by Mokichi Okada (1882–1955). Established by Okada’s followers in 1982, MOA used tree-bark mulch and cow manure brought in from elsewhere to enrich the soil for its first 10 years. Then it switched to compost generated directly on site. And for the past decade, crops here have been grown without any fertilizer at all.

“People speak of the hazards of continuous cropping, but in fact that’s what we aim for,” Abe says. “We sow seeds right on top of the roots left from the previous planting. As the older root breaks down, the space it filled becomes a channel for air and water that nurture new growth.” The cycle of death and rebirth takes care of itself, with help from farmers who collect the seeds, keep the soil aerated, and know what to plant where.

Scallions grow in soil that hasn’t lain fallow or been fertilized in 12years. 

Some call Okada’s methods “Do Nothing” farming, but Abe maintains that it’s really about supporting natural processes. Weed-smothering sheets heat the soil and retain water, keeping the earth soft. 

(photo left) Carrot seeds are harvested from the first and second blooms.
(photo right) Daikon pods hold four to six seeds each. 

Long roots with plentiful hairs help cultivate the soil. 

Seedlings are grown and seeds gathered from April to May.

Abe meets yields without the use of fertilizers by growing plants suited to the terrain and soil.

◎MOA Natural Farming
1602-2 Ukihashi, Izunokuni-shi, Shizuoka 

 (The Cuisine Magazine /July 2019 )